After more than 40 years at one corner of Volunteer Boulevard and Pat Head Summitt Street, the University of Tennessee's iconic Rock will be moved across the intersection this month to make way for a new student health center.
It still will be highly visible to gameday traffic, where passersby can read the birthday wishes, rallying cries, protests and other messages slathered on with paint, sometimes several times a day.
The favorite Rock story for Jeff Wilcox, the 2008-09 Student Government Association president: "Years ago, we beat Florida at home, and (coach) Steve Spurrier's phone number got painted on the rock. After so many phone calls, it got painted over pretty quickly."
Wilcox also cites the joke about men who solicit marriage via a painted proposal: "What girl would turn down a rock that big?"
Construction of the 109,242-square-foot Student Health Center is to begin this fall and will take 18 months, and it won't leave enough room for the Rock, which will be moved about 275 feet diagonally across the intersection, UT announced Tuesday.
UT officials couldn't say Tuesday how big the Rock is and haven't determined the best way to move it.
If the Rock can't be moved without being damaged or destroyed - the Rock is known to have a fissure - a replacement will be erected, said Jeff Maples, interim vice chancellor for finance and administration.
"For generations, the Rock has been an unofficial message board for our campus," Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek said in a statement. "It's a UT Knoxville icon. Knowing that, we've worked hard to come up with a plan that allows us to preserve tradition as we expand our campus facilities."
Bill Dunne, professor of earth and planetary science and associate dean of the College of Engineering, took a small sample of the Rock in December 2007 for analysis and determined it is Knox dolomite, a common local rock that's 500 million years old, UT said.
The Rock was moved by bulldozer to its current location in 1966 after workers discovered it near where the old Calvary Baptist Church stood, the area now known as Fiji Island, according to Betsey Creekmore, associate vice chancellor for space and facilities. Students did not begin painting the Rock until the 1970s, UT estimates.
Maples said UT will announce the day and time of the relocation so the campus community can watch, and a celebration of the Rock is planned for Aug. 18 during Welcome Week.
Chloe White may be reached at 865-342-6341.