It’s quickly becoming the most famous piece of wood in college football since the founding of the Jeweled Shillelagh.
Its history is a mystery and its purpose ever-changing. Kennesaw State’s Turnover Plank – a 3-foot-long piece of wood with drawn eyes and a smile given to a player that recovers a fumble or makes an interception – is producing more publicity than anything accomplished by any other Owls team.
The plank – no one knows if it should be referred to as a He, She, or It, and it’s not talking – has been profiled in the Washington Post, Sports Illustrated and on ESPN, among many places. It even has two Twitter accounts, @planKSU (the official account) and @TurnoverPlank (unofficial), though coach Brian Bohannon only suspects who has actually posted such deep thoughts as:
“Plank Gang, Plank Gang, Plank Gang, Plank Gang, Plank Gang, Plank Gang, Plank Gang, Plank Gang. My team love do the win, we going for that Big South rang. Plank Gang, Plank Gang, Plank Gang, Plank Gang. Defense coming in like bang, Plank Gang, Plank Gang.”
“It’s exposure, and it’s great,” Bohannon said. “Our kids are having fun. They are winning, but having fun.”
As more evidence, Bohannon pointed to the four TV cameras in the back of the room, where he said that for many weeks there was just one. Some of that is because of the plank. Most are there because Kennesaw State (9-1, 4-0) is hosting Monmouth (9-1, 4-0) on Saturday in a game that will decide the Big South Conference title and automatic berth into the FCS playoffs.
Whatever the reason, Bohannon doesn’t care.
“We are trying to brand the KS,” he said of what he and a few of his players call the university. “As long as it’s positive, and I think it’s unbelievably positive, I’m all for it.”
Using a plain board that could be bought at Lowe’s for a few bucks almost seems like Kennesaw State’s players are mocking some of the other “trophies” that have taken over college football: Miami’s oversized gold rope chain or Georgia’s Road Warrior-spiked shoulder pad. The plank is certainly more fun than Tennessee’s trash can, and definitely much cheaper than the Jeweled Shillelagh, given to the winner of the game between Notre Dame and USC.
Quarterback Chandler Burks said there was no intent to mock because this odd tradition happened organically. Unlike what seems to happen whenever one college does something interesting, only to see dozens more copy it within weeks, there was no intent to copy anyone else’s idea.
The plank started as just that, a plank.
Wide receiver Tanner Jones found the board on a beach in Florida during Spring break. For whatever reason – Jones isn’t allowed to speak to the media because he has yet to play – he brought it back to Fifth Third Bank Stadium.
It’s not known if Jones drew the eyes and mouth on the board as a tribute to a character in the cartoon “Ed, Edd n Eddy,” or if he found it like that.
Someone on the team – again nobody knows who – thought it would be fun to give the plank to someone after a big hit, which in football is known as “laying the wood.” That idea remained rooted, never really branching into something fun.
Instead, Taylor Henkle grabbed the plank and held it up after making an interception in a victory against Gardner-Webb several weeks ago.
The fans loved it. The Turnover Plank was born.
“Unique things happen that way,” Bohannon said.
Players dress up the plank for each game. It was dressed for cold weather when the team played at Montana State. It wore a suit and tie for a game at home, just like the players. Bohannon has no idea what it will wear for Saturday’s game.
But with Kennesaw State producing 27 takeaways (second-most in FCS) this season, it seems likely that Turnover Plank is going to receive more facetime on ESPN3 on Saturday.
“It’s all fun,” Burks said.