Smithey: UT, Kentucky unlikely to roll out barrel

Dear Smithey's Corner (

The UT-Kentucky (football) game inspires me to pose this question: Whatever happened to the Beer Barrel? I know that the tradition of playing for the Beer Barrel was discontinued in 1998 after two Kentucky players were killed in an alcohol-related automobile accident on the eve of that year's game. But what happened to the actual Beer Barrel itself? Did UT keep it or was it chopped up for firewood?

Keith Cox

Tennessee should have a trophy game like they used to with Kentucky. I know and understand the overly sensitive reasons why the Beer Barrel Game was discontinued, but having a trophy game could give the players something to play for, especially in seasons like this one.

Maybe we could start a rivalry with Texas and play for the Davy Crockett Vest. We could play Florida for the Doug Dickey Headset; Vandy for the Governor's Cup or for the TDOT 1-40 Traffic Barrel.

Anyway, I just wanted to know if THE U of T has any such plans in the works and wanted to read your thoughts ... on the trophy thing, of course.

Pookie Macguire

After seeing the Wisconsin-Minnesota Paul Bunyan Ax game earlier this season, I longed for the return of the Tennessee-Kentucky Beer Barrel game, too - or at least for the start a new Tennessee rivalry with another school.

But, I also understood why the Beer Barrel vanquished after the 1998 season.

In November of 1998 just before the Tennessee-Kentucky game, an alcohol-related car crash killed Kentucky transfer Arthur Steinmetz and Eastern Kentucky student Scott Brock, who was the best friend of then-Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch.

The driver in the crash was Jason Watts, an offensive lineman for the Wildcats whose blood-alcohol content was 1 1/2 times the legal limit; Watts lived, served nearly four months in jail and received five years probation.

The loss of those mentioned in the wreck definitely hit home to the University of Kentucky. So when Tennessee won 59-21 that November, the Beer Barrel postgame celebration by UT was nowhere to be seen inside Neyland Stadium - out of respect for the Wildcats.

In August 1999, then-Tennessee athletic director Doug Dickey and then-Kentucky athletic director C.M. Newton decided to stop the 74-year-old Beer Barrel tradition.

The orange, white and blue painted barrel hasn't been played for since, but I can definitely say it hasn't been stripped for firewood.

"I'd say physically, it's in our possession," UT sports information director Bud Ford said. "I believe it's in the football equipment room right now. It's not on display, but it's in the equipment room."

Ah, still hope for a return, but Ford said he knew of no talks to bring it back.

But, another reason for hope: the Beer Barrel wasn't always called such. The Ice Water Barrel was its original title, because its birth year (1925) fell during the United States' Prohibition Era.

Two UK alumni brainstormed the idea for the rivalry. Rollie M. Guthrie was one of them.

"We were having Cokes in Casey Jones' Lexington Drug Store, the hangout for the Wildcat fans (then), and talking about the Old Oaken Bucket and Michigan's Little Brown Jug when we decided to come up with something symbolic of both states," Guthrie recalled in Russell Rice's "The Wildcats - Kentucky Football." "And we immediately thought of moonshine whisky and started to hunt a whisky barrel.

"When the Women's Christian Temperance Union got wind of what we were going to do, their protests were vigorous, so we settled for a beer keg "

And so the first Ice Water Barrel game between Tennessee and Kentucky was born. Before the game, six representatives from each school met at the 50-yard-line, where the keg rested.

A representative would then drink a cup of water from the barrel and toast to the foe. After the song "How Dry I Am" was played, the game was ready to begin.

Thankfully that tradition didn't last for 74 years, but the fact that the Beer Barrel was once known by a non-offensive name gives way to the idea that the barrel could come back under a different moniker.

The only thing going against the proposal is Tennessee's 54-14-6 advantage in the Ice Water/Beer Barrel games. Kentucky may not want the added insult to its injury.

But if all that doesn't pan out, I definitely like the idea of playing Vanderbilt for the I-40 Traffic Barrel. Any reason to take one more construction barrel off the road is a good idea.

Plus, it's already painted to represent the way that rivalry has gone the last 25 years - orange and white.

Have a sports-related question you need answered? Send it Jesse Smithey at

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