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Brenden Welper | | September 19, 2019

The best college sports traditions you've (maybe) never heard of

5 game-day college football traditions

You've probably heard of Howard's Rock at Clemson, the dotting of the "i" at Ohio State, and the Sooner Schooner at Oklahoma. 

Here are some of the best game-day college sports traditions that you've (maybe) never heard of.

Clemson and the $2 bill

If the Clemson Tigers are paying your favorite football team a visit, you'll more than likely see an influx of $2 bills around town. But not just any old $2 bill. These would have an orange tiger paw (Clemson's logo) stamped onto the front.

The story goes like this. Georgia Tech dropped Clemson from its football schedule in 1977 when The Tigers weren't the football power they are today. Their annual trip to Atlanta was something that fans and coaches looked forward to

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To protest this decision, Clemson fans attending the 1977 game spent $2 bills in and around Atlanta. The idea was to show the city how much of an impact the Tigers had on the local economy. 

The Tiger-stamped bills made their debut at the 1978 Gator Bowl. Over 40 years later, Clemson fans still bring them along on road trips.

Tortillas and Texas Tech

During last year's national championship game between Texas Tech and Virginia, someone threw a tortilla onto the court. It turns out there's a story behind that.

According to, the tradition began during a football game at Clifford B. & Audrey Jones Stadium in 1989. A concession stand sold 44 oz. mugs of Coca-Cola with a lid on top. Students then took those lids and flung them onto the field. 

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The lids were gone by the next home game. And the tortillas made their first appearance at the very next one. It has been a staple of Texas Tech's student section ever since. 

Trine's helicopter

The Thunder are a Division III football program that represents Trine University in Angola, Ind. With an enrollment of just under 5,000, it is the largest of nine schools in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA).

As recently as 2016, a helicopter would fly over Fred Zollner Athletic Stadium and deliver the game ball at the 50-yard-line.

The tradition hasn't occurred since that year, but the stadium's website still notes that a helicopter delivery is part of the game-day atmosphere. Trine begins its home schedule Sept. 21.

Helicopter or not, a man wearing a Trine football jersey did parachute onto the field prior to a game in 2017.

Pennsylvania's "Toast to dear old Penn"

Hurling food into the air is also an annual occurrence at the University of Pennsylvania. reports that when the band plays "Drink A Highball" at the end of the third quarter, students at Franklin Field throw toast onto the playing surface. And a lot of it. There's even a "toast Zamboni" that was created to help clean up the mess.

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According to Penn's website, this tradition dates back to the 1970s when alcohol was banned at the stadium. Since the students could no longer share a toast of spirits, they had to improvise. 

Bread replaced beer, and loaves of it were thrown once the song closed with the lyrics, "Here's a toast to dear old Penn."

Central Michigan and Western Michigan's cannons

ROTC students shoot off a cannon anytime the Central Michigan Chippewas score. The cannon, which was originally behind a hill outside of the stadium, was moved inside to Kelly Shorts Stadium in 2001.

Roughly 150 miles southwest at Waldo Stadium, the Western Michigan Broncos also fire a cannon during their football games.

The Chippewas and Broncos first met in 1907. But it wasn't until 2008 that a trophy was created for this Mid-American Conference rivalry, one that was aptly named the Victory Cannon.

Nebraska's red balloons

Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb. is nicknamed "The Sea of Red." But after the Huskers score their first touchdown of the game, that "sea" quickly becomes a sky of red.

In a sight that would make Pennywise jealous, thousands of red balloons are released into the air.

Like many of the other traditions on this list, the origins of this practice aren't entirely clear.

Don Bryant, Nebraska's sports information director from 1962 to 1993, told the Lincoln Journal Star in 2012 that the balloons have been a fixture since the 1940s. But according to The Daily Nebraskan, the earliest recorded balloon release was in 1963

Regardless of when the balloons first showed up, their presence has not been without controversy. The student body considered banning them altogether and put it up to a vote in March 2019. 

Thanks to a 51.9 percent majority, the sky above Memorial Stadium will remain as red as the sea.

The "prisoner exchange" before the Army-Navy game

Prior to the annual Army-Navy football game, a "prisoner exchange" takes place at midfield. But these aren't prisoners of war. They're not even prisoners at all.

The students, rather, are actually participating in a ceremony for the Service Academy Exchange Program. They are "exchanged" back to their own academy, after spending a semester at a different one. 

In 2018, fourteen students (seven cadets and seven midshipmen) took part in the ceremony. 

Taylor University's Silent Night

The Taylor Trojans represent Taylor University, an NAIA school in Upland, Ind. 

Every year, the final home game to fall on a Friday before exams is chosen as Silent Night. Students come dressed in every costume imaginable. Think Halloween but for young adults. After packing the arena, they're completely silent until Taylor scores its 10th point.

It's that moment when total chaos ensues. 

Once the madness subsides and play is resumed, the students return to their seats and sing a rendition of "Silent Night" together. 

The origins of this tradition can be traced to the late 1980s

Jay Kesler, who was Taylor's president at the time, came to the last basketball game before exams in 1988 while wearing his pajamas. Students wore their pajamas the next year. Then in 1997, they didn't make a sound until the Trojans scored their 10th point, and the student section promptly exploded.

Nobody knows why. 

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The idea came from a student, who told Kesler that his high school had a tradition where'd they act disinterested in the game before going berzerk at a predetermined time.

"He wanted to know if we could do something like that here," Kesler told The Indianaoplis Star in 2014. "I said sure."

Kesler doesn't remember the student's name, and he never learned the significance (if any) of why this happens after the Trojans reach 10 points.