Legendary Super Bowl Groundskeeper George Toma Says He's 'Finished' with NFL After Field Problems

The 94-year-old slammed the league and current groundskeeper, claiming they were at fault for the poor field conditions at Super Bowl 2023

George Toma
Photo: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The turf on the field at this year's Super Bowl in Arizona has caused quite a controversy since the game on Feb. 12, and legendary NFL groundskeeper George Toma claims the NFL and the current field director were to blame.

Speaking to ESPN, the 94-year-old turf expert, whose nickname is 'The Sodfather,' said he believes the field at State Farm Stadium was mismanaged before the big game, namely calling out the 2023 field director Ed Mangan.

Toma said Mangan watered "the hell out of [the field] and put it right into the stadium, and that's it," per ESPN. "Never sees sunlight again. He can't do that." The field at State Farm Stadium is under a retractable roof, allowing it to be moved directly into sunlight when necessary.

Toma has worked on field preparation for all 57 Super Bowls, serving as the head groundskeeper on most of them, but has taken on a less demanding role as an advisor in recent years.

George Toma
George Toma. Stephe/Getty Images

According to ESPN, Toma also said a tarp was put down over the field while rehearsals for pregame and halftime shows occurred, leading to "a rotten smell." Toma said he had been told the field had begun to "decay and rot" in the days before the game.

A third and final error, according to Toma, was that the field was sanded "two weeks late," and he claims Mangan only did "one sanding" on the field. "He should have had two or three standings, but he didn't do s---. And that was it," Toma told ESPN.

Toma explained that Mangan "didn't take care of it" and "wouldn't listen to anybody" about the field maintenance.

Toma's comments are a shift from what he said on Feb. 7, five days before the game. He told Fox 4 Kansas City that the field was one of the best he'd ever seen.

"The second-best turf that we've had in 57 Super Bowls," he said at the time.

In the interview with ESPN, Toma confirmed that he's retiring from groundskeeping and is "done" with the NFL. "I can't take it anymore. Me and the league are finished. They can't tell me what to do anymore," he said.

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The NFL recognized issues with the field after Super Bowl LVII and released a statement on Feb. 13 addressing the concerns. "The State Farm Stadium field surface met the required standards for the maintenance of natural surfaces, as per NFL policy. The natural grass surface was tested throughout Super Bowl week and was in compliance with all mandatory NFL practices."

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