Today in 1924, the University of Illinois dedicated Memorial Stadium.

Today is holds some 60,000 football fans and, legend has it, one bulldozer.

Here’s the story that’s been repeated for the last century: during construction, there was such heavy rain that one of the construction bulldozers got stuck in the mud.

It got so stuck, in fact, that the construction team thought it would be either impossible or just too expensive to pull it back out.

So they just built over it, and whenever U of I football takes the field, they’re playing over whatever’s left of a 100 or so year old bulldozer.

Now a story like that is going to spread.

Who isn’t going to love hearing that during a campus tour, except maybe a construction equipment preservationist?

So university archivists dug deep into the historical record to find out how much of the story is true and how much is just some historical mud.

The Memorial Stadium project started in 1921 and continued pretty much through to the dedication three years later.

That’s partly because big projects take time, though at times, weather was also problem.

Rain would pool up where the stadium’s Zuppke Field was supposed to be, which people on campus called “Lake Zuppke.”

But in most cases, it wasn’t a long-term issue.

A November 1922 storm slowed work for weeks, but there was no damage, while another storm in August 1923 did about $1,000 worth of damage and knocked over a derrick, but it didn’t slow work for long.

Another key piece of evidence: in this time period, there weren’t bulldozers as we know them.

Bulldozers back then would have been attachments to tractors.

The exciting new piece of equipment then would have been a steam shovel.

The archivists figure people might have seen the steam shovel in “Lake Zuppke,” and they figured there was no way anybody could pull it out of all that water and mud.

The rumor has been spreading ever since.

But I am willing to get to the bottom of this mystery: I will lead an expedition to take the entire stadium apart piece by piece to see if there’s a bulldozer buried underneath the football field.

I’m just gonna need a few years and several billion dollars.

This weekend in Crowley, Louisiana, it’s the International Rice Festival.

It has two parades, a classic car show, a Fiddle and Accordion Contest, a Frog Derby, and, naturally, a rice eating contest.

Campus Mythbusting: Is there a bulldozer buried beneath Memorial Stadium? (University of Illinois Archives)

Crowley International Rice Festival

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Photo by Ken Lund via Flickr/Creative Commons