Continued from "Traditions 'Neath the Purple and White" story
Walk into any home or office of a current or former Lumberjack, and you're bound to see an axe handle that reflects that Lumberjack's personality.
"The axe handle has become so synonymous with SFA that almost every SFA tradition is seemingly connected to it in one way or another," said Chris Cotton '21, university archives and research coordinator in SFA's East Texas Research Center. "I am also an Aggie, and traditions mean a lot to me, but the axe handle is undeniably one of the coolest traditions in all of higher education. It is a tradition all students can participate in with a single unifying symbol while personalizing it to reflect their individuality."
SFA distributes more than 2,000 axe handles to new students each year during an event called Holler @ Homer shortly after the fall semester begins. After decorating their handles, students then join the cadence by banging their handles on metal in the football stadium's student cheering section.
This tradition, which officially began in the 1970s, dates back to the 1920s, when members of the Sawyers, now Delta Sigma Phi, started banging their axe handles on bleachers at the football games to distract the competition.
"In fact, SFA head football coach Gene White credited the noise with helping SFA overcome Sam Houston State University in the Battle of the Piney Woods in 1932," Cotton said. "I have seen students sneak axe handles into NRG Stadium for that battle, demonstrating how important the axe handle is for anyone who went to SFA."
SFA's rivalry with the Bearkats was the second longest in the Football Championship Subdivision until Sam Houston joined Conference USA in July 2023. Though the rivalry extended across all athletic teams, the universities' first football game Nov. 17, 1923, is considered the genesis. NRG Stadium in Houston served as home of the football rivalry from 2009 until the teams' last meeting Oct. 1, 2022, during the 96th Battle of the Piney Woods.
The cadence expanded to basketball games until it was banned in the early 1950s with the construction of a new gym. The tradition was eventually sanctioned in the 1970s, and opposing teams continue to find it daunting.
In celebration of SFA's centennial, a call went out to all Lumberjacks to send photos of their axe handles for a virtual exhibit. Learn how to participate at sfasu.edu/centennial.