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Tennessee is hit with a $100K fine and needs new goal posts after euphoric win

Tennessee Volunteers fans tear down a goal post after their team defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide at Neyland Stadium. The school is facing a large fine — and it wants help paying for new goalposts.
Donald Page
Getty Images
Tennessee Volunteers fans tear down a goal post after their team defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide at Neyland Stadium. The school is facing a large fine — and it wants help paying for new goalposts.

The University of Tennessee is being disciplined by its sports conference after euphoric football fans rushed the field in a sea of orange to celebrate a nail-biting shootout win over Alabama on Saturday.

The school is also looking for help paying for new goal posts: The crowd tore them down and ferried them out of the stadium. And as the raucous celebration continued, videos showed a throng of people carrying a goal post down the street and hurling it into the nearby Tennessee River.

Volunteers fans were too eager, SEC says

The Southeastern Conference hit the university with a $100,000 fine for violating the SEC's "access to competition area policy," citing the imperative for schools to ensure the safety of their fans and players.

Tennessee's athletic department seems to be taking that fine in stride — but after the win and celebration, it issued a call for help in paying for new goal posts for Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. It's seeking as much as $150,000 for that work.

"Y'all remember how we tore the goalposts down, hauled em out of Neyland and dumped em in the Tennessee River?" the school tweeted. "Yeah that was awesome. Anywho, turns out that in order to play next week's game, we need goalposts on our field. Could y'all help us out?"

The call for donations — from a school paying its coach $5 million annually, and after a nationally televised game viewed by millions on CBS — came despite UT President Randy Boyd saying amid the euphoria that "It doesn't matter" how much it costs to replace goal posts, if it comes with beating Alabama.

As of 11 a.m. ET Monday, the online fund had already raised more than $80,000.

Why was this win such a big deal?

It was only a midseason win, but Tennessee's 52-49 upset capped a shootout between Top 10 teams that are led by two of the most exciting quarterbacks in college football. The Volunteers prevailed on a field goal as time expired.

For Vols fans, the victory ended 15 years of torment at the hands of Alabama — years in which Tennessee sank into mediocrity as Nick Saban's Crimson Tide collected wins and national championships.

Their rivalry stretches back more than 100 years — in Alabama and Tennessee, "Third Saturday in October" is routinely capitalized, signifying the game's traditional date. Leading up to the game, fans embrace "Hate Week" — epitomized by then-Alabama student Irvin Carney's famous rant from 2007, commonly known as "I hate Tennessee."

But on Saturday, it was Tennessee's fans who celebrated, lighting victory cigars that have also long been part of the tradition.

Both teams were undefeated before Saturday. The Volunteers' victory propelled them to the No. 3 spot in the Associated Press rankings, with Alabama dropping to No. 6.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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