By Dan Andrews
Long before Coach Jones began building the football program “brick by brick,” Dr. Richard M. Bennett was given the task of making sure Neyland Stadium would not crumble into a pile of bricks. Dr. Bennett is a professor at University of Tennessee. He is a world renowned expert in civil and environmental engineering. When University officials made the decision to add more seats in the north end zone, an interesting question emerged. Could Neyland Stadium handle the vibrations of 100,000+ fans screaming and stomping their feet at the same time?
Research at the time of the study indicated that a greater strain is placed on the stadium when fans stand up and are not sitting down. This is due to the individual’s center of gravity shifting from when they are seated to when they are standing. So university officials wanted to make sure that the stadium could handle both the noise vibration and the physical movement of the crowd.
To accomplish this task Dr. Bennett attached strain gauges to several members of a structural steel upper deck during three home games of the 1994 season. He and his team observed the “rhythmic forces” over the period of three games. Particular attention was placed on fans stomping in unison and when the crowd sang the fight song “Rocky Top.”
The results concluded that Neyland can handle the addition stress. When asked how it feels to be part of the history of Neyland Stadium, he humbly answered that he had never thought of his work being a part of Neyland history. He did however discuss that, to the best of his knowledge, he is the only civil engineer ever to have published a study involving the singing of “Rocky Top” in the Journal of Structural Engineering (November 1997.)