There’s nothing really unique about the Kentucky/Tennessee football rivalry, except for the 26-year losing streak the Cats hope to put a stop to on Saturday. However, on the tail end of another disappointing season, some Tennessee fans want to play for more than just a bowl birth. They want to resurrect the Beer Barrel, the trophy that went to the winner of the game each year. For those younger KSR readers, here’s a little bit of info on the Beer Barrel, from the website that has created a petition to bring it back:
College football is known for its many sacred traditions. Many colleges and universities across the country share traditions with their rivals, including a post-game trophy exchange to the victor of a Saturday gridiron clash.
Back in 1925, a University of Kentucky supporter came up with the idea of playing for a trophy against boarder rival Tennessee. The trophy, a 200 pound beer barrel painted orange and blue with the scores from each contest went to the winner of annual contest. This began the Battle for the Beer Barrel, one of the most unique trophies in all of college football.
However, in 1998 the Battle for the Beer Barrel was discontinued due to the tragic death of Kentucky football player Arthur Steinmetz and passenger Scott Brock in an alcohol-related car accident. The vehicle was driven by Kentucky football player Jason Watts, who happened to survive the accident.
Currently, the Beer Barrel trophy is kept in a football equipment cage at the University of Tennessee. This website is an attempt to collect names from fans of Kentucky and Tennessee in support of bringing back the Beer Barrel trophy and the post game celebration. Once we gather enough signatures our plan to take the petition to each university’s athletic director to urge them to consider bringing back the 86-year old tradition.
After checking out the petition, which currently has around 140 signatures, I did a little more research on the Beer Barrel. Turns out the Barrel has quite the mischievous history. After Tennessee lost to the Cats back in 1953, a group of Tennessee fans kidnapped the barrel and hid it in Knoxville until Kentucky fans retaliated by kidnapping Smokey, the team mascot. This tomfoolery set off a series of pranks between the schools over the years, including a group of Vanderbilt students stealing the Barrel in 1960 as a way to gain support from Tennessee fans for an upcoming basketball game against the Cats. After Vandy failed to win, they returned the Barrel a few months later. After the fatal car accident involving Arthur Steinmetz, Scott Brock, and Jason Watts, athletic director CM Newton and Tennessee AD Doug Dickey decided to discontinue the tradition in respect for the victims and their families.
Those supporting the petition will argue that bringing back the Barrel would breath new life into a stale rivalry. Others will argue that having a trophy named “the Beer Barrel” celebrates drinking and sends the wrong message to college students. Me? I think the only way to keep calling this a rivalry, trophy or not, is for the Cats to win on Saturday and snap the streak.
What do you think? Is it time to resurrect the Beer Barrel or should the trophy stay in the basement of Neyland Stadium?