Ryan Williams runs in Virginia Tech's most recent game versus Tennessee, the 2009 Chick-fil-A Bowl. (October 10, 2013)
Traffic and sightlines will be problematic at best. Otherwise, Virginia Tech’s 2016 football date with Tennessee at Bristol Motor Speedway promises to be as much an event as game, with record attendance, epic tailgates and Lee Corso wearing headgear.
Think college basketball on an aircraft carrier or outdoor professional hockey — on steroids.
Whether such games become routine or are merely novelties remains to be seen. Given the bring-binoculars distance a vast majority will be from the field, not to mention what figures to be a pricey ticket, I suspect the latter.
What should become more frequent is regular-season, on-campus matchups between the Hokies and Volunteers.
Scheduling uncertainties make this easier said than done. The ACC and Southeastern Conference play eight-game league schedules, but with 14 teams each, there’s often chatter of moving to nine. Also, the ACC has yet to craft a long-term rotation for Notre Dame’s five annual games against the conference.
Couple those elements with future matchups already contracted, and you have quite the maze for athletic directors such as Tech’s Jim Weaver and Tennessee’s Dave Hart to navigate.
For example, the Hokies’ four non-conference games are booked for 2019 and ’20. They have openings for 2021 and ’22, but with Michigan and West Virginia scheduled for ’21 and Penn State and WVU in ’22, adding Tennessee in those seasons is not viable — the schedule would be too demanding.
Tech definitely needs a marquee non-conference opponent for 2017 (Delaware, East Carolina and Old Dominion are booked) and ’18 (William and Mary, ODU and ECU), and according to fbschedules.com, Tennessee has vacancies both seasons.
By the way, props to Weaver and Hart for scheduling ambitiously as college football moves to a four-team playoff. Virginia Tech also plays at Notre Dame in 2016, and Tennessee travels to Nebraska.
The Hokies and Vols were Southern Conference colleagues from 1921-32, but the league was so scattered and unwieldy that they never played during that span. The teams met in 1933 and ’37 in Knoxville, the latter their most recent regular-season clash.
Tech and Tennessee since have collided in two bowls. The Vols and freshman quarterback Peyton Manning defeated the Hokies 45-23 in the 1994 Gator Bowl; Tyrod Taylor and Tech routed Tennessee 37-14 in the 2009 Chick-fil-A, the final game of Lane Kiffin’s one-season coaching cameo at UT — he bolted for Southern California.
With their rabid fan support and relatively close proximity — Knoxville is about a four-hour drive from Blacksburg, and Bristol is about equidistant from both — Tech-Tennessee is a natural and would pack the respective stadiums beyond capacity. Neyland Stadium seats 102,455, Lane 65,632.
Bristol Motor Speedway’s racing capacity is 160,000, nearly Neyland and Lane combined, and well above college football’s record crowd: 115,109 last month for Notre Dame at Michigan.
Weaver, Hart and speedway officials have been discussing a possible game for months, and Weaver hinted at a deal Monday during his weekly appearance on the Tech Talk Live radio show. ESPN broke the news Wednesday, with the Daily Press and other outlets confirming.
College football meets NASCAR’s Thunder Valley. “You are looking live” meets “boogity, boogity, boogity.”
Richard Petty can handle the coin toss.
I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP
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