The playing surface of the Super Bowl this year was on national display Sunday night in Arizona with the hybrid turfgrass — termed Tahoma 31, which was developed at Oklahoma State — getting millions and millions of eyeballs as the Chiefs took down the Eagles to win the world championship.
The surface was expected to be a big moment for the Oklahoma State-developed grass under Dr. Yanqi Wu — Dr. Kayse Shrum and Oklahoma State both tweeted about it — but unfortunately the surface wound up being somewhat controversial as the game developed. The grass, which was grown locally (Dr. Wu began cultivating it in 2006 when crossing China Bermuda and African Bermuda) gave way on several occasions as players slipped in the biggest game of the season.
“I’m not going to lie: It was the worst field I’ve ever played on,” Eagles defensive end Haason Reddick said to the Athletic postgame. “… It was very disappointing. It’s the NFL. You would think it would be better so we could get some better play, but it is what it is. I don’t know. Maybe the league will look at it and tell Arizona they got to step their stuff up.”
Eagles center Jason Kelce said it “could have been a better field” and Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark said the field conditions were “kind of terrible.”
Tahoma 31 is a hybrid grass that is supposed to tolerate conditions and traffic better while withstanding cold and drought and disease at a better rate than other Bermuda grass. It has been developed with funding by the USGA for golf and it was hand-picked for the Super Bowl by NFL officials.
It seems like there is still some improvements to be made on the surface yet, but it’s very cool to see Oklahoma State — despite the criticisms — earn some recognition for its plant and soil sciences department. The tech to grow it and cultivate it into a Super Bowl-level playing surface may be the way of the future as turf is (hopefully) put out to pasture in the coming years. There may be some necessary tweaks to be made to prevent slipping, but thanks to Oklahoma State, it may very well wind up being one of the more popular playing surfaces in years to come.