Oct. 14, 2013
By Brian Rice BRISTOL, Tenn.
By Brian Rice
BRISTOL, Tenn.-- The ninth meeting between Tennessee and Virginia Tech won't be just another game.
Two of the state of Tennessee's biggest traditions came together on Monday morning as an idea decades in the making finally became a reality. Tennessee will face Virginia Tech on September 10, 2016 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The only sporting venue in the state larger than Neyland Stadium will play host to what officials anticipate being the largest crowd in college football history.
In prerecorded comments, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam summed up the event in a perfect statement.
"After years of asking 'what if?,' you said 'why not?'"
The idea of the teams playing isn't new. Dating to the early 90s, the idea of bringing the two schools to the midway point between them, which also happens to have a place to put 150,000 fans, was often discussed, but never accomplished.
"Hats off to both administrations, Tennessee and Dave Hart," Butch Jones said. "That's the vision we talk about with our athletic program and our football program. That vision to constantly move forward and now to make this a reality and be a part of college football history is just another illustration of what's going on at Tennessee."
The excitement for the event is already high from the anticipation from years of talk for UT fans, but outside of Vol Nation, the national attention is on the size of the event. 150,000 fans for a college football game will far exceed previous records, and the opportunity to be a part of something that will capture the attention of the entire sporting world has Jones excited for the opportunities that will bring to Tennessee.
"To be a part of not just college football history, but football history, what a great experience for our fan base, our University, but also for our student-athletes," he said. "This is why you come to Tennessee to be a part of something as big as this."
In the traditional style of Speedway Motorsports Inc., fireworks and confetti rained down as the logos for the event were unveiled.
"It's amazing that right here in the middle of NASCAR country and college football country, that we can come together to celebrate now that becoming a reality," SMI President and COO Marcus Smith said.
ESPN NASCAR and college football broadcaster Dr. Jerry Punch, who served as master of ceremonies for the press event summed up the day with words that are both exciting and familiar to Volunteer fans.
"Wherever you are on September 10, 2016, it's Football Time in Bristol, Tennessee!"