The true story of the birth of the Seminole Warchant
By Charlie Barnes, Executive Director - Seminole Boosters
Thirty years ago in Palm Beach County, young men who lived west of Military Trail were called “cowboys.” Chief among the cowboys for the purpose of our story was one Rob Hill. It’s been said each of us will be famous for fifteen minutes. Well, Rob Hill’s exposure to fame only lasted about fifteen seconds but it was a doozy.
On a forgotten football weekend long ago, a camera crew from ABC in search of local color descended on the Theta Chi fraternity house at Florida State University and asked to meet or see evidence of Rob Hill. Little Theta Chi pledges went scurrying through the hallways, camera in tow until they stopped in front of a framed display with small photographs of each Fraternity member.
Out of breath, bursting with pride, the boys pointed to one picture and the cameras focused in. “That’s him!” they said. “That’s Rob Hill, the man who invented the Seminole Warchant!”
Whether Rob Hill was in fact the singularity at the point of the Big Bang is open to speculation, but there’s no question that the three significant players in creating the Seminole Warchant were: the Scalphunters, the Theta Chi Fraternity and the Marching Chiefs.
Since there seems to be such a strong interest in the subject among so many Seminole fans, let’s explore the Warchant story from the perspective of four people who were closely involved in its origin.
Rob Hill entered FSU as a freshman and followed his fellow Palm Beach cowboys to the Theta Chi Fraternity. Prominent Orlando attorney and developer Todd South was also a Theta Chi cowboy who continued to remain active in his fraternity and in Scalphunters all the way through the FSU Law School, graduating in 1985. South is now a Director on the Seminole Boosters National Board and has a freshman son at FSU.
“Those Palm Beach guys included Bobby Kreusler along with Glenn and Ed Criser, sons of University of Florida President Marshal Criser. They loved to send their dad garnet & gold balloons,” says South.
“The thing started in 1983 or 1984. Late in the game with the game in-hand, our guys would make a moaning Indian sound and the arm motion. It became a late game tradition, sort of like lighting cigars in the 4th quarter. People would turn around and say, “What the hell are they doing?”
The physical motion is different today. To duplicate the original arm motion, raise your right arm pointed to the right, then place the palm of your hand behind your head. Your arm goes straight out to the right, as if pointing to the goal, before returning to the back of your head. It wasn’t a “tomahawk chop” or a chop of any kind. The original motion repeatedly pointed to the right. It soon morphed into the motion we see today where the arm moves directly forward in front of the body.
Peggy Bazzell began with the Boosters in 1981 and retired in 2007. Peggy was in charge of Donor Records and knew everyone; she did a great deal of fundraising simply by talking to donors.
“That spirit group (the Scalphunters) and the Theta Chis were the first components in the development of the Warchant,” she said. “Seating the spirit group close to the Chiefs made it all come together because some chant-like noise developed…Once the Chiefs got involved the noise became an actual war chant…This was the beginning of everything.”
Peggy does not believe there was a single instant that made the Warchant come to life, but that over the course of a year-and-a-half it developed into a substantial phenomenon that every fan in the stadium embraced, not just the students.
Butch Rahman is Senior Vice President of Colonial Bank in Lakeland. Before his graduation in 1986 he was a distinguished student Senator, Vice President of Gold Key and a leader in Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.
Rahman recalls, “Some friends and I were walking by the Seminole Booster office (then located on Wildwood Drive) when a Theta Chi named Bobby Kreusler came out of his fraternity house on his way to the Scalphunters meeting.”
Kruesler was on his way to teach the Theta Chi “chant” to the Scalphunters.
“I asked him what it sounded like,” says Rahman. “I’d heard it before. Our two fraternities were friendly and used to sit next to each other at the games. This guy named Rob Hill would just stand up and do it by himself. People used to turn around and say ‘What in the world is he doing?’”
Rahman offered Kreusler an alternative. Butch Rahman had graduated from Natick High School in Massachusetts where they’d used a rhythmic, repetitive chant to support their teams. “It wasn’t organized at all, and there was no arm motion,” he says, “But it was catchy.”
Kreusler was enthusiastic. “It’s perfect!”
Rahman said, “He loved it, so I coached him and told him to teach that to the Scalphunters. Later, it was during that Auburn game on October 13, 1984, that the Marching Chiefs heard it and started playing around with the tune. After the game, band members turned to us and asked us to do it again so they could get the music right.”
Tom Desjardin is the official Historian for the State of Maine. Tom was an FSU student from 1982 through 1988, earning both his B.S. and M.S. He took his Ph.D. in History from the University of Maine. His interest in history motivated him to record the Warchant’s origin in a letter fifteen years ago. We reached him recently at his home in Maine and he was kind enough to share his recollections.
Desjardin was a member of Phi Gamma Delta and was named Greek Man of the Year. As President of the Interfraternity Council, he says that he and “Fred the Seminole Head” Miller first introduced the Chant at a student pep rally in 1984. Miller was a star running back for the Seminoles in the early 1970s, and was elected Homecoming Chief by the student body in 1976. As an alumnus, Fred remained a superfan, painting the Seminole image on his own bald head for every game.
In October of 1984, the Scalphunters staged a pep rally. Desjardin remembers, “The week of the FSU vs. Auburn game a Theta Chi named Bobby Kreusler came to us with what sounded to us like a goofy cheer where we waved our hands behind our heads.”
On Friday night (October 12) before the game, the Scalphunters held their pep rally in the parking lot behind the south endzone where the University Center Club stands now.
Thousands of enthusiastic students crowded around the bonfire. Desjardin was emcee at the pep rally and Glen Criser, Vice President of the Student Body, suggested to him that they bring all the Scalphunters up on stage to demonstrate the new cheer and teach it to the students.
“We introduced it and got about forty of us up on stage.” Desjardin smiles and says, “In front of a crowd the thing didn’t appear as goofy as we had thought. But it still needed a lot of work.”
Desjardin says their efforts to initiate the new cheer at remaining 1984 home games met with mixed success.
But events were to take a dramatic turn exactly one year later, on October 12, 1985. The Seminoles played at Auburn and nearly 20,000 Seminole fans made the trek through the gorgeous autumn countryside to Jordan-Hare Stadium. Thousands of Seminoles drove to Auburn without tickets, just to be near the game and enjoy the atmosphere.
“For some reason, our tickets were all together in one section in the endzone, and we were almost right down on the field,” said Desjardin. He and the other Scalphunters settled in and began to lead the Warchant.
The magic of a single moment overtook everyone by surprise. It happened in the second quarter of play as the Seminoles were driving for a touchdown.
“Our ‘Noles were moving right toward us in the endzone,” recalls Desjardin. “We got as loud as we could, trying to make the team hear us and get everyone fired up.”
Then it happened.
“As we were doing the cheer, we realized something that none of us had known before. At some point during the season, the Marching Chiefs had developed a drum beat and trumpet flourishes for the Chant!”
It seems astonishing but, Desjardin says, “Prior to that game at Auburn, we never heard the band play during the Chant. At Auburn, the Chiefs were on about the ten yard line facing at an angle toward us. When we all did the Warchant together, the effect was electrifying!”
The rhythmic music helped orchestrate fans’ arm motions in unison. Thousands of voices all rang loud, together as one, coupled with the driving beat of the Marching Chiefs.
“It was incredible,” says Desjardin. “I remember the look on some of the Auburn players’ faces when the cheer reached its peak. You could tell it affected the players on both sides and the Chant helped to inspire a huge goal-line stand by our defense.”