“The Victors” Named Country’s Best College Fight Song [Video]
I have to admit, there is an emotional feeling I get when the Michigan marching band comes out of the tunnel at the Big House and the first chords of "The Victors" are heard. I can't compare it to anything else.
Sports Illustrated named "The Victors" the nation's best fight song in its annual college football preview. The song bested other classics like Tennessee's "Rocky Top," the Notre Dame Victory March and USC's "Fight On."
"The Victors" was penned by a Michigan student named Louis Elbel in 1898. (He may have lifted the melody from "The Spirit of Liberty March" published seven months earlier by George Rosenberg, but SHHHHHH!!!!!!)
The first live performance of the song was by the immortal John Philip Sousa's band during the grand marching band era of US music.
The song was almost scrapped in 1911 because the Western Conference was renamed the Big Ten, thus making the line "Champions of the West" irrelevant. A new song called "Varsity" was supposed to be the new fight song but it never took off, and "The Victors" remained, weird line and all.
"The all-time winningest program in college football, Michigan’s 'The Victors' perfectly embodies the maize and blue. Written and composed by then-student Louis Elbel in 1898, a shortened variation of the nation’s best fight song is played every time the Wolverines score or make a major defensive play. 'The Victors' is so bold and commanding that alumnus and past President Gerald R. Ford often requested the Naval band play the song in place of the customary 'Hail to the Chief.' Upon his death, Ford requested it to accompany his funeral procession at the capitol."
Full disclosure, my Dad, Jerry, also had the song played at his funeral, having gone to grad school there in the early '50s. RIP, Dad, I'm glad you died before Ohio State started dominating us.
So, band, TAKE THE FIELD!