(Michael Wagstaffe/Yahoo Sports illustration)

What happened to the Tennessee goalposts after the 2022 Bama win?

How they got from Neyland Stadium to, well, everywhere is quite the story.

Little reminders of Tennessee’s landmark 2022 victory over Alabama still remain all around Knoxville. Look around town and you’ll spot circles of orange and white aluminum displayed on desks and hung on walls, mounted in shadow boxes and hidden under beds. They’re all that remains of the goalposts that watched over the 52-49 Vols victory, and how they got from Neyland Stadium to … well, everywhere is quite the story.

It starts about three seconds after the game-winning kick.

The North Goalposts

Chase McGrath’s 40-yard game-winning kick traveled about 40 yards, and not much more than that, flipping and fluttering like a plastic bag in a high wind. Before the ball had even landed — its fate is a mystery all its own — Vol fans surged over the walls, onto the checkerboard end zones, and up onto both sets of crossbars.

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“The reaction wasn’t just because Tennessee beat Alabama,” says Jayson Swain, a Tennessee receiver from 2003 to 2006 and now a Knoxville radio host. “It was the relief of all the years of losing and more losing, all the coaching searches, all the dysfunction, all the games that we found a way to lose. It was like an 800-pound gorilla that was on the back of the Tennessee football program had been lifted in that moment.”

First, some math. Goalposts can weigh anywhere from 585 to 1,125 pounds apiece, according to manufacturers contacted by Yahoo Sports, with the majority of that weight being either the foundation beneath the grass’s surface or in the “gooseneck” — the vertical post that supports the crossbar and uprights. Each upright is about 40 to 44 pounds — this fact will come into play later — and the crossbar is around 110 pounds.

The gooseneck works fine to hold up the load of the crossbar and uprights, but when you start adding hordes of delirious students to the weight load, catastrophic failure soon results. And that’s exactly what happened; both goalposts toppled downward into the crowd.

The north goalposts — the ones off which Alabama kicker Will Reichard had doinked a potential game-winner just a few minutes earlier — ripped right off the gooseneck. They began circulating through the crowd … well, as much as an 18-foot-wide, 30-foot-high “U” shape can be said to “circulate.” CBS cameras captured its procession:

Fans passed the intact north goalposts all the way up into the grandstands, where they began a slow circuit of Neyland Stadium. Fortunately, there was no chance they would get thrown out the back of the stadium, and once the pandemonium died down, the north goal posts were returned to the field. There, university employees dismantled the parts of the goal post, under the watchful eye of security.

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According to Tennessee officials, those goalposts were chopped into pieces and mounted into commemorative keepsakes. If you gave a substantial sum of money to the University of Tennessee in recent years, you probably have one of these, and if you don’t, well, it might be time to up the donation.

As for the fate of the south goalposts … settle in.

KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE - OCTOBER 15: Tennessee Volunteers fans tear down the goal post while celebrating a win over the Alabama Crimson Tide at Neyland Stadium on October 15, 2022 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Tennessee won the game 52-49. (Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images)

The South Goalposts, Part 1: The crossbar

Somehow, fans managed to get the south goalpost — the one McGrath’s kick had sailed through — up and out of the ground, gooseneck and all. Soon afterward, the uprights detached from the crossbar. (Never underestimate the ingenuity of a determined Volunteer, apparently.)

The 18-foot-wide crossbar and gooseneck went on quite a journey, eventually reaching the northeast corner of the stadium. Gates, fences and steel support beams proved no match for the creative Vols, who navigated the massive sort-of-T-shaped chunk of metal up, around, over and through all obstacles. Several Vols rode atop the crossbar, Washington-crossing-the-Delaware style, barking out orders and directions. And soon enough, the crossbar escaped the confines of the stadium.

Alas, its journey ended shortly afterward. With a little more attitude and a little less good cheer than was probably necessary, Knoxville police ordered the students to drop the crossbar and back away. Soon enough, they did, and the university reclaimed this chunk as well.

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The uprights, though … they had escaped into the night.

The South Goalposts, Part 2: One upright

It doesn’t take much effort to lift a 44-pound pole, even a 30-foot-long one, and Tennessee students easily paraded the two south uprights through campus, the spoils of a long-delayed victory. They reached Cumberland Avenue, the major street which cuts through campus, and then inspiration hit the crowd:

The river.

Soon enough, the uprights were headed in the direction of the Tennessee River, and with a mighty roar from the crowd, they were tossed in:

The exact route they took is a mystery, but given the landmarks they passed on the way from the field to the water, the uprights traveled more than two miles. And speaking of landmarks: Google Maps even commemorated the location of the uprights, just offshore from Neyland.

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One of the uprights got fished out and somehow — no one is quite sure how — ended up in the backyard of the Sigma Chi fraternity. “We came back from the game and it was just there,” one Sigma Chi member told Yahoo Sports, who is protecting his identity in case future employers don’t quite see the humor in theft of university property.

And then someone turned up with a reciprocating saw — again, this is Tennessee, these kinds of folks are everywhere — and went to work slicing the 30-foot-long pole into smaller chunks. The fraternity held onto a large chunk, had it painted with the score, and eventually got Tennessee coach Josh Heupel and several players to sign it.

“It’s a pretty great thing to have,” the Sigma Chi member said. “It’s going to stay with us for a long time.”

But wait … there was one more goalpost still down there under the water, remember?

KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE - OCTOBER 15: Police take control of a field goal post carried into the stands by fans after the Tennessee Volunteers defeat the Alabama Crimson Tide at Neyland Stadium on October 15, 2022 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Tennessee won the game 52-49. (Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images)
Police take control of a field goal post carried into the stands by fans after the Tennessee Volunteers defeat the Alabama Crimson Tide at Neyland Stadium on October 15, 2022 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Tennessee won the game 52-49. (Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images)

The South Goalposts, Part 3: The other upright

When the first goalpost was fished out of the river, most of the crowd went with it, following the pole off to Sigma Chi. But a few people stuck by the water’s edge, peering down into the cold water. According to Mike Wilson of the Knoxville News-Sentinel, a student and a young fan jumped into the water, pulled the completely intact 30-foot-long upright out of the river, and then — in a scene out of a heist movie — hid it in bushes as boats glided past, flashlights sweeping the water’s surface.

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Someone located another saw, and they hacked the post into five six-foot-long pieces — three for one family, and one apiece for two others who helped pull the post from the water. The student quickly hid his chunk under his bed in his apartment, fearing people would recognize it if he walked through the streets. The family later posed with the posts for their 2022 Christmas card picture.

It doesn’t always pay to follow the crowds. Sometimes, what you’re looking for is right there in front of you.

The Aftermath

“When Tennessee is losing at football, this place, it’s tough,” Swain says of Knoxville. “But when you win a game, there’s no better place on earth. Everybody was floating. Levitating!”

The SEC fined Tennessee $100,000 for the field-storming, which also included a bit of turf damage in addition to the goalpost desecration and destruction. The SEC’s new rule requiring that the field-stormers pay the fee to the opponent hadn’t yet gone into effect, but that’s surely a check Tennessee wouldn’t have minded writing … and Alabama wouldn’t have wanted to cash.

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More math: Zach Staub, a sales rep with Anthem Sports, which sells goalposts, estimates that Division I goal posts run about $12,000 for a pair. Even so, the University of Tennessee asked for donations in a Twitter post the next day:

"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?"

The tweet linked to a fundraiser — “Volstarter” — that raised a total of $161,228.76. A Tennessee official noted that there were already backup goalposts ready to install for the next week’s game, but did not respond to an inquiry about where the Volstarter funds were spent.

After the victory, the Vols would rise to No. 3 in the nation, but their magic sputtered three weeks later in Athens with a loss to Georgia, and then evaporated two weeks after that when South Carolina hung 63 points on them. Tennessee ended the season with a victory in — appropriately enough — the Orange Bowl. But the Vols could have lost every game after Oct. 15 by triple digits and it wouldn’t have mattered.

“There’s always a little something extra about this game,” Swain says. “Players will say, ‘We treat this game like every other one.’ Bullsh**. You don’t smoke cigars after every game.”

And you don’t tear down goalposts, either. That’s a once-in-a-generation event … and a lifetime memory.

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