The story surrounding college football is usually the game that is played on the turf – not the turf itself.
But that changed a bit on Saturday when several players from both Tennessee and South Carolina slipped at various time during UT’s 27-24 win over the Gamecocks in Neyland Stadium.
“It is difficult when you’re slipping,” said Butch Jones. “I think sometimes it creates hesitation amongst your player. But I also think it’s been an unusual season in terms of grass. I’m not a grass expert or a field expert. So I think the unusual season with the rye grass and everything goes into it. I can tell you this: we’re well-aware of it. We’re taking every precaution – everything we can, we’re doing. We had a meeting [Monday] on it, and we’ll continue to work to have the best playing surface in the country. But we were slipping, but there have been a lot of places around the country that’s been like that, but we’re well-aware of it and we’re working to get it corrected as much and the best that we can at this particular time.”
South Carolina interim head coach Shawn Elliott was asked about it after the game as well.
“I was out there in pregame and I noticed the field kind of tearing up,” Elliott said. “The first thing I asked, ‘does Under Armor make a different type stud of cleat. We need some traction here.’ There were several times where we had some footing issues. I was very surprised about the field. They plant that rye grass. I believe the appearance is more, it’s hard to say the playing surface certainly isn’t the fault of anybody. We did slip around a little bit.”
A study from 2012 found that approximately 65% of college football teams have gone to some form of synthetic turf, while that number stays closer to 50% when just looking at the Power 5 Conference teams.
The Vols have utilized a lamp system over the past couple offseasons in an attempt to extend the growing season of the grass. They will continue to search for answers with two home games remaining in 2015 and an uncertain future of the field.