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Rivals FSU and Clemson both use graveyards to honor big wins, and that’s perfectly weird

The Noles started it, the Tigers spun off their own version, and college football is strange and good.

1. After a Florida State Seminoles win on the road as an underdog, a team captain — who gains the title of Sod Captain — selects a piece of enemy turf to uproot and bring back to Tallahassee.

2. It travels to FSU’s Sod Cemetery, where 100 pieces of foe grass rest, according to The latest: from 2016’s wins over Miami and Michigan.

NCAA Football: Miami at Florida State Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

3. The new addition soon receives a burial ceremony, complete with a speech and moment of silence.

4. It’s been a tradition since 1962, when professor and athletic board member Dean Coyle Moore told players to “bring back some sod from between the hedges at Georgia.” The Noles, still a young program that hadn’t accomplished much to that point, won and did some horticulture.


5. In 1988, No. 10 FSU traveled to the No. 3 Clemson Tigers. Trick play master Bobby Bowden broke out a “puntrooskie” to future All-Pro LeRoy Butler. While FSU’s punter acted like the snap had sailed over his head, Butler took the ball from a fellow blocker and ran to set up the deciding field goal. FSU took its sod, and 26 years later, reenacted the play at the Cemetery:

6. Clemson head coach Danny Ford was displeased with the play, the loss, and the grass capture. When the Tigers got revenge in Tallahassee the next year in another ranked-vs.-ranked game, Clemson took a piece of FSU sod. The first permanent headstone in Clemson’s Victory Graveyard was placed atop Nole grass.

7. The Tigers’ twists on the tradition: headstones instead of markers, a lack of foreign grass (other than 1989 FSU’s), and memorials of road wins over ranked teams, rather than favored teams. Clemson also adds its in bulk after the season, rather than one at a time, with 2016’s four (CU now lists 32, including 10 before 1989) highlighted by a super-sized National Championship headstone.

8. From the conversation about Clemson’s ceremony, I realized some fans weren’t aware Clemson had spun off and/or jacked (depending on your perspective) this Seminole tradition.

(One funny part: a couple FSU fans were mad about someone taking a tradition that is literally based on taking someone else’s stuff.)

It’s perfect, though. The two are division rivals now, though they weren’t even in the same conference in 1989. Clemson has also spent most of the past couple decades living in FSU’s shadow, but emerged over the last few years as a national power and worthy rival.

Only in a sport as bizarre as college football would two teams with so little history at the time (they’d only played three times before 1988, but 26 times since) end up playing annually, sharing a strange tradition, and building a serious rivalry on the field.

9. FSU appears three times in Clemson’s Graveyard, and five chunks of Clemson grass are in FSU’s Cemetery. Now that both are gonna be elite for the foreseeable future, more funeral plots will likely be changing hands between the two regularly.

10. The Noles have no reason to endorse Clemson’s sampling, and the Tigers don’t need anyone’s co-sign at this point, but it would still be fun to see the two acknowledge they have the same baffling, morbid, adorable ritual.

They should play for a rivalry trophy, like the Rusty Bronze Reaper’s Scythe (brought to you by Hardee’s), the Old Oaken Weed Whacker (of Death), or the Haunted John Deere Victory Tractor.