Tennessee's Neyland Stadium holds football games, anthropology classes

Friday, November 9, 2012 | 10:06 p.m. CST; updated 11:41 p.m. CST, Friday, November 9, 2012
A quick look at the people and places around University of Tennessee's campus before Saturday's game against Missouri.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Friday afternoon on the campus of the University of Tennessee, a student opened a door to the Department of Anthropology.

Above that door was a small white sticker that said, "NS 23."

"NS" as in Neyland Stadium. A venue that once hosted a crowd of 109,061 for a football game, is simply another place where students have class during the week.

The fourth largest stadium in the country (behind Penn State, Michigan and Ohio State) also doubles as a home to UT's audiology and speech pathology, anthropology and industrial engineering departments. Narrow, curved hallways filled with offices and classrooms stretch across the south and east sections of the stadium.

"People say, 'You're in the stadium?' And I say, 'Yeah, I'm in the stadium,'" laughed Pamela Williams, an administrative specialist in the department of audiology and speech pathology.

Williams appreciates the perks of working inside the stadium, such as the view of the field on her way into work. Only about 8 feet separates her department from Gate 9 of the stadium, where one can look down and just barely catch a glimpse of the field.

Williams also enjoys looking out of her office window when the homecoming parade passes by on its way to a street called "Peyton Manning Pass."

But it's not always fun working in the stadium. The band occasionally practices inside, making it difficult for professors in her department to administer hearing tests.

The professors can't exactly ask the band to quiet down, but Williams said the department generally manages.

Nearby trains and passing buses also contribute to the noise. But aside from that, it's generally quiet inside the stadium's academic portion. In the hallways, the only noise comes from the tapping of computer keyboards and the soft voices of teachers lecturing.

Cheyanne Tarango, a sophomore at UT, often forgets that she's inside of a football stadium during anthropology class. There's nothing there to remind her of the excitement that comes from watching a Volunteers football game on the other side of those walls.

There aren't any Tennessee football posters on the walls of the anthropology department hallway. Instead, there are posters loaded with information, "Creating a Statistical Atlas of Temora from Three-Dimensional CT Data," or "The Heritability of Baboon Limb Bone Morphometry" and even "Cranial Change in America: 1815-1980."

But there wasn't a single Peyton Manning poster. Not even a "Cranial Change in Peyton Manning" poster.

All of the windows face the outside of the stadium, so the view nothing like what it would be from a luxury suite at a Volunteers game. From the inside of these department hallways, one can't even sneak a glimpse of the field. Instead, the brown-tiled hallways and white-painted brick walls dominate the scene. The offices and classrooms here were once dormitories in the 1940s and '50s, so the rooms are also small.

Unlike the eye-catching facade of the stadium, the areas that house academic departments have seen little renovation. The faded red brick and pale, chipped paint along the rusty windows seem to beg for a makeover.

Still, these hallways and classrooms are a part of Neyland Stadium. It's still awesome, right?

"I mean, I haven't really thought about it that way," Tarango said.

A student wearing a plaid flannel shirt and a backpack walked past Gate 7 with his headphones on. The gate, located behind the south end zone of Shields-Watkins Field, was open.

If he had looked inside, the first thing to obstruct his view of the field would have been the goal post. Past the orange and white checkered end zone, he also would have seen the lush green grass that people would line up to see in less than 24 hours.

But the student didn't even turn his head to look. He was simply leaving class.

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