Florida State will consider renaming Doak S. Campbell Stadium after a member of FSU’s first national title team started a petition calling for the removal of Campbell’s name because of the former university president’s anti-integration history.
“I have been following with great interest the petitions circulating on social media asserting that Doak S. Campbell … resisted integration and asking that the stadium no longer bear his name,” FSU president John Thrasher said Monday afternoon in a statement.
“I have asked Athletics Director David Coburn to immediately review this issue and make recommendations to me. I look forward to receiving his report soon.”
Thrasher’s announcement came several days after former linebacker Kendrick Scott posted a petition asking for Campbell’s name to be removed from the stadium where he played.
“We can’t erase his history of him being a president of FSU,” Scott told the Tampa Bay Times on Monday morning. “But for him being the front name of a stadium for black football players, predominantly, and representing so much to this university … his name should not be on the stadium.”
Campbell was FSU’s president from 1941-57 as the school transitioned from a women’s college to a co-ed university. He was instrumental to the creation of the Seminoles’ sports program and the construction of an on-campus football stadium, which opened with his name on it in 1950. But his views on race are under renewed scrutiny.
In 1957, FSU forced out a graduate student “for bringing three Negro students to a Christmas party on the campus,” according to a Palm Beach Post-Times story, and for giving a speech on integration. Campbell said then that the student, John Boardman, violated a ban on campus events “in which the races are mixed.”
Boardman said FSU officials were “pandering to the demands of fanatic segregationists” and “doing the dirty work of the Ku Klux Klan,” according to a Miami Daily News story. Campbell wrote in a letter at the time that “racial tension has cooled down considerably” since Boardman’s removal from campus.
That same year, Campbell tried to limit or ban white students from speaking out against segregation in gatherings at churches.
“If they were holding these mass meetings in a juke joint, it certainly would simplify matters,” Campbell told the Tampa Tribune. “I would just put it off limits.”
Campbell also appeared to discourage FSU’s school newspaper from endorsing integration or supporting the end of bus segregation.
“That whole thing is just divisive…” Scott said. “That is not the way we want to look at the world.”
Scott said he learned about Campbell’s racial attitudes sometime after his FSU playing career ended in 1994. The national conversation surrounding race that emerged after George Floyd’s death led Scott to begin looking deeper into Campbell’s history.
“The killing of George Floyd sort of sparked this outrage across the country,” Scott said. “It made us all look and assess our collective resolve to resolve systemic, institutionalized racism.”
Scott, who lettered in 1992-94 and contributed on special teams in 10 games during FSU’s 1993 national title run, launched a change.org petition late last week to advocate for a new stadium name. By Monday afternoon, it had more than 2,000 signatures.
The Chiefland native said the teammates he has spoken to agree with him. Scott supports the stadium being renamed after his legendary coach, Bobby Bowden. Bowden is currently honored by the field’s name, Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium.
Before Thrasher’s announcement, Scott said he was optimistic FSU listens to his concerns to address all of FSU’s stakeholders, including alumni and recruits.
“This shouldn’t be something that divides us,” Scott said. “This should be something that brings us together.”
Similar conversations are happening at schools elsewhere. Last week, Florida announced it was banning its “Gator Bait” cheer because of the phrase’s “horrific historic racist imagery.” An online petition is also calling for UF to rename the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, which is named after a former school president and segregationist.