Editor’s Note: Subjective rankings are sure to draw criticism. Rarely does a sportswriter get to take it and dish it out in a single sitting, but that’s what our Nick Bartlett and Jack Follman do here. Let’s listen in as the two debate their respective fight song rankings and have some fun along the way.
You’ll find all Pac-12 Conference fight songs embedded in audio players below, along with some historical notes you may find surprising.
USC — “Fight On”
Nick: We both have ASU’s song toward the bottom of our lists. What’s with that? To me, the melody sounds like a new age classical gone wrong.
Jack: Completely agree. It has way too much of an old school classical feel that seems like a rough draft. There’s some hints that I like in there but it doesn’t pull it off for me overall.
ASU — “Maroon and Gold”
“Maroon and Gold” was composed by former Director of Sun Devil Marching Band, Felix E. McKernan in 1948. Some of the lyrics were reportedly derived from Tevye’s big speech before an ensemble performance of “Tradition” in the famous musical Fiddler on the Roof.
Nick: I completely disagree with your ranking of Oregon State. That OOOOOO-SSSSSSSSSSSS-UUUUUUU chant gets them in the top half of my list. Explain your reasoning?
Jack: Okay, I think I didn’t invest enough in the OOOOOO-SSSSSSSSSSSS-UUUUUUU thing, which is fun for fans. Maybe I am just traumatized by having to sit next to a Beaver fan who was the most-annoying I’ve ever interacted with at a sporting event one time who kept doing that and shaping the letters in my face.
That might bump it up a few spots for me.
OSU — “Hail to Old OSU”
“Hail to Old OSU” was written by Harold A. Wilkins in 1914, with the chorus consisting of a chant (O-S-U Fight B-E-A-V-E-R-S) backed by drums. The initials in the chant have changed with the name of the school over the years from “O-A-C” to “O-S-C” to “O-S-U.”
Nick: Many Pac-12 fans would argue that Stanford’s song is probably one of the worst on this list. We both ranked (it or them) in decent spots on our lists. What are we missing?
Jack: I guess I was just thinking about the “All Right Now,” which I give a lot of points for breaking the classic tradition format, and which I would love to see more do. What if each school instead chose a more modern song to represent their school as well? Though I will say “All Right Now” is about the most just “alright” song I can think of so maybe I’m giving it too much credit.
Stanford — “All Right Now”
Stanford’s original fight song, “Come Join the Band,” was spurned in 1972 for “All Right Now,” written by the UK rock band Free. The song was modified and adapted by the notoriously mischievous Stanford Band, which was banned from Autzen Stadium by an Oregon governor for 10 years, from 1990 to 2001.
Nick: Are Cal and Colorado’s song the same? I feel like I should like these songs, but I don’t.
Jack: They both have that quality of something that keeps feeling like it’s going to take off and soar but just never does. You shouldn’t like them because they’re not good.
California — “Fight for California”
“Fight for California” is a march from the “trio” or final strain of “Lights Out March” written by Earl Elleson McCoy in 1906. In 1984, NASA mission control woke up the shuttle crew with the song in honor of astronaut Ox van Hoften, who graduated from Berkeley in 1966.
Colorado — “Fight CU”
“Fight CU” was originally sung by the football team, and few people outside the band know that it was the fight song of the University. The original version included the line “fight, fight for every yard,” but the line was changed to “fight, fight for victory” to allow the song to be used for all sports, and not just football.
Jack: We agree on most of these songs and where they land but if you were forced to listen to one of them on repeat over-and-over again, which would you choose?
Nick: The first thing that popped into my head was Oregon’s. I couldn’t tell you why, but it may have something to do with the classical melody combined with the little extra kick. Even though I put USC’s anthem No. 1, I probably won’t always want to feel like I’m headed into battle. The Ducks fight song can be considered synonymous with their football program. Great, solid and authentic…but not quite elite.
Jack: I’m kind of surprised Oregon has maintained a classic fight song instead of developing something more modern that matches their jerseys and overall program aesthetic. Do you think they would ever change their fight song to something new?
Nick: I think that fight songs may be harder to change due to the tradition associated with the tune. Even though Oregon has modernized just about every other aspect of their program, people generally don’t crush 12-packs and talk about jersey colors the same way they drunkingly shout their teams battle cry. I wouldn’t expect any changes to their anthem in the near future.
Oregon — “Mighty Oregon”
“Mighty Oregon” was composed in 1916 by UO Director of Bands Albert Perfect, with journalism student DeWitt Gilbert. The most popular section was fashioned after a harmony from “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary,” a 1912 World War I hit. “Mighty Oregon” also served as the fight song of Frankfurt American High School until it closed in 1995, after U.S. forces left Frankfurt, Germany.
Jack: As a WSU alum, I assume it might have been hard to put Washington’s ahead of WSU’s. What makes you give UW’s song the edge here?
Nick: WSU fans will probably get mad at me for this one, but there really is no comparison. The Husky fight song sounds like a well composed orchestra while the Cougar’s sounds like a glorified high school anthem. I actually went back and listened to my high school’s tune and couldn’t tell the two apart. With that being said, WSU’s fight song will always hold a special place in my heart.
Washington — “Bow Down to Washington”
“Bow Down to Washington” was written in 1915 by Lester J. Wilson (Class of 1913) for a Washington Daily-sponsored contest requiring entrants to make reference to the rivalry with Cal. He claimed a $25 prize for efforts. After the second public airing on Nov. 6, 1915, the Huskies beat Cal 72-0.
Washington State — “The Fight Song”
“The Fight Song” was composed in 1919 by WSU student Phyllis Sayles. It was sung in the 1985 movie Volunteers by John Candy, whose character, Tommy Tuttle, is an alumnus of WSU. In the film, the song is subsequently adopted by a group of Thai communist partisans as a battle cry.
Notes on the Other Fight Songs
Arizona — “Bear Down, Arizona!”
“Bear Down, Arizona!” was composed at 35,000 feet. In 1952, after interviewing to be UA’s band director, Jack K. Lee saw “Bear Down” painted on top of the gym as his plane took off. He grabbed an airsickness bag and wrote the music and lyrics as the plane departed. He got the job.
UCLA — “The Son’s of Westwood”
UCLA’s fight song, “The Son’s of Westwood,” was taken from Cal’s secondary fight song, “The Big C.” Cal threatened to sue in 1969, but lawyers found that the song had never been copyrighted. Some Cal fans still sing a parody-ending whenever the song is played.
Utah — “Utah Man”
Some considered the Utes’ fight song, “Utah Man,” sexist until 2014, when then-Utah President David Pershing announced some changes. For example, the line “our coeds are the finest” became “our students are the finest,” while it was suggested that “Utah man” could optionally be sung as “Utah fan.”
Look for past and future list rankings on the Great Pac-12 Debates page.
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