Unless you’ve been living under a rock since the day you arrived at Florida State, you might have noticed that football is kind of a big deal here. Out of all the traditions that Florida State football has, one of the most interesting and overlooked is the Sod Cemetery. This gated patch of grass, now located against the outer wall of the new indoor sports complex across from the student entrance of Doak Campbell, looks pretty unremarkable to the naked eye but actually has an interesting history.
For nearly 60 years, the sod cemetery has commemorated some of Florida State’s greatest victories in football. The tradition began in 1962 as the Seminoles finished their Thursday practice in preparation to play against Georgia. Dean Coyle Moore – a long-time professor and member of FSU’s athletic board – issued a challenge to the team: “Bring back some sod from between the hedges at Georgia.” That following Saturday, October 20, 1962, the Seminoles went on to score 18-0 victory over Georgia. The team captain, Gene McDowell, pulled a small piece of grass from the field, which was then presented to Moore at the team’s next practice. Moore and then FSU football coach Bill Peterson, had the sod buried on the practice field as a symbol of their victory. A monument was then placed to commemorate the victory and thus the tradition of the sod game was born.
Since then, before leaving for all road games where Florida State is the underdog, all road games at the University of Florida, and all ACC championship and bowl games, the team captains explain the significance of the tradition to the rest of the players. Winning captains then return with a piece of the opponents turf to be buried outside the gates of the practice field.
So as you and your friends prepare for the exciting football weekend ahead, remember that this campus is full of tradition and it’s easy to find if you just take the time to go exploring.