Athletics officials from Virginia Tech and the University of Tennessee have officially agreed to play a non-conference football game in 2016 at Bristol Motor Speedway, ending a years-long negotiation between the two schools.
UPDATE: Monday, Oct. 14, at 11:20 a.m. ET
From Tennessee Football:
Evan Woodberry of the Knoxville News followed:
Hokies Journal continued:
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CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman was first to report that officials expect between 150,000 and 160,000 fans at the game—a number which would break all American sports attendance records:
The current attendance record for a college football game is 115,109, which happened this September in a game between Michigan and Notre Dame in Ann Arbor.
Bristol Motor Speedway has a capacity of 160,000. A half-mile oval, the speedway is considered one of the most storied tracks in NASCAR history and hosts five races annually between the sport's three different circuits.
The city of Bristol, Tenn., itself rests right on the Tennessee-Virginia border. Although there are technically two different Bristols (also one in Virginia), its most noticeable dividing line is that separating Volunteers and Hokies fans. The speedway is nearly equidistant from Blacksburg and Knoxville—both can get there in roughly a two-hour drive—and has long been a target site for the two schools to renew their once-heated rivalry.
Bruton Smith, whose Speedway Motorsports, Inc. owns Bristol Motor Speedway, first posited the idea in 2005. He offered $20 million to each school, but the excitement soon fizzled and the idea was put on the backburner. The teams did wind up meeting at the 2009 Chick-fil-A Bowl at the Georgia Dome, but the idea of meeting in Bristol had seemingly been put to rest.
The logistics of hosting a game at a major motor speedway have not been worked out. Bristol's midfield area consists almost entirely of concrete and asphalt, two surfaces obviously impossible to play football on. The grass would have to be artificially placed, and there would have to be unprecedented safety precautions for the players.
Although Bristol Motor Speedway hosting a football game would certainly be unorthodox, it would not be unprecedented. In its inaugural year (1961), the track played host to a preseason game between the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles.
The Daytona International Speedway in Florida has also expressed interest in hosting football games after its $400 million renovation is completed in January 2016, namely for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Florida State Seminoles and Florida Gators. While no word has been cast down upon that possibility—Daytona is a much larger track, rendering the logistics for fans even more difficult—this game between Virginia Tech and Tennessee could mark a test run for similar future endeavors.
Virginia Tech and Tennessee last played a regular-season game in 1937.
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