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Mizzou Traditions


Truman the Tiger

The nickname “Tigers,” given to Mizzou’s athletic teams, traces its origin to the Civil War period. At that time, plundering guerilla bands habitually raided small towns, and Columbia people constantly feared an attack. Such organizations as temporary “home guards” and vigilance companies banded together to fight off any possible forays.

The town’s preparedness discouraged any guerilla activity and the protecting organization began to disband in 1854. However, it was rumored that a guerilla band, led by the notorious Bill Anderson, intended to sack the town. Quickly organized was an armed guard of Columbia citizens, who built a blockhouse and fortified the old courthouse in the center of town. This company was called “The Missouri Tigers.”

The marauders never came. The reputation of the intrepid “Tigers” presumably traveled abroad, and Anderson’s gang detoured around Columbia.

Soon after Missouri’s first football team was organized in 1890, the athletic committee adopted the nickname “Tiger” in official recognition of those Civil War defenders. Their spirit is now embodied in the MU mascot – “Truman the Tiger.” In 1984, the Tiger was named Truman after President Harry S. Truman, a Missouri native.

Truman was acclaimed the “Best Mascot in the Nation” in 2003 and 2004.

Tiger Walk

Tiger Walk is when the football team arrives at the Mizzou Athletic Training Complex and walks across the Pedestrian Bridge and down the South tunnel to its locker room. It occurs two hours prior to kick-off.

Rock M

The traditional block “M,” carved from stone by the freshman class in 1927, guards the stadium’s north endzone and gives Memorial Stadium one of the more unique landmarks around the country.

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 State, 13-6:

“Five-hundred freshmen joined hands and encircled the cinder track in a single line while the bland 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 bankment.”

The “M” has weathered the good and bad times. In 1957, 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 his proper form before kickoff.


This tradition got its start in 1911 by Chester Brewer, Director of Athletics. That year the annual Missouri-Kansas game was to be played on a college campus for the first time. To cheer the Tigers on, Brewer issued a plea to all Mizzou alumni to “come home” for the big game. They did, with more than 9,000 packing Rollins field. Missouri was the first school to bring football and “coming home” together, hence the tradition of Homecoming was born.

Marching Mizzou

Marching Mizzou, also known as the “Big ‘M’ of the Midwest,” is the most visible ensemble in the School of Music and is the largest student organization on campus. Comprised of students from nearly every major within the University, this time-honored organization combines quality musicianship, spirit, pride and dedication to create their nationally renowned gridiron excitement. Each member auditioned to earn a position in Marching Mizzou.

Golden Girls

In 1957, Charles Emmons, the director of the band, added the sparkle to Marching Mizzou by founding the now-famous Golden Girls, a twirling line of six to eight majorettes and two feature twirlers. The group first danced in 1966, when then-director Dr. Alex Pickard had the girls throw down their batons and do the “Charleston.” In 1970, the twirling line officially became the gold-sequined, high-kicking dance line that it is today. The Golden Girls won the national championship in the pom-dance category in 1991, 1992 and 2003. Their 1991 title netted them a trip to Japan, where they performed at the Japan Classic Basketball All-Star series.


The University of Missouri Cheerleaders are an important part of the spirit and atmosphere at Mizzou. They made their first appearance in the 1909-1910 school year with an all-male squad called the “Yell Leaders”. The white-clad squad was led by a head cheerleader who was sent with the football team on all trips, to gather Missouri support at the out-of-Columbia games. In the Fall of 1937 three women were added to the squad. The addition of Betty Jacque Smith, Betty Ann Onhemus, and Jean Jones gave new enthusiasm to fans. The girls’ uniforms were all white – long pleated skirts, sweaters, ankle sox, and flat-heeled oxfords. The only color notes were the black and gold buttons on their white “beanies” and the huge black and gold “M’s” on their sweaters.

Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field

The storied history of Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field combines the best of old and new. Opened in 1926, the stadium has seen tremendous growth throughout the years, but Tiger fans are proud of the traditional feel and atmosphere the stadium lends itself to on game day.

Father of the Field, Don Faurot

Don Faurot’s association with MU started when he was a young boy who’d sneak into old Rollins Field some 80 years ago to watch the football Tigers play and practice. Later, he was a three-sport letterman at Missouri from 1922-24.

But it was as football coach and director of athletics that Faurot left his legacy on the University, and the sport. Faurot served as football coach from 1935 through 1956 – with three years out for Navy service during World War II. Aside from leading the Tigers out of debt and into football’s big time, Faurot’s tenure as football coach and director of athletics – a job he relinquished in 1967 – left MU athletics with its greatest legacy, the imprint of his integrity.

His prime contribution to football was his innovation of the Split-T formation at Mizzou in 1941. In the post-World War II era countless universities adopted the Faurot formation – and more than 50 years later, it is still in vogue today at all levels of football. Several of football’s most publicized formations – the Wishbone, Wingbone, Veer or I-attack and others – utilize Faurot’s option play as their basic play.

In 19 years as Tiger football coach, the Faurot record was 101 wins, 79 losses and 10 ties. His 1939 team, featuring all-American Paul Christman, won Faurot’s first Big Six title and the Tigers’ first bowl bid (Orange). Faurot was a member of the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame, the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, the University of Missouri Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame, the Orange Bowl Hall of Honor, the Blue-Gray Game Hall of Fame, past president of the American Football Coaches Association, and recipient of the Amos Alonzo Stagg award for his distinguished service in the advancement of the best interests of football.

In 1972, the Tigers’ football field was officially named for him – and that probably rates as his greatest personal honor. As a graduate student in agriculture in 1926, Faurot helped lay the sod on the field, prior to the opening of Memorial Stadium, that fall. In ’95, he placed the final square of sod as MU successfully converted the stadium’s field back to natural grass.