Tennessee in Trouble with SEC, Vandals with University (and Maybe eBay) | Sports Destination Management

Tennessee in Trouble with SEC, Vandals with University (and Maybe eBay)

Oct 20, 2022 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Image from eBay

You can pretty much file this under “D” for Dumb Business Moves. Students (euphemistically termed ‘entrepreneurs’) have been creating eBay listings to try to sell the turf they stole from Neyland Stadium (scene of the Vols’ first win over Alabama following a 15-year losing streak).

In short, students ripped the turf from the ground and carried it away during the course of the post-game mayhem.

As you might imagine, the would-be land-grab is not going over well. Not only have news outlets picked up the story but social media has been absolutely merciless to the culprits (now referred to using the newly coined term, landscalpers), including epically excoriating takedowns like these pithy tweets and these savage remarks on Reddit.

“I saw people pulling off bits of the grass, and we also saw one guy carrying out a piece about 1.5 square feet including a couple of inches of dirt,” one person responded to a news station’s tweet. “I thought that was stupid. Tearing up our own field like that with another home game a week away is just stupid.”

Vols Vandals
Image courtesy of Twitter

The turf listings are generating marginal interest on the online auction platform, but obviously not what the sellers were hoping for. And what they might get instead is far worse.

eBay has made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that it does not condone the sale of property which is not rightfully owned by the sellers, noting, “The sale of stolen property is not allowed on eBay. The sale of stolen property violates state, federal and international law, and we will work with law enforcement in any attempts to sell stolen property on eBay.”

It asks those who see stolen property on eBay to “contact local law enforcement immediately.” It then goes on to note, “Activity that doesn't follow eBay policy could result in a range of actions including for example: administratively ending or canceling listings, hiding or demoting all listings from search results, lowering seller rating, buying or selling restrictions, and account suspension. All fees paid or payable in relation to listings or accounts on which we take any action will not be refunded or otherwise credited to your account.”

Of course, several days later, the listings are still live, and since (a) only law enforcement officials are allowed to request the item be taken down, and (b) this involves a complex process that is buried under layers of website bureaucracy), eBay’s pronouncements may be more bluster than consequences.

Alabama, for its part, is looking into allegations that one of its players struck a woman in the head who was on the field after the game.

The University of Tennessee has plenty of its own headaches resulting from the game. Fans who stormed the field also tore out one goalpost, paraded it through town and then dumped it (or parts of it; the reports are not definitive) into the Tennessee River.

The presence of fans on the field, noted Athletic Business, led to the Volunteers being fined $100,000 by the Southeastern Conference. (This, as it turns out is its second violation of the conference’s policy regarding access to the competition area, according to The Associated Press. The first violation followed a basketball game against Florida in 2006).

According to the AP, SEC policy states that ''access to competition areas shall be limited to participating student-athletes, coaches, officials, support personnel and properly-credentialed individuals at all times. For the safety of participants and spectators alike, at no time before, during or after a contest shall spectators be permitted to enter the competition area. It is the responsibility of each member institution to implement procedures to ensure compliance with this policy.''

Any future violation will cost the university $250,000.

Following the theft of the goalpost, Tennessee opened a crowdsourced fundraiser to pay for another, since it had a game the following week. In a tweet, the university noted, Y'all remember how we tore the goalposts down, hauled em out of Neyland and dumped em in the Tennessee River? 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?

Vols Vandals
Image courtesy of Twitter

A link was posted, and the money was raised (in fact, the fundraising, ahem, goal was exceeded); however, as it turned out, there was a lot of blowback for the move. The Washington Post noted that not only did Tennessee already have a spare goalpost onsite that it could use, its finances were hardly in trouble and it did not actually need the spare funds – something that raised the hackles of many who read of the fundraising efforts:

“Not everyone was leaning in so enthusiastically to the university leveraging a historic win for donations, with some tweeting about tuition (just over $13,000 for in-state students) and one suggesting “we could just go for two every time.” The Tennessee athletic department operated at a six-figure surplus during the 2021 fiscal year, the Knoxville News reported in January, and withstood the impact of the COVID pandemic “because of a $23 million leaguewide supplemental bailout from the SEC.” The department paid $5.4 million (4 percent of total operating expenses) in severance to coaches and administrators, including former athletic director Phillip Fulmer and assistants on former football coach Jeremy Pruitt’s staff, the outlet noted. Coach Josh Heupel earns $5 million annually.”

The phenomenon of students storming fields and ripping out goalposts is hardly new; in fact, in this article, it is claimed to be a 100-year-old tradition. And during that century, some wild times have been had:

“In 1929, Georgetown beat Richmond, so Hoya fans stormed the field. Richmond’s brilliant head of police had told officers to protect the goal posts — city property — with force. What one newspaper described as a “bloody battle” broke out, sending three students to the hospital with cracked heads. Alas, the Richmond head of police had only thought to protect one goal post, and when the Georgetown students realized the other end was left unguarded, they ripped down that goal post and marched out of the stadium singing the Georgetown fight song.

In 1961, things got even crazier. Florida State fans rushed the field in suits and ties to celebrate their team’s 3-3 tie — the first time Florida State did not lose. The Seminole faithful tore down one goal post and attempted to make their way across the field to the other goal post. At that point, Florida fans tore down the other goal post and the two sides used their posts as battering rams against each other at the 50-yard line. The bands played “The Star Spangled Banner” to try and stop the brawls, but the fighting did not stop.

In 1985, Patriots fans tore down the goal posts after the Pats had clinched a playoff spot. A group of fans carried one post above their heads, out of the stadium and down Route 1. Somewhere along the way, the post came into contact with a 20,000-volt power line, zapping and burning whoever had their hands on it.”

One can only wonder if, between eBay and social media, a new type of zapping and burning will take place.

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