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Rah, rah, rah: deconstructing the US college fight song

Registrarism analyses the quintessentially American college fight song
This article is more than 1 year old

Paul Greatrix is Registrar at The University of Nottingham, author and creator of Registrarism and a Contributing Editor of Wonkhe.

A distinctive feature of university and college sports in the US (and to an extent in Australasia) is the ‘fight song’ – an anthemic sing along number intended to provide support for their football or other sports teams.

Some of these were originally composed in a different age and their lyrics may seem rather quaint these days or even pretty dubious. As noted here a while back the University of Utah’s fight song had to be amended to address some of the lyrical challenges of the original. The line “our coeds are the fairest” was replaced with “our students are the finest” and the line “no other gang of college men” was changed to “no rival band of college fans.”

I was therefore very pleased to learn (courtesy of our Wonkhe scouting team) that there is now an excellent resource which categorises, analyses and deconstructs these chants. It includes a distinctive interactive chart:


We gathered the fight songs of 65 schools — all those in the Power Five conferences (the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC), plus Notre Dame — to see exactly how these teams are musically willed to victory. We counted which clichéd elements (like shouting “Rah!” or spelling something out) appear in each song’s lyrics and determined how fast the song is played and how long it lasts (for the version available on Spotify).

Given they are known as fight songs it is perhaps unsurprising that 44 include the word “fight” — usually more than once – and 41 use either “win” or “victory;” 18 use the word “rah” and 10 use some other nonsense syllable. Hurrah!

For example, the cliche-ridden Michigan State song:


We still don’t seem to have many examples of this kind of thing in UK universities. However, as Mike Ratcliffe has helpfully advised before, the Leeds University Song Book from 1922 had something along similar lines.

It’s not quite the same though, is it?

Are there any UK university ‘fight songs’ featuring fights, victories, cliches, colours and rahs?

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