College Traditions: The War Chant at FSU
Florida State’s “war chant” might have begun with a random occurrence that took place during a 1984 contest with the Auburn Tigers, but most FSU historians might remember it to be a tradition that holds over thirty years in it’s evolution. With the popular Seminole cheer of the 1960’s, “massacre,” led by members of the Marching Chiefs chanting its melody, so was the first stage of the current popular Seminole cry. In a sense, “massacre,” was the long version of FSU’s current “war chant”.
During a very exciting game with Auburn in 1984, the Marching Chiefs began to perform the cheer. Some students behind the band joined in and continued the “war chant” portion after the band had ceased. The result, which was not very melodic at the time, sounded more like chants by American Indians in Western movies. Most say it came from the fraternity section, but many spirited Seminole fans added the “chopping” motion, a repetitious bend at the elbow, to symbolize a tomahawk swinging down.
The chant continued largely among the student body during the 1985 season, and by the 1986 season was a stadiumwide activity. Of course, the Marching Chiefs refined the chant, plus put its own special brand of accompaniment to the “war chant”, and the result exists today.
By the time the Atlanta Braves started with it, the chant and the arm motion generally were associated with Florida State’s rising football program. The Kansas City Chiefs first heard it when the Northwest Missouri State band, directed by 1969 FSU graduate Al Sergel, performed the chant while the players were warming up for a game against San Diego. Such a powerful cheer, FSU’s “war chant” can be linked to Atlanta’s and Kansas City’s resurgence in their own respective leagues.