The Open Man countdowns to the 2018 college football season with 129 — in honor of the 129 programs participating in the Football Bowl Subdivision this year — things we love (and some we hate) about the sport. Click the 129 Things tag to see every entry.
We still have what feels like a lifetime before the 2018 college football season blesses us with the glory of fight songs, soul-crushing upsets and national TV analysts donning mascot heads to pick winners, but it’s never too early to look eagerly ahead to what’s to come next fall. Beyond the big games, there’s so much to love about the predictably unpredictable phenomenon that is college football season.
One such thing to love? Stadium color outs.
There are few things in sports as cool as seeing waves of college football fans moving in unison across a stadium that is entirely color coordinated.
From Arizona State’s blackout in the desert to Oklahoma’s annual Stripe the Stadium game at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium (where fans in even-numbered sections wear crimson and those in odd-numbered sections don white), color-out games add an aesthetically appealing – yet incredibly ominous, if you’re the opposing team – layer to a season already filled with so much vibrancy.
But the two most compelling color outs have to be Penn State’s White Out and the checkered board excellence at Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium.
The game-day experience in State College is already one for the ages on a regular game day, but when the 106,000 fans in Beaver Stadium show up in all-white, the electric atmosphere gets taken to another level. Per SB Nation, the tradition began in 2004 with the student section starting the monochromatic trend, but it wasn’t until 2007 that the sea of white swept over the entire stadium.
From a competitive-advantage perspective, the white-out hasn’t lent Penn State much good juju as the Nittany Lions are just 7-7 since the tradition started. But most recently, the color scheme has come through for them, as they completely housed Michigan, 42-13, in 2017.
But good-luck charm or not, there’s just something about it.
Even the big dogs of college football are not immune to the allure of the White Out.
ESPN College GameDay analyst Kirk Herbstreit was wowed by the White Out last season:
What a scene last night at Penn State!!!!! pic.twitter.com/8TF6RMA6QQ
— Kirk Herbstreit (@KirkHerbstreit) October 22, 2017
And Penn State head coach James Franklin told The Morning Call last season that the only thing he likes more than Christmas is a “White Out” game. The realest of statements, because they’re truly magical.
Down south in the SEC, Tennessee brings us another stadium color takeover that is pleasing to the eye on game day. While this tradition is a lot newer than some of the others, it’s no less amazing to behold. And what makes this one even more fun than some of the others is, according to The Tennessean, this one was started by Volunteers fan.
According to the story, in 2014, Spencer Barnett and Tim McLeod conceived an idea for UT fans to show up in orange or white, depending on their section, to create a checkerboard pattern in Neyland Stadium for their tilt against the Florida Gators. The two were worried that getting the 102,000 fans to cooperate would be a challenge, but to their surprise, Vols Nation – and even some compliant Gator fans! – seamlessly checkered the stadium.
And thus, a new color-out was born.
Barnett and McLeod event developed a nifty site called CheckerNeyland.com that helps fans know what color to wear come game day (super thoughtful, right?). During the 2014 season, the university itself officially sanctioned the new tradition and then-head coach Butch Jones took to Twitter to express his support of it:
— Butch Jones (@CoachButchJones) September 28, 2014
And in just three seasons, the checkerboard color scheme has become an iconic image in college football.
For the home team, these color outs are an extension of team itself, the fans an additional driving force to help keep the opponent at bay. But for the opposing team, entering a stadium that’s rocking and rolling in a united wall of color can be a daunting challenge. And that’s what makes color outs at stadiums so special, and ultimately, moving – the coordination required to pull them off, and the feeling of togetherness they inspire when you participate in them.
And in an agonizingly long five months, we’ll get to bear witness to them once again. Can’t wait!