Rutgers, a 250 year old institution, older than the United States, that rose to prominence in the Revolutionary War era has some traditions for sure. Perhaps some of the traditions listed will make even the staunchest Big Ten traditionalists loosen their crossed arms a bit. This piece will touch on game day traditions, as well as some general Rutgers ones. For those who have traveled to a game at RU, I hope this will answer any questions you may have had. For those who have yet to go to a Rutgers game, maybe this list will make you interested in following your team to New Jersey.
The Birthplace of College Football
Rutgers played in the first ever collegiate football game in 1869 and beat fellow in-state school, Princeton, 6-4. A statue commemorating that game stands guard in front of High Point Solutions stadium on the Scarlet Walk, a brick paved walkway that all players go through on game days when entering the stadium. They walk to the sound of cheering from fans and the playing of the Rutgers fight song, "The Bells Must Ring," and "Colonel Rutgers" by the marching band. As the coaches and players pass "The First Game" statue, they all touch the foot by which the classic player is mounted as they walk by. Below is the beautiful full statue in all of its glory.
Rutgers has a band! While the band is certainly not (yet) at the same level as the other Big Ten bands, the Marching Scarlet Knights have their fair share of tradition. Get in your seat early and catch the beginning of the pregame show where, from the two stadium tunnels, the band runs out onto the field, in-step, into the pregame block. The floating R is the staple of the show, but what really gets fans going is the break in music as the band leads the fans in the fight song's chant while in the "Block R" formation.
R-U Rah Rah!
R-U Rah Rah!
Upstream, Red Team!
Red Team, upstream!
Rah! Rah! Rutgers, Rah!
At a point in the pregame show, there is a drum break and the whole band takes a bow to pay tribute to the audience and to Rutgers University.
Those who stay after the game, are treated to the band's playing of "Loyal Sons," a song written to commemorate the early football days of Rutgers. The band then removes hats, embraces arms over shoulders and sings the Rutgers Alma Mater, "On the Banks of the Old Raritan."
We've got that too!
RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR - UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU
RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR - UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU
Usually the student section carries the "RRRRRRRRRR" and the rest of the stadium returns the "UUUUUUUUU," but any overzealous fan can start one, really. I eagerly await for the day when it is legitimately one side of the stadium to the other.
For our third down cheer, Metallica's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" plays and fans hold their hand up in an "OK" position (like holding a guitar pick) and then air guitar to the song's strokes chanting, "It's third dooowwwwwn." (It's also done for fourth down on occasion). Some find it annoying, but hey, it's not nearly as annoying as Indiana's weird Jaws theme, shark thing, am I right?
Scarlet Knight and Noble Steed
Rutgers has a horse and a real Scarlet Knight. You know what schools have horses? The cool schools. The mounted Scarlet Knight follows the band during their parade to the stadium. After the pregame show, an epic video, setting up the Scarlet Knight and his steed's arrival, plays on the jumbotron, and the knight rides through the path made by the band onto the field and draws his sword. The other appearances of the mounted Scarlet Knight include after every touchdown and field goal. It's seriously awesome.
Fun fact: the old Rutgers horse, Lord Nelson, was flagged in October 1994 at Giants Stadium when, after a touchdown towards the end of the game, he got loose and ran out onto the field and all the way down the sideline during a Rutgers vs. Army game! One of the only horses penalized at a college football game, he cost the Scarlet Knights 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct (we still beat Army). Rest in peace, Lord Nelson-- He passed away at the age of 42 on April 14, 2015.
FIRE THE CANNON!
Rutgers has a cannon that was gifted to the school by the class of 1949 in celebration of the 80th anniversary of the Rutgers-Princeton game. The cannon is fired at important game day moments, including after touchdowns. The cannon was originally operated by the Rutgers R.O.T.C., but it stopped working about 30 years ago. The Second Regiment Middlesex County Militia, a group of Revolutionary War re-enactors, fixed it and have manned the pivotal post on Rutgers game days ever since.
These are game day traditions, but many of Rutgers' traditions lie away from the stadium.
Grease Trucks and Fat Sandwiches
Since the grease Trucks were evicted from their lot (for dorms), they became more mobile and at least one sets up shop around the stadium on game days. If you go to Rutgers for a game, definitely try a RUTGERS-FAMOUS EVERYWHERE ELSE IS A RIP OFF OF US Fat Sandwich.
This is one of my favorite traditions. To explain this one, some background knowledge on Rutgers' set up is needed. Rutgers University- New Brunswick is divided into five campuses each with its own unique feel. George H. Cook Campus, more commonly known as Cook Campus, is the rural and agricultural heart of Rutgers, and the home base of the Land Grant portion of Rutgers. Douglass Campus is where Douglass Residential College resides, which started out in 1918 as the New Jersey College for Women. Unlike the other three campuses, Cook and Douglass, location-wise, are practically the same and students often say, "I'm headed to Cook-Douglass." They are different though, different enough to start a romantic urban legend. Passion Puddle is a pond that sits right on the border of both the Cook and Douglass campuses. The legend goes that back when Rutgers was an all make institution, a Cook man and a Douglass woman held hands, walked around the pond three times, and were married within a year and lived happily ever after. If you do the same with your romantic interest the same will happen to you.
Passion Puddle was named in the top 25 most romantic college traditions.
Rutgers versus Princeton
I'm not talking about the game in 1869, I'm talking about the fallout from that game. CANNON WAR! You may have heard that very recently (and twice) alleged Rutgers students took to Princeton to vandalize the cannon and their tiger statue with red paint and... Penn State expletives. I give those involved "E for effort" for trying to merge an old tradition with an old rival into a "new" one with our new "rival," but the original tradition is that Rutgers students paint Princeton's cannon red because... it is probably Rutgers' cannon.
On April 25, 1875, under the cover of night, about a dozen Rutgers students trekked 16 miles to Princeton, stole the cannon, and brought it back by wagon to New Brunswick all before the night was over. The reason behind this is that it was believed that the cannon belonged to Rutgers when used in battle during the American Revolution.
In retaliation, Princeton students raided the Rutgers Armory and stole a few muskets. It was never confirmed, but with the rising animosity over the situation, covered by national newspapers at the time, Rutgers students were accused of having stolen the wrong cannon.
Eventually a committee that was appointed by both Rutgers and Princeton recommended the return of the stolen items to their owners. When the cannon was returned, Princeton had it buried in the ground, encased in cement, with only a few feet of the base end showing above ground.
This war was not over, however...
71 years later, in October 1946, several Rutgers students attempted to steal the cannon again. They attached one end of a heavy chain to the cannon and the other end to a student's Ford. When they were surprised by Princeton men and the local police, they gunned the engine of the car. The Rutgers students managed to escape, but sadly without the cannon.... or their car which was torn in half.
Princeton has gotten us as well, and the last time Princeton came for Rutgers was in 2006 where they splashed our "Willie the Silent" statue, a famous statue that overlooks the scenic Voorhees Mall, with orange paint, wrote Princeton all over it, and drew a single giant inappropriate image.
There You Have It
These are some of Rutgers' biggest traditions. Did I miss a few, Rutgers fans? Let the rest of the Big Ten know what else we have in the comments. Big Ten and traditions matter!
The next few years will be tough as Rutgers looks to solidify itself in the B1G and create new traditions that have as much meaning as the ones mentioned here. However, Rutgers has a rich 250 year history, a creative fan base, and tons to offer its followers, and so I am confident we will hold our own just fine on the tradition front in a conference defined by history and said traditions.