The nation continues to grapple with its relationship to monuments of all sorts, from statues to symbols, that are associated with a history of racism — a movement that’s spread into sports at all levels, but especially within college football.
Clemson, Oklahoma State and Texas football players, current and former, are some of those who have called for changes on campus. This week, the University of Florida announced that as part of its own effort to better itself, it would be distancing itself from its “Gator Bait” chant, disallowing it to be used at athletic events. The phrase’s use within Florida athletics originated by way of one of its own football players, but the the phrase itself has horrific racist connotations and origins.
As each school reckons with who and what they’re honoring at their institutions, the legacy of Doak Campbell is one that has to be examined and acknowledged. Campbell pushed hard in a variety of ways against allowing Black students to integrate (or even be present) at the university. Tomahawk Nation can confirm discussions are being had within the school about potentially renaming the stadium, following with a trend under President John Thrasher’s leadership that’s taken the time to examine monuments to those who contributed to the oppression of others.
So that leaves a big question: if (or when) Doak Campbell’s name is removed from the Florida State Seminoles football stadium, what would be the right title to replace it?
Our staff offers their answers, and reasonings, below.
The name: Burt Reynolds Stadium aka “The Bandit” (The corporate sponsor would obviously have to be Coors, possibly Dr. Pepper)
The reasoning: Because Turd Ferguson Stadium doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
Seriously, how cool would this be? Arkansas has Donald Reynolds Stadium, but we all know ol’ Donald can’t hold a coolness candle to the Bandit. It’s a multi-faceted approach, too. FSU needs a mascot, instead of having Osceola and Renegade as school symbols? No problem. We can just blast Eastbound and Down, have a dude with a cowboy hat and mustache peel out in a Trans Am (sans front license plate of course) at the 50!
In all seriousness, I expect this name change to happen fairly soon (along with the Francis Eppes Building* being renamed). FSU needs to take full advantage of the opportunity and secure a lucrative contract from a national or local corporate sponsor to generate more revenue. Leave Bobby Bowden Field alone, of course. And if they really can’t find one, we can always settle on Florida State-ium...
*(Editor’s Note: Francis Eppes was a member of the founding committee who established the school that eventually became Florida State University, but was a slaveholding plantation owner who helped established patrols to capture enslaved people. His statue was relocated from a prominent location on campus in 2019 to a more discreet one, though his name remains on a campus building.)
Juan Montalvo and FrankDNole:
The name: Bobby Bowden Field at [insert Highest Corporate Bidder] Stadium.
Frank’s reasoning: I like money. (Mickey deserves some shine though, so while we’re at it. rename Stadium Drive to Mickey Andrews Drive.)
Imagine this introduction to a prime time Saturday Night game of the week. The announcer fades in~~:
“Good evening, it’s a hot muggy night here in beautiful Tallahassee Florida.
We’re coming to you from Bobby Bowden Field, inside the beautiful brick exterior of the Krusty Krab Stadium, here on scenic Mickey Andrews Drive. Tonight, we have a doozy of a game featuring the #3 ranked Florida State Tasmanian Devils taking on the #24th ranked Georgia Tech Stingers ........”
Juan’s reasoning: FSU simply cannot remove Bobby Bowden’s name from the equation. Their legendary coach has had the field named after him for the better part of two decades. FSU would alienate major boosters as well as the common fan by getting rid of arguably the name most associated with FSU Football.
That said, the main stadium name? This is all about money. A source tells us the option of a corporate sponsor is being explored already - and what better and more convenient way could there be to shed the Campbell legacy issues than by announcing a corporate sponsor?
The Seminole Tribe of Florida could be an interesting factor here, too. Their wild success in the gambling arena has made them one of the wealthiest tribes in the nation. They and Florida State have also enjoyed a strong relationship in which both the tribe and university have benefitted from each others’ strong brand recognition and success.
Could Florida State and the Seminole Tribe find a way to build the Tribe in as a sponsor, enshrining the Tribe as a partner and adding to the Tribe’s branding success?
The name: Calvin Patterson Stadium
The reasoning: J.T. Thomas — deservedly so — is mentioned as the first Black athlete to letter for Florida State football, having broken the color barrier in 1970 (where he blocked two field goals on back-to-back plays to preserve a win over Louisville, but that mega-flex is neither here nor there). It’s a fact that’s technically true, since Calvin Patterson, who was actually the first Black player to ever suit up at Florida State, didn’t get the chance to be ever suit up for the then-varsity team, dying at the age of 22.
Patterson arrived in 1968, part of head coach Bill Peterson’s attempt to finally integrate the team at a time when fewer than 40 Black students were on campus. He was recruited alongside Ernest Cook Jr., a fullback from Daytona Beach who was so terrified by the racist hate mail he received for pledging to play for the Seminoles he went to Minnesota instead, where he was All-Big Ten.
Patterson spent three years at FSU, bouncing back and forth between the university and home as he struggled to adjust socially, academically and emotionally to a campus and a city fighting against embracing him, especially with the stigma that came with him dating white women while at school. The weight of all of that, plus of potentially being a history-changing icon, bore an enormous load on the teenager.
From the same ESPN article linked above:
Once Patterson fell into academic trouble, FSU’s coaches were reluctant to play him in games. Early in Patterson’s career, black students watched FSU practices just to see him in action. During one spring game, black students chanted Patterson’s name while he sat on the bench. A coach asked Patterson why he wouldn’t take off his helmet. Patterson didn’t want his teammates to see him crying.
The players saw different worlds. No white player, even those who admired Calvin, recalls any unusual treatment. Every black player does.
“I remember there’d be times where he’d have a hurt hamstring or ankle and guys that could not touch him when he was well would be taking cheap shots at him,” Charlie Hunt says. “I’d say, ‘Why’re you hitting him like that? You know you couldn’t do that if he was healthy.’ They wouldn’t say nothing at all. It was a total injustice.”
A day before his senior season in 1972, where he would’ve finally earned a letter as part of Florida State’s varsity team, Patterson shot himself in the stomach, dying later at the hospital in what friends and close ones believe was an attempt to injure himself so he didn’t have to play.
All his friends, all the emergency people agree on one thing: Calvin didn’t mean to kill himself. It was a shout for sympathy, an excuse for why he wasn’t playing football. [They remember] a friend in Miami saying Calvin had called her that morning and said he had been in a convenience-store robbery. He would be okay, but football was out.
There was no blood when Daws found Calvin, but life was already draining away. Calvin said he was scared. He asked Daws to “shoot him in the head,” as the police report says, “to end the pain.”
He died in an ambulance, holding the hand of an attendant.
J.T. Thomas, who arrived on campus a year after Patterson, served as a pallbearer at his funeral.
Patterson has been seldom recognized at the university, and honoring him by placing his name on the stadium would go a long way in righting that wrong.