Paint the M gives freshmen a close look at Faurot Field

Thursday, July 25, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT
MU students form a line to pass rocks from a truck in order to fill in empty spaces in the "M" at Memorial Stadium before it is painted in this Missourian file photo. It is a tradition that freshmen gather to paint the "M" in mid-August.

COLUMBIA — One of the most iconic landmarks at MU is the rock M on the north side of Memorial Stadium.

It serves both as seating for fans, as well as a defining feature of the stadium.

Each year, freshmen have a chance to see this landmark up close during "Paint the M." 

The event, organized by the Mizzou Alumni Association in partnership with the Office of New Student Programs and the Athletics Department, opens the gates of Memorial Stadium to all freshmen to walk up the grass hill and whitewash the rock M after an off-season of wear and tear.

Students form long lines stretching from a dump truck filled with rocks to the M on the hill, passing rocks in an assembly line to rebuild the letter. Students can also use mops to cover the rocks with white paint to freshen it up.

The M, measuring 95 feet high and 90 feet wide, has been a Memorial Stadium staple since 1927 when it was built with leftover rocks from the stadium's construction.

The tradition of painting the M originated in 1957, when fans from the University of Nebraska broke into the stadium the night before the Tigers took on the Cornhuskers. They changed the rocks to form an N, but their prank was foiled by a MU groundskeeper who noticed the change.

The groundskeeper recruited several students to help him change the N back to a M in exchange for free admission to that night's game. Their work paid off and everything was back in order before the game began.

Since then, painting the M has been one of the first opportunities for freshmen to get involved on campus. Painting and moving rocks may seem like manual labor, but it is a great way to meet new friends and see the football field for the first time.

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