Tennessee athletics director Dave Hart spoke to the media about a variety of issues on Tuesday. As expected, the condition of the field inside Neyland Stadium – which has been noticeably torn up more and more as the seasons have progressed the last couple years – was a hot topic.
Hart said there are a variety of factors and issues that play into the conversation, mentioning that many fields in this region are “torn up” at this time of year. He added that UT is currently expanding its practice field, which will lessen the need to use Neyland Stadium as a practice facility in the future. And while he said camps will preclude any major work being done until the end of July, Hart did give a vote of confidence to the existing turf management team at UT.
“We have an iconic stadium and we’re all on the same page,” Hart said. “We want a first-class surface to play on. We meet regularly with our facilities people, who do a terrific job, we collaborate on a very regular basis – rarely is there a meeting on this campus where expertise from the Ag. School isn’t present to assist us in what we can do. But our people who manage the fields, the people who have turf expertise, have been extraordinarily helpful and have worked extra hard to continue to improve that.”
Tennessee will not be considering any form of artificial turf, which over half of FBS-level schools have moved to.
“We would not consider field turf,” Hart added. “There’s been no discussion of that nature. We want to continue to move forward with natural grass.”
Players from both Tennessee and opposing teams lost traction numerous times over the course of the last few weeks of the season as Tennessee won games against South Carolina, North Texas and Vanderbilt on the poor surface. Both South Carolina and Vanderbilt players or coaches made comments about the subpar conditions of the field.
North Texas even had its official football Twitter account call out UT for the conditions.
“I will say, to the best of my memory, we’re undefeated since we got past the middle of October,” said Hart. “So it hasn’t really impacted how we’ve performed. I know, there are a couple people with field fetish in the room and I understand that. But that’s the explanation – we want a really good-looking field and we’ll continue to work to make certain that takes place.”