John Lang Sinclair, who had heard the phrase often enough as a student, picked it up for a 1903 University minstrel-show song which he wrote on the wrapping of a laundry bundle. It was a huge snicker to the students at the time, but as little as two years later, in 1905, the song had achieved its present dignity and was sung respectfully at the funeral of the president it parodied.
Among the oldest of football songs are the Rutgers Foot-Ball Song and Columbia's Foot-Ball Song, obviously written before anyone knew how to spell the game, let alone play it. They appear in a collection of college songs published in 1876, a time when the game was just emerging from soccer. The Rutgers song gives an idea of the style of the period and even a notion of what the game was like:
"The kickers are all in their rival rows
With scarlet caps and scarlet hose;
The word is given and off she goes
And up with the bully foot-ball."
(For the Founding Game with Princeton in 1869, the first intercollegiate game of foot-ball, which was then more like soccer, Rutgers players wore red turbans on their heads, and the school color became scarlet.)
Today's college bands, with shako-ed drum majorettes by the dozen and ornate uniforms, are very little like the simply clad marchers who first serenaded team and stands. Ivy League costuming comes closest to what it was in the old days of the twenties. The Harvard band, which is rated musically as the best in the East and only to be compared with Yale's, wears crimson coats and ties, white shirts, white trousers with crimson stripes, and no hats. At Yale the costume is dark-blue blazers, gray flannel trousers, white shoes, and again no hats. Princeton puts a touch of satire on Ivy League restraint by wearing straw boaters with orange-and-black bands as a topper to loud orange-and-black plaid jackets, black knit ties, gray flannel trousers and white buckskin shoes.
The Yale band has its memories, among them the time when Rudy Val-lee, leading it during a Yale-Georgia game, swung into Marching Through Georgia. It was a Harvard man, however, who flung the grapefruit at Rudy while he was singing Oh, Give Me Something to Remember You By.
No matter where in this world a college man goes he is likely to be caught up short sometime by hearing his old school song sung or played in the most improbable places. Notre Dame's Victory March has been used by Chinese street merchants in Tientsin to demonstrate the quality of their violins. Marines sang it going in for beachhead landings in the Pacific. Capt. Trevor E. Hughes of the British 51st Highland Division heard it in a concentration camp at Lodz, Poland. On Wisconsin, which John Philip Sousa called "the finest college melody ever written," was carried to the Mexican border by Wisconsin National Guardsmen in 1916 and to Europe in World War I. It was written by two Hamilton College men, whose first version started: " Minnesota, Minnesota...."