'Battle At Bristol' Set To Make Football History
By Dan Harralson
It would be an understatement to say Butch Jones gets it.
Or does he want it? It appears he wants what every Tennessee fan has envisioned and/or has heard as a rumor over the years.
Jones has made Tennessee relevant again on the national front in recruiting and made progress on the field. Jones has made the alternate jerseys better. And the rumors of Tennessee and Virginia Tech playing inside Bristol Motor Speedway finally are true after 17 years of speculation.
"It's a chance and opportunity to be part of something extremely special that will live with you for a lifetime," said Tennessee coach Butch Jones, who was grand marshal of the Food City 500 at the Bristol Speedway in March.
For whatever reason it did not get signed, sealed, and delivered under coach Phillip Fulmer's regime, but in 2016 it will be here. The regular routine for Butch Jones' Monday press conference did not take place at Neyland Stadium. Butch Jones, Frank Beamer, and the athletics directors for both schools met at Bristol Motor Speedway on Monday morning to sign the game contract. The game officially is deemed The Battle at Bristol.
Frank Beamer is just as excited about the game as Jones is.
"Next to Lane Stadium, this is my favorite sports venue, I promise you," Beamer said.
The game will be played on Sept. 16, 2016. For the Vols, that means the series with Nebraska will be postponed until 2026-27.
Located roughly halfway between both schools on Interstate 81, the city of Bristol splits the Tennessee and Virginia border. A cast of 160,000 rabid college football fans are expected to witness history. Michigan and Notre Dame set the NCAA-recognized attendance record for college football (115,109) last month at Michigan Stadium.
Bristol will smash the attendance record for a college football game.
"If you have an opportunity to play in a venue that's going to set the all-time record for football at every level — the largest crowd potentially to ever witness a football game — well, you can talk about that for the rest of your life," Tennessee athletics director Dave Hart said.
There will be no additional TV revenues derived since ESPN and CBS already own TV rights. Tennessee will get at least 30,000 tickets for the game and may receive as many as 40,000. Virginia Tech will be allotted about the same. Half of the tickets will be sold to the public.
That speaks volumes about the size of the speedway. Jones is all about history and after the way he has conducted the Tennessee football program since January, he's proven his respect of Tennessee football tradition to fans.
Negotiations for the game in Bristol have been ongoing since February and heated up in July. Welcome to the year 2013 where smokey gray uniforms and playing at Bristol Motor Speedway not only are acceptable, but are the life of the program. It's the Phillip Fulmer era times 10 with technology and modern-day understanding.
And the best part: Bristol Motor Speedway will sell beer during the game. It will be quite a spectacle.
All-Time Series Results
2009: Virginia Tech 37, Tennessee 14 (Chick-fil-A Bowl)
1994: Tennessee 45, Virginia Tech 23 (Gator Bowl)
1937: Tennessee 27, Virginia Tech 0
1933: Tennessee 27, Virginia Tech 0
1911: Virginia Tech 36, Tennessee 11
1899: Virginia Tech 5, Tennessee 0
1897: Tennessee 18, Virginia Tech 0
1896: Tennessee 6, Virginia Tech 4