Each week during the 2020 season, Marty Smith and Ryan McGee will celebrate all of the stuff that makes college football great: the sights, sounds, places and pageantry that make it the greatest sport in these United States of America. The same kind of conversations you can hear and see during Marty & McGee, Wednesdays on SEC Network/ESPN App (7 p.m. ET) and Saturday mornings on SEC Network/ESPN App and ESPN Radio (7-10 a.m. ET). This week, the dynamic duo get hyped up for the best stadium entrances they’ve ever seen.
McGee: Well, let’s start with the stadium entrances that hit us right in the heart, that take us back to our homelands and the home teams that made us fall in love with college football in the first place. You’ve been going to games at Virginia Tech since you were a little boy. I can’t think of a stadium atmosphere that has changed more in our lifetimes, from a sleepy little venue in the hills of Blacksburg, Virginia, to …
Marty: “Enter Sandman,” son! It was 2000 when they started that tradition and I will never forget the first time I heard that rocking through Lane Stadium. People might not realize, but the team leaves the football building and it’s a bit of walk into the stadium. Then the players go into a long tunnel that empties into the north end zone, so by the time they finally cut those Hokies loose, they are pumped.
McGee: Chills. Every single time.
Marty: My favorite “Enter Sandman” wasn’t even an entrance. It was Miami vs. Virginia Tech back when that game was everything. It determined the Big East title every season. Then they both moved to the ACC and it never slowed down. It was 2011, Miami was driving and there was a timeout with few seconds left and they hit play on “Enter Sandman.” I remember Mike Patrick, the legendary ESPN play-by-play man, said, “These people are losing their minds!” At our ESPN college football seminar a few years ago, I went and found Mike to tell him that I still find that moment and play it when I’m having a bad day.
McGee: For me, as a Tennessee grad, when the Pride of the Southland Band forms that Power T in the north end zone, and then it splits and the team runs through, it’s just unreal. I think that moment is why I ended up at Tennessee in the first place. I was going to Georgia, but my dad was officiating at game at Tennessee, so I went there with him. My college roommates always ask, “When did you first see the Big Orange Jesus?” In other words, when did you say, “This is bigger than me and I have to be a part of this!” For me, I saw it the first time I saw the Vols run through the T.
Marty: Speaking of orange, how about Clemson running down The Hill?
McGee: Well, speaking of Dad, the first time he officiated a game at Clemson, he came home that night and said to me and my brother, “Boys, we thought we had seen big-time college football. But now I have really seen it.” And he was talking about the Tigers coming down The Hill into 80,000 people with the “Tiger Rag” playing and a bazillion balloons sailing into the air.
Marty: I have been fortunate enough to see it so many times, and for some huge games. Brent Musburger called it “the most exciting 25 seconds in college football” — how they get on those buses, ride to the other side of the stadium and touch Howard’s Rock and the cannon goes off and here they come, son. But if I’m being honest with you, I always cringe a little.
McGee: Me too.
Marty: It kind of humps, right? There’s a landing in the middle and then it keeps going down. I remember Deshaun Watson, he and other guys would hit that landing and kind of jump up in the air and then keep going. And I could think was, good Lord, please don’t one of these guys blow a knee out right now.
McGee: The students are sitting on that hill and they part like the Red Sea to make room for the run. All it would take is for one frat boy to accidentally leave a plastic cup or his girlfriend to leave her bag sitting there, and one guy trips and it would be like one of those high school football entrance blooper videos that are all over YouTube.
Marty: Like when they make the paper banner for the team to run through, but the paper was too thick and everyone just wipes out.
McGee: Or the one cheerleader who gets caught in front of the banner and they all crash into her.
Marty: How about just down the road in South Carolina, the Gamecocks coming in to “2001.”
McGee: The first time I went to Williams-Brice Stadium, I was like, “OK, how great could it be? Playing classical music over the PA system with some smoke machines.” But it was amazing. And back then the upper deck was designed to sway.
Marty: Was it really?
McGee: Yeah, and that thing got to moving around and I was like, “What the hell is this?!”
Marty: I got to see one of the best entrances in person just last weekend. The Ramblin’ Wreck of Georgia Tech, and that 1930 Model T comes blazing in there. There weren’t but 10,000 fans allowed to attend the game, but by God, when that Ramblin’ Wreck came rolling in there, you knew a football game was about to start.
McGee: Speaking of motorized vehicles, I was pumped for College Gameday to be at Wake Forest for its season opener because America got to see another underrated entrance, when the Demon Deacon comes riding across the turf on that Harley-Davidson chopper like he’s Peter Fonda in “Easy Rider.”
Marty: How about down in Tallahassee when Osceola rides out there, face paint and all, and plants that spear at the 50-yard line? Son, that’ll get you ready. I’ve been to Florida State for games with Clemson and Miami, and that will never get old.
McGee: We were there together three years ago for the season opener on Labor Day night. They had us set up in the end zone on a little stage and three hours before kickoff that guy was on his horse and practicing. It was his first game doing it. He kept missing and then it clicked in.
Marty: You think he was nervous?
McGee: I asked him. He said, “No, I’m good. But then again, they haven’t set this spear on fire yet, so we’ll see.”
Marty (laughs): How about Michigan, when they run out at the 50-yard line, leaping in the air to slap that banner and run into the Big House? Or Notre Dame, when the team emerges after you know the players just smacked that “Play like a champion today” sign?
McGee: Or Autzen Stadium at Oregon, the loudest place I’ve ever been that wasn’t a racetrack. I was there with Oklahoma and when the Ducks ran out, Adrian Peterson looked at me and he said something about how damn loud it was. But I have no idea exactly what he said because, well, it was so damn loud.
Marty: Listen, I am not a huge European soccer fan, and I know they have their traditions when it comes to entrances and chants and all of that. There are great traditions in every sport. But it’s the pageantry and the uniqueness of this, something like a stadium entrance that is never the same from one place to the other. This is what separates college football from everything else. It’s unparalleled throughout sport.
McGee: That’s it. Be unique. I just appreciate a good effort. You and I both grew up going to small college games, and you see it even there. You’re a Division II school with 2,000 students, so you can’t run through the “T” or pull off “Enter Sandman.” But you can paint up a banner. Your band can line it up. You can even get an inflatable tunnel to run through. Just own it.
Marty: That’s it. Get yourself a bouncy house. Everybody loves ’em a bouncy house.