It’s been a long, hard offseason for college football fans everywhere.

Probations, coaching changes and scandals have dominated the landscape.

But now the clouds have parted, the troubles have blown away (temporarily at least), and the steady drumbeat of unhappy news is being slowly drowned out by the brassy sound of a college marching band.

College football returns Thursday - and not a moment too soon.

Here’s to tailgate parties, to long walks across manicured campuses on a crisp autumn afternoon. Here’s to baking in the September sun at Miami, watching the leaves turn at West Point in October, shivering in the November snow at Nebraska and watching the Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year’s Day.

Here’s to the glittering facets that make college football a gem despite its flaws.

Here’s to Howard’s Rock at Clemson and Notre Dame’s golden dome. Here’s to the Volunteer Navy boating up river for Football Time in Tennessee.

Here’s to the things about college football that give you a lump in your throat, like John Cappelletti’s tearful Heisman Trophy acceptance speech, “Win one for the Gipper!” or the last five minutes of “Rudy” (I’ll admit it, I cry every time). Here’s to Rutgers’ Eric LeGrand, and the indomitability of the human spirit.

Here’s to plays like Dash Right 93 Berlin, LSU’s “Bluegrass Miracle” winning play against Kentucky in 2002, which never worked in practice but came home as a million-to-one shot when it mattered. Here’s to the end of the 1982 Cal-Stanford game (“The band is on the field!”) and Trinity University’s 62-second-long, 15-lateral play to beat Millsaps in 2007 - the Miracle in Mississippi.

Here’s to famous phrases from legends like Arizona’s John Salmon (“Bear Down!”), Michigan’s Bo Schembechler (“I’m going to treat you all the same - like dogs!”) and TCU’s Dutch Meyer (“Fight ‘em ‘till hell freezes over ? then fight ‘em on the ice!”).

Here’s to dotting the “i” at Ohio State, kissing your girlfriend after a touchdown at Texas A&M (or after your team is invited to join the SEC) and swaying with the Boys from Old Florida before the fourth quarter.

Here’s to great mascots like Mike VI, Ralphie the Buffalo, Bevo, and Uga the Georgia bulldog (Damn good dog!).

Here’s to playing for the Old Oaken Bucket (Indiana-Purdue), the Keg of Nails (Cincinnati-Louisville), and a personal favorite, Floyd of Rosedale (Iowa-Minnesota).

Here’s to rivalry games like, well, The Game (Harvard-Yale), the Holy War (BYU-Utah) and The Biggest Little Game in America (Amherst-Williams). Here’s to the Bayou Classic, the Iron Bowl, and Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate (Georgia-Georgia Tech).

Here’s to Boise State’s blue turf, the purple and gray turf at Central Arkansas and the delicious green, green grass of Tiger Stadium.

Here’s to college football - and here’s wishing that this time, the season will never end.