Football is big at Florida State University, and steeped in tradition. There’s the wearing of team colors, tailgating with friends, planting of the spear with Chief Osceola and Renegade, the war chant and tomahawk chop, and 24/7 pounding of the war drum before a big game. Then there’s one particularly unusual tradition: the Sod Cemetery.
In 1962, during a pep talk at a practice before a matchup against the University of Georgia, professor and athletic board member Dean Coyle Moore challenged players to “bring back some sod from between the hedges at Georgia.”
Team captain Gene McDowell took the statement literally: He pulled a handful of grass from the field after the 18-0 victory, and presented it to Moore at the next practice. Moore and FSU coach Bill Peterson buried the sod on the practice field. A monument was later put in place to commemorate the victory, and the tradition of the Sod Cemetery had begun.
The rules of the “Sod Games” are straightforward. Team captains collect a piece of the sod from fields where FSU wins for all road games where the Seminoles are considered the underdogs, all games at the University of Florida, and all ACC title and bowl games. Tradition surrounding the burials have been written up by Moore and passed on to the current cemetery keeper, instructing how to remove the sod (look for a divot and use your hands or scissors), the ceremonies held when the sod is buried (in tiny coffins), and how to place the bronze markers (headstones) to commemorate the games.
Visitors to Doak Campbell Stadium can witness the cemetery, which is located outside the gates of the practice field.