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Big East game-day traditions: West Virginia

We'll start off our series looking at the game-day traditions at each school with, appropriately enough, the West Virginia Mountaineers. (Rutgers will be up next, so get your emails in now, Scarlet Knights fans.)

You'd be hard pressed to find a better game-day atmosphere in the league than the one in Morgantown. West Virginia football is a passion for just about the entire state, and they take great pride in their tailgating and other rituals on a football Saturday.

Let's take a look at some of those traditions:

"The Pride of West Virginia:" The Mountaineer Marching Band is beloved by fans everywhere, and its traditional pre-game routine includes the playing of such songs as "Simple Gifts" and forming the outline of the state's borders.

The firing of the musket: Let me tell you, if you're not ready for the Mountaineer mascot to shoot off his rifle, it will startle you. Happened to me one time as I was standing on the field a few feet away. And I was even expecting it. Talk about intimidating. It doesn't get much more intimidating than a dude (or a girl, this year) with a gun.

First down cheer: While waiting for a first down call, West Virginia fans will raise their arms in the air, then lower them three times while chanting "Hoot, hoot, hoot," before making the first down signal. What does it mean? No idea. But it's kind of neat.

"Let's Go Mountaineers" chant: This is an old tradition that has recently been making a comeback. It sounds pretty simple, but when an entire football stadium is executing the cheer, it works well.

"Take Me Home, Country Roads:" Last but not least, what I consider to be the top tradition in the Big East. At every home game, the crowd sings this John Denver song. Denver helped dedicate Mountaineer Field in 1980, and the song has been a game-day staple since. When the song reaches the chorus and the entire place is silent except for the fans singing along -- and putting extra emphasis on the "West Virginia" part -- well, you'd almost have to not be human (or an opposing fan) to avoid getting goosebumps.

Testimonials:

Ben from Austin, Texas: I remember going to WVU games as a kid and teenager. The tradition that sticks in my mind more than anything is The Pride of West Virginia -- one of the best marching bands in the country -- and their pregame routine. Playing "Simple Gifts" as the band marches out of its tight circle, and forming the state outline during "Country Roads" gives me chills everytime I think about it. The Mountaineer firing his musket and singing "Country Roads" after every victory is always the best feeling.

Ryanne from Morgantown writes: By far one of the most amazing game day traditions in Morgantown is the band's pregame performance. As a member of "The Pride of West Virginia," I can personally tell you there probably aren't many greater feelings in the world than running out of those tunnels and performing a show with so much tradition. And there is nothing like being a fan in the crowd watching the band make their signature pictures, like the Simple Gift Circles, or the iconic state outline at the end of "Country Roads," and knowing the Mountaineers are just minutes away from taking the field and griding out another victory! Especially if we're playing Pitt!

Alan F from Charleston, W.Va.,: The Pride of West Virginia has been doing practically the same pre-game show - Boogie, Fight Mountaineers/Mt. Dew, Simple Gifts, Alma Mater, Hail West Virginia while forming the state outline -- since Old Mountaineer Field days. Each game the crowd reacts like it is the first time we've ever seen it. Sitting in the Georgia Dome for the Sugar Bowl game, I watched the Pride blow the UGA band off the field and the Mountaineers never looked back.

Daniel from Walkersville, Md.,: The best traditions in the Big East take place at WVU. The first tradition is the tailgate in the blue lot. I was in the lot before the Pitt game this year and it was crazy. The second tradition is the Pride of West Virginia playing before the game. Its impossible not to get excited when the make the outline of the state of West Virginia. The third great tradition of of WVU, the Big East, and All of college football is after the game singing "Take Me Home Country Roads" after the game. Nothing tops singing that song with thousands of like minded people. And just so it's not left out is the chant "Let's Goooo Mountaineers." Honestly, it's chilling when you hear it in person.

Steve from Charleston, W.Va.,: WVU's tailgating tradition is tops anywhere ... not just the Big East. Awesome.

Corey from Hurricane, W.Va.,: As far as gameday traditions go for the Big East, one of the best in the conference has to be the pre-game tailgating bonanza outside Mountaineer Field in an area simply known as "The Pit." Hours before kickoff, thousands of Mountaineers decked out in their Gold and Blue finest converge on the fenced-off, no-holds-barred, official party zone in the parking lot. Trucks, SUVs, and dump trucks -- yes, dump trucks -- haul as many kegs as possible into the crazed area. With plenty of "refreshments" to go around, the music and mayhem doesn't stop until the drum roll of the Pride of West Virginia. And if that isn't enough, WVU helps sponsor the event by providing free food and drinks for anyone of legal age. Though it may seem ironic, Panthers will never be welcome in "The Pit."