Tearing down goal posts was not cool


This is a post about celebrating the recent win by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s football team.

I think the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Chancellor, Donde Plowman has done an excellent job. I watched the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and the University of Alabama football game over the weekend with excitement. When the University of Tennessee kicked a field goal as time ran out to win the game, I was thrilled. The last time I was that excited watching a football game was probably when my wife and I watched the Michigan State University Spartans beat the University of Michigan (and Ohio State University) around 2014-2015.

It was a great game, and at least on some level I think the Chancellor is right when she ties athletic and academic/campus successes. I think it is a good time to be at the University and I’m happy to be here.

When I saw students rush the field after the game, I thought it looked joyous and fun. But when I saw students tear down the goal posts, it looked less like those things. Reporters detail how students overran police to take the goal posts down and then remove the from the stadium:

Minutes after the ball cleared the crossbar, fans overpowered the security guarding the goal posts on the field and began their climb. Police pulled some fans off the goal posts, but to no avail. The goal posts’ fate was sealed the second McGrath’s kick cleared the crossbar.

I recognize that there is a way in which this is students (and other fans) expressing joy and that it appears that no one was hurt. Good. At the same time, I think the message sent to students and the wider community is mixed, at best, if this is permitted. It sends the message that some students under some conditions can do what they want (while others under different conditions might have their lives changed by an arrest—or worse). It is not hard to imagine someone getting hurt, especially if this continues. I also think it’s a bad look for the University. Seek out news coverage on the game. For every story about the extraordinary and fun win, there is another on fans tearing down the goal posts. I know drawing lines is hard, but somewhere shy of tearing down the goal posts and parading them down the main street in town (before dumping them in the Tennessee River) is where I think it should lie. I was disappointing to see the University’s System President (who I like!) explicitly condoning this.

I think a message to students and fans that it’s great to celebrate, but not as cool to tear down goal posts is needed, even if the message runs counter to the excitement many feel at the moment, and I respectfully ask the Chancellor to continue to lead in such a good way through doing that.