Bill's Blog


In 1955, a Canadian singing group called The Four Lads recorded a memorable song, “Moments to Remember.”  It began with the memorable lines:


The New Year’s Eve we did the town

The day we tore the goal posts down

We’ll have these moments to remember!


One of these moments occurred this past Saturday evening in Knoxville when thousands of University of Tennessee students and football fans stormed Shields-Watkins Field in Neyland Stadium, and tore down the goal posts after their Volunteers upset Alabama 52-49 on a last second field goal.  

It was a memorable celebration.  After tearing the goal posts down, fans carried them up and down the field like giant T-shaped trophies.  They even managed to get the goal posts out of the narrow gates of the stadium and parade them through the campus for hours until they eventually threw the posts into the Tennessee River.  Maybe the Vol Navy can use them as docks!  

On Sunday the Southeastern Conference announced it was fining the University $100,000 for a violation of the Conference’s “Access to Competition Area” policy.  That provides that “for the protection of spectators” at campus athletic events, the University’s stadium or arena security must keep fans off the field or the court for a celebration even if it occurs only once every 15 years after a win over Alabama.  The Conference policy provides a university will be fined $50,000 after a first offense, $100,000 after a second offense, and up to $250,000 for “every subsequent event.”  

The Conference claims this was UT’s second offense of fans storming an athletic competition area as Vol fans besieged the basketball court at Thompson Boling Arena in 2006 after the Big Orange beat the Florida Gators.  

UT President Randy Boyd proudly announced that the University will pay the $100,000 fine.  While puffing on a victory cigar, President Boyd got a little carried away, saying “we’ll pay this every year!”  In the smoke, he apparently overlooked the fact that the fine for the next offense could be a quarter of a million dollars!  

Actually, the fine could have been worse this year.  By my count, the event Saturday night was the fourth time over the years that fans had stormed Shields-Watkins Field and shook the goal posts down to the orange and white checkboards, although on one occasion, it wasn’t Tennessee fans who were tearing down the goal posts.  It was the opposing team’s fans!  

The most recent “offense” (pun intended) occurred in September of 1998 when the Vols beat Steve Spurrier and the Florida Gators in overtime, 20-17.  The great John Ward gave Vol fans a moment to remember when he called the final play, the Gators’ attempt at a field goal to tie the game and send it into a second overtime.  He answered the question of whether the Gators’ field goal attempt was good by proclaiming, “No-Sir-Ree!”  

As Vol fans and students flooded the field in orange and tore down the goal posts, he memorably added, “Pandemonium Reigns!”  

Another memorable violation of the Access to the Competition Area, occurred many years earlier in 1982 when the Vols upset Alabama, 35-28, on the legendary Bear Bryant’s last visit to Knoxville.  

At the end of the game Vol fans charged onto the field and quickly shook down the goal post in the north end zone.  But when they ran toward the south end zone to claim the other goal post, they found themselves blocked by a blue wall of Knoxville and UT Campus Police.  The fans yelled and booed the police, and then spontaneously engaged in an act of mass civil disobedience.  The fans who had torn down the north end zone goal post carried it to the south end zone.  There they joined forces with the fans who were trying to break the police goal line stand.  The fans hoisted the north end zone goal post in the air and over the police and bashed the south goal post with the north goal post until, like the walls in the Battle of Jericho, the south goal post came a-tumbling down.  

But there was one other goal post moment to remember that we should try to forget.  It was a day when it wasn’t Vol fans, but the opposing team’s fans that tried to tear down the goal posts.  

On November 8, 1958, the University of Chattanooga (now UT-Chattanooga), beat the Tennessee Vols 14-6 in Knoxville in the biggest and most upsetting upset in Tennessee football history.

When the game ended, a number of Chattanooga Moccasin fans ran onto Shields-Watkins Field and tried to tear down a goal post and presumably carry it back to Chattanooga.  Tennessee fans were outraged by this, and they ran onto the field to stop them.  To borrow John Ward’s great line, pandemonium reigned, but not in celebration.  

A riot ensued, and Knoxville police arrested several Chattanooga fans.  The police then drove a paddy wagon onto the field to haul the offending Chattanooga fans away.  No Vol fans were arrested, as they did not start the riot.  To borrow a line from the great Barney Fife, they were just attempting a citizen’s arrest!

I hope the next time the Vols play Alabama in Neyland Stadium, in 2024, the Vols will win, and the fans will not storm the field and tear down the goal post.  Fans only do this when they are celebrating an upset.  As a proud UT grad and fan, I hope the Vols’ next home victory over Alabama will not be an upset, but rather the third straight Vols’ win over the Tide!  

Now that would be a moment to remember!  



Posted by Bill Haltom at 12:46