UT Track and Field History 1889-1971 – Chapter II: Field Days

The first known track and field meet for University of Tennessee students took place on April 12, 1889. The occasion was the first Field Day and was held at Elmwood Park in Knoxville. At this time baseball was the only varsity sport at Tennessee. Each spring it had become the custom to give the students a one day vacation from classes, and in 1889 it was decided to add an intramural track and field meet to the program. Merchants put up prizes for the winners which were valued at $200. About 180 contestants entered the meet and the cadet’s brass band furnished music. (4)

A large crowd turned out for the first Field Day. The officials for the first meet included Professor C.S. Plumb, master of ceremonies and referee; Professor H.E. Summers and Dr. W.E. Stone, judges; Professor J.S. Coon, timekeeper; and J.L. Kirby, H.H. Suttle, H.L. McCorkle, R.E. Wait, and S.E. Spence, committee of arrangements. (4)

It was noted by a reporter for the Knoxville Journal that:
The number of ladies present must have been flattering to the originators
of the sports and highly stimulative to the students.

The winners of the events and their prizes were listed in The Knoxville Journal as follows:

  • 100 Yard Dash:
    First Prize – Gold Medal – Kirby — 11¼ seconds
    Second Prize – Glass Water Set – Spence — 11½ seconds
  • Putting the Shot:
    First Prize – Gold-Headed Cane – Powell — 55’-1½”
    Second Prize – Satin Suspenders – McCorkle — 53’-0’
  • High Kick:
    First Prize – Gold Locket – Weakley – 93”
    Second Prize – Silk Handkerchief – Powell – 92”
  • Hurdle Race:
    First Prize – Pair of Shoes – Suttle – 22 seconds
    Second Prize – Razor – Spence – 22¼ seconds
  • Baseball Long Distance Throw:
    First Prize – $5 Choice of Books — Kirby –351’-0”
    Second Prize – Spalding Bat & Ball – Hawes – 310’-4½”
  • Wheelbarrow Race:
    First Prize – Silver Handled Silk Umbrellas – Dodd & Miles – 4¼ seconds
    Second Prize – Scarf & Silk Handkerchief – Ellington & Wait – 4½ seconds
  • Standing Broad Jump:
    First Prize – Gold Medal – McCorkle – 9’-3½”
    Second Prize – Pair of Indian Clubs – Spence – 9’-1”
  • 220 Yard Dash:
    First Prize – Gold Medal – Kirby – 23¼ seconds
    Second Prize – Gold Pen & Holder – Blake – 24 seconds
  • Throwing the Hammer:
    First Prize – Dickens’ Novels – McCorkle – 58’-1½”
    Second Prize – Hair Brush, Comb, Dust Brush – Blake – 57’-6½”
  • Sack Race:
    First Prize – Gentleman’s Traveling Case – Spence – 1:36½ minutes
    Second Prize – Gentleman’s Traveling Bag – Carson – 1:51 minutes
  • High Jump:
    First Prize – Silver Soap Box – Berryhill – 58½”
    Second Prize – Brush Set – Tuttle – 57½”
  • Potato Race:
    First Prize – Student’s Lamp – Blake – 4:41 minutes
    Second Prize – Owl Safety Razor – Moore – 4:59 minutes
  • Running Broad Jump:
    First Prize – Straw Hat – D’Armond – 16’
    Second Prize – Dozen E&W Collars – Andes – 15’-2”
  • Three-Legged Race:
    First Prize – Dress Shirts – Rogers & Staub – 15¼ seconds
    Second Prize – Toilet Soap – McKnight & Brent – 15¾ seconds

In addition the faculty offered a prize of a silver shaving mug and a silver-headed toothbrush to the person winning the greatest number of prizes.

The first Field Day was a tremendous success and marked the beginning of a greater effort to provide athletic programs for the UT students. They continued past the turn of the century and finally came to an official end after the 23rd Field Day in 1911. By this time a varsity track team had been organized. Baseball was still the most popular sport on campus but it was being challenged by a new game called football. (2)

Although the Field Days were replaced by varsity track and field, they still continue to this day in the form of fraternity and intramural track and field meets.

Chapter I: Introduction
Chapter III: Early Varsity Track, 1909-1922

The Chuck Rohe Track Era

In 1962 the University of Tennessee hired a young track coach, Chuck Rohe. The next nine years, along with the Stan Huntsman era to follow, began the most successful era of SEC track & field and cross-country dominance in the school’s history.

What a Day!
Chuck Rohe