The storied history of Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field combines the best of
old and new. While the traditional block "M", formed in stone by the
freshman class in 1927, guards the stadium's north end zone, around and
beneath it are many modern updates.
The "M", formed by whitewashed rocks, is 90 feet wide and 95 feet high.
Mizzou's yearbook, the Savitar, recounted the debut of the Missouri landmark on
Oct. 1, 1927, when the Tigers defeated Kansas, 13-6:
"Five-hundred freshmen joined hands and encircled the cinder track
in a single line while the band played 'Old Missouri' in the
center of the field. The pennants of all the Missouri Valley
fluttered and danced above the stadium on the long line at the
open end of the gridiron. A huge stone M - the work of the Frosh
the night before - loomed up white and threatening against the
The "M" has weathered the good and bad times. In the 1950s, a group of
pranksters changed the "M" to an "N" the night before the Missouri-Nebraska
game. But the Mizzou groundskeeper, with the help of some young boys who gained
free admission to the game in exchange for their assistance, restored the "M" to
its proper form before kickoff.
This season , Ol' Mizzou returns to its roots - literally. A grass playing
surface has been installed in place of the slippery Omniturf that graced the
playing field for the last 10 years. Hopefully, an exorcism of sorts has been
performed, eliminating the haunting memories of a number of nightmare games
played on the ersatz surface - chief of which was the infamous "Fifth-Down Game"
against Colorado, in 1990.
The new field, a blend of five Kentucky Bluegrass varieties, is
state-of-the-art. The grass was grown and donated to the project by Gene
Sandner of S&S Seed/Evergreen Farms in nearby Rocheport, Mo. Installed in mid-
June, the field is designed to drain eight inches of water per hour, and
features an in-ground watering system.
The field itself is not the only cosmetic change made to Faurot Field.
Grass-covered terraces now extend upwards from field level to the
grandstands, where they meet a new brick wall that adds a traditional
collegiate ambiance to the stadium. The hill on the north end of the field
has been re-graded to provide a consistent "bowl", and is now framed by
nearly 600 bushes.
Former Athletic Director Dan Devine announced in 1993 that MU would return to
grass by 1995. Football coach Larry Smith heartily endorsed that plan and
current AD Joe Castiglione implemented it. One of the nation's foremost turf-
grass experts, Dave Minner, a former MU faculty member who is now at Iowa State,
served as a consultant for the project. Minner has been involved a number of
turf projects - including the field at Baltimore's Camden Yards and MU's own
Simmons Field, which received a new playing surface in the fall of 1992.
Over the last four years, upgrades to the stadium's superstructure have been
made, giving the natural bowl the tender loving care it needs to remain as the
home of the Tigers for many years to come. And, in 1991, all of the stadium's
old cypress bleachers were replaced with aluminum. Work in the stadium during
the past year has addressed accessibility issues. Seating sections and
vomitories [?] were modified to allow wheelchair access on both the east and
west sides. Restrooms and concession stands will be reworked as will the
concourse surfaces beneath the grandstands in next year's second phase of the
On game days, the Tigers enjoy a new lockerroom, completed in 1992. Tucked
beneath the south stands is the facility which includes large and comfortable dressing quarters for players and coaches, state-of-the-art medical facilities including X-ray equipment, and a large interview room which enables 65 reporters to comfortably execute their post-game duties.
Although the artificial turf is gone, ironically, Faurot Field had an artificial surface once before 1985 - for its very first game in 1926. Construction of the sunken stadium seating 25,000 spectators went down to the wire in the fall of '26 with the heaviest September rainfall in 35 years contributing to the delay.
Time ran out before the playing surface could be sodded for the Oct. 2, opener with Tulane. Constant rains washed out a bridge east of Columbia, and though repaired in time, slightly more than 10,000 drenched fans showed up for opening ceremonies.
Without sod, sawdust and tanbark were spread on the field as an alternative, and the Tigers and the Green Wave played to a "scoreless, mudpie tie," Bob Broeg wrote in his two historical books on Mizzou football.
The stadium, built at a cost of $350,000, was the product of Coach Gwinn Henry's championship seasons of 1924-25, and the vision of athletic director Chester L. Brewer. It was carved out of "a sizeable natural valley that lay between twin bluffs south of the University," chronicled Broeg, longtime sports editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and unofficial historian of Missouri football.
Though the seating capacity is listed at 62,000, crowds in excess of 75,000 have seen the Tigers play in Columbia - against Texas in 1979, and Penn State in 1980.
Coach Don Faurot's powerhouse Split "T" teams in the late '30s and '40s helped pay off the stadium bonds - along with Faurot's brave scheduling of Ohio State for nine straight years at Columbus, and big paydays from games with New York U. and Fordham back east.
Peak attendance in the Tigers' single-tiered football arena was 30,832, who crammed into temporary bleachers and sat on the hillside to watch Faurot's team upset SMU, 20-14, in 1948.
A year later, the stadium underwent its first facelift with the addition of sections in the center of the west side, boosting the number of rows from 40 to 78. Those piece-meal additions continued sporadically until the summer of 1965, when the final two sections on the southeast corner were completed in the two-tiered horseshoe.
The current press box and VIP lounge was added by private subscription atop the west side in 1968. The south end was enclosed with 10,800 permanent seats in 1978, and in 1984, an expanded, glassed-in VIP Lounge and a renovated press level were completed. A new press box is included in Missouri's long-range facilities master plan.
The playing field adopted a new name in 1972 - Faurot Field - in honor of the legendary Mizzou football coach and athletic director whose teams and administrative leadership helped mightily to pay off the mortgage. As a matter of fact, Faurot, a graduate student in 1926, helped lay the stadium's sod. And he was there again in June to drop the last square of turf into Mizzou's new field.
Source: University of Missouri Sports Information Office
Courtesy of Kevin Worley
Additional notes from Kevin Worley: Permanent lights were added to the stadium this year (1996), and plans are to add a giant video replay board for the 1997 season. Also, the retired numbers and the corresponding players' names grace the new brick wall built in 1995 that circles the interior of the stadium, separating the field from the stands. In addition to players names like Kellen Winslow, Johnny Roland, and Paul Christman, coaches Don Faurot and Den Devine are honored in this style. The info above is from the Mizzou Athletic Department web site. I'll be at this refurbished old bowl this weekend, (11/23/96) watching Mizzou play Kansas, the most-often played rivalry in college football (105 games) and the oldest continuous rivalry west of the Mississippi. P.S. Mizzou whipped Kansas 42-25. Woo-hoo!