Faurot Field Past and Present: A Unique History
Every college football stadium is filled with history and tradition, but the Missouri Tigers’ home field has seen more abnormalities than perhaps any other in the country, dating back to the 1920s.
In 1921, the University of Missouri decided it wanted to honor 112 alumni and students who had given their lives in World War I. Designs for a Memorial Union and a Memorial Stadium were drawn up for the Mizzou campus.
Ground was broken for the Memorial Stadium in December 1925, and according to legend, a rock crusher and truck were buried during construction and remain there today.
Plans called for the stadium to hold 25,000 people, with plans to add on to the facility, with an eventual potential capacity of 98,975.
The new, 25,000-seat stadium hosted its first game on October 2, 1926. That game, a scoreless tie against Tulane, was a unique memory in and of itself. Because of storms and wet conditions, workers could not lay sod for the field, leaving the teams to play in a stormy mess of sawdust and tree bark.
The Rock “M” that sits on the hill at the north end of the stadium was created in 1927 by freshmen using rocks left over from the stadium’s construction. The Rock “M” has fallen victim to pranksters, as others have changed the rocks to form an “N” or a “K” before games against Nebraska and Kansas.
On one such occasion, the groundskeeper noticed the “N” the morning of a game against Nebraska, proceeded to wake up freshmen in nearby dorms, and had them help him fix the stones so they showed an “M”. It is now tradition that freshmen whitewash the “M” on Saturday morning during Fall Welcome.
In 1972, the field at Memorial Stadium was renamed in honor of legendary coach Don Faurot. From that point on, the facility has been commonly referred to Faurot Field.
The south end of the stadium was enclosed with 10,800 seats in 1978, bringing the stadium total to 62,023. From 1978 to 1984, Faurot Field saw its largest crowds ever, setting an all-time attendance record of 75,298 in 1980 when Penn State came to Columbia.
Mizzou was the only Big 12 school playing on natural grass by the mid-1980’s, but that changed in the summer of 1985, when OmniTurf was installed. Due to complaints by other teams and the Big 12, OmniTurf was replaced by natural grass in 1995.
Don Faurot laid the final piece of sod, which is significant because Faurot helped lay the original sod in 1926. Along with this new surface came permanent lighting, which was also added in 1995.
It was during this new renovation that the small hills were added in front of the stands along with the brick walls honoring Tiger legends. Both coaches and players are honored in the small walls, and “AO25” was painted on each hill from 2005-2008 in memory of Aaron O’Neal, a player who died in summer workouts prior to the 2005 season.
In 1997, Faurot Field added a new scoreboard at the north end of the stadium. Another smaller HD screen at the south end was added in 2005.
The press box was torn down in 2001 and replaced with a 15-story building that also included many suites. Two years later, the natural grass was once again replaced, this time with FieldTurf.
The most recent renovations are set to debut for the 2009 season: a new scoreboard and sound system. The videoboard will be 30 feet by 80 feet, and will replace the old one at the north end.
There are long term plans to possibly build suites atop the East grandstand, although space and funding may keep this project from happening for a few years.
In its history, Faurot Field has seen two of the most bizarre events in college football history. In 1990, Colorado brought an undefeated record to Columbia, only to be pushed to the limit by the Tigers.
In a blunder never to be forgotten, referees lost track and gave the Colorado offense a fifth down. The Buffaloes scored the game-winning touchdown on the extra down, and went on to share the national championship.
Less than a decade later, in 1997, another rival came to town with an undefeated record, the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
With less than 10 seconds left, Nebraska scored a game-tying touchdown after the ball deflected off a receiver’s foot, a Mizzou corner’s foot, and then off the receiver’s foot again. As the receiver was being tackled, he kicked the ball into the air, and Matt Davison dove to catch the ball for a touchdown.
If the referees ruled the ball was kicked intentionally, they play would be considered illegal. They ruled it incidental, the touchdown stood, and another team escaped Faurot Field en route to sharing a national championship.
Mizzou’s luck has changed in recent years, as the Tigers have won 17 of their last 19 games. Tiger faithful hope that a bigger crowd can help boost that advantage.
For the 2009 season, student seating has been reconfigured to allow 2,655 more students in the allotted section, bringing the total stadium capacity to 71,004.
From Pitchin' Paul to Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin, Missouri Tigers football has been played at one spot for over 80 years. As seasons come and go at Faurot Field, traditions will be passed on and future generations will add more chapter’s to the stadium’s already unique history.
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