The Nahheeyayli Club was organized in fall 1924 by the Men’s Pan-Hellenic Council for the purpose of promoting a better spirit of fellowship among students and placing social activities in the university on the highest possible plane. From that time on, the Nahheeyayli Board was the only on-campus organization permitted to book “out of town” bands. Prior to the formation of Nahheeyayli, the various fraternities competed with each other to see which would have the best set of dances with the most prestigious bands. Soon, assessments to fund payments to bands became burdensome, and the fraternities worked together to form the Nahheeyayli Board. Two formal dances a year, under the auspices of a governing board, were established to pool resources of fraternity and nonfraternity students so that bands that otherwise could not be afforded could be brought to campus. A midwinter series of dances and the Finals dances at the close of the academic year were later joined by a homecoming dance.
Faculty member Philip M. Hamer, who was doing research on Cherokee Native American Tribes, suggested the name Nahheeyayli, meaning “Dance of the Green Corn.” The Cherokee traditionally performed the dance to celebrate the harvest after the corn was in the crib, and the name was meant to confer “dance of the season” status upon the events.
The Nahheeyayli Governing Board was composed of one representative from each national fraternity and a representative from each local fraternity that had been in existence for at least three years. All plans and preparations for the dances were handled by the board, which obtained its funding from ticket sales. In May 1950 the Nahheeyayli dance, held at Chilhowee Park, was the first truly campus-wide dance, including all Greek letter organizations and independents. Admission was by membership card—of fraternities and sororities and of the Independent Student Organizations.
In fall 1970 the UT Jaycees filed a complaint against the Nahheeyayli Governing Board, seeking greater participation by other campus groups in the scheduling of entertainment at UT, and in January 1971 UT Jaycees filed a complaint with the Student Government Association demanding the disbanding of Nahheeyayli. Following the cancellation by the group Sly and the Family Stone in February 1971, SGA joined in the call to replace Nahheeyayli with a campus entertainment board. At its summer 1971 meeting, the board of trustees continued the Student Activities Fee, reorganizing it to provide for funding through a campus entertainment board, effectively replacing Nahheeyayli.