The University of Colorado has a unique college football tradition called “Ralphie’s Run.” Before the start of each half, five students lead “Ralphie” the buffalo around the field in a horseshoe pattern while trying to avoid being trampled.
Traditions at the high-school level are much more difficult to establish due to the frequent coaching changes, but there is one prep tradition that has survived over the years to become the greatest of them all - the Beat the Zuke contest.
It has more charm than Ohio State’s marching band “Dotting the 'I' ”, it’s funnier than the “Calling the Hogs” at Arkansas and more dramatic than the “Sooner Schooner” at Oklahoma.
The Beat the Zuke contest began in 1990 and since then the likes of legendary coaches such as Davis Knight, Bill Mikelson and Paul Clark have all turned in their headsets.
The contest challenges contestants to correctly pick high school football games in an effort to beat the Great Zucchini, knows all, sees all.
The person with the best score wins prizes.
There is also a trophy that is given out to the overall winner.
It hasn’t been much of a traveling one since I win the contest every year, but the trophy is dripping with tradition.
For decades some of the same people have challenged me for the title.
I’m talking about guys like Mark “Hardrock” Hardman. Quincy “Clueless” Lewis, Craig “the Weatherman” Drury, Jan-imal Davis, Mark “Know when to fold ‘em” Holden,” and Brian “Won’t pass up a feast” Preece.
The Beat the Zuke contest will begin again in two weeks. Until then, you can get exclusive player interviews, contest information, Zuke insight, injury updates and a few additional surprises.
Since I have a little more time, I suppose I should mention a few of the traditions that exist in high school football.
Payson has a bagpipe band that leads the team on the field and former coach Bart Peery said one of his old traditions was to hold a practice on Monday morning at 12:01 a.m. – the first day the UHSAA would allow teams to practice.
Payson assistant coach Jamon Taylor said when he played for Payson, the team would run up to the “P” on the mountain.
Former Orem running back Ed Jarvis said the one thing he remembered the most about his glory days was the “polishing of the Paw,” for players who get tiger paw stickers to put on their helmets for big plays.
Pleasant Grove has the words, “If it is in your heart, you can accomplish anything. Whatever it takes be a champion today." The players touch the wall before the game. Recently, the Vikings have taken the field with some of the special needs students at the high school when their name is announced.
Former Timpview quarterback Stephen Covey said before the T’Birds had a playoff game the team would gather for dinner at a house to watch highlights of the last game and have a guest speaker from a former state championship team. At Timpview there are so many options to choose from.
My favorite enduring tradition (next to the Beat the Zuke contest of course) is “The Rock” at American Fork.
Sometime in the 1970s a rock was brought down from American Fork canyon and painted red and white. Each player touches the rock as a reminder that they need to be as tough as a rock.
Students make “LAR” signs (like a rock).
My favorite recent tradition is “Military Night” at Salem Hills. Veterans are treated to a pregame dinner and are honored on the field prior to the game. Last year, Senator Orrin Hatch was a guest on honor. After the game there is a fireworks show, leaving fans, coaches, and players with a sense of appreciation.
Traditions may die out as coaches and players move on but each new season brings a new opportunity for schools to start a new tradition but I’m not sure any of them can top the Beat the Zuke.