As Saturday's football game against Florida State University drew to a close, thousands of ecstatic UNC students rushed onto the field ready to tear down the goalpost in Kenan Stadium's west end zone.
But surprisingly, it was not until about 40 minutes later that the goalpost finally fell to the turf after its crossbar was broken.
Steve Kirschner, director of athletic communications, said he was not surprised that the goalpost survived the student assault for so long.
"The company (that made the goalpost) had virtually guaranteed that (it) couldn't be taken down," Kirschner said. Had students not hung from the post for so long, it would still be standing, he said.
The goalpost cost between $8,000 and $10,000 and is not repairable, Kirschner said, adding that he was not sure if the post was insured or whether the University would have to bear the cost of replacing it.
The celebration marked the first time that UNC students have torn down a goalpost since a victory over Georgia Tech in 1994.
Chris Helin, a senior from East Setauket, N.Y., witnessed the celebration from atop the post.
"It was real cool seeing all the fans enjoying the victory together," Helin said. But after seeing other students fall from the post, Helin decided he'd had enough. "I felt (the post) shaking, and I was afraid I was going to fall off."
After the goalpost finally fell, several students attempted to exit the stadium with one yellow pole hoisted over their heads. But University police would not allow the students to take the pole, Kirschner said.
The police were concerned that the post's sharp metal could cause injury if it was removed from the stadium, he said.
Maj. Jeff McCracken of University police said the officers allowed students onto the field but initially tried to keep them off the goalpost. But the police could not hold the students back for long. "At one point the crowd became so intense," McCracken said. "To keep the officers safe, we pulled them back."
McCracken said the only injury reported from the celebration was a minor cut that one woman received while jumping over a fence onto the field.
University police made no arrests during the celebration, McCracken said. He estimated that there might have been about 3,000 students on the field.
Student security guard Myles Bacon, a senior from Springfield, Ohio, said the students were generally under control.
"There was no real tension in the air," said Bacon. "I just became an observer and tried to make sure nobody got hurt."
But Bacon said many students destroyed the field in that area, ripping out sod from the end zone as a souvenir.
Most students focused their energy on tearing down the goalpost rather than rushing to Franklin Street, but the Chapel Hill Police Department was ready just in case. Officer Will Quick, one of the police officers on duty on Franklin Street, said, "We started rallying the troops when UNC had clearly won, and because of the number of people, we'll probably keep more officers out here than usual.
"There are a lot of folks out here, and we hope to help them celebrate safely."
Maggie Kao contributed to this story.
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