Why Virginia Tech and Tennessee Should Be an Annual Rivalry Beginning in 2016
For years, college football fans of Virginia Tech and Tennessee clamored for their teams to meet in a regular season game. Fans of both teams even had a site in mind, with Bristol, Tenn., to serve as the host, but for one reason or another, the meeting never appeared on either team's schedule.
Representatives from both schools were present at a press conference on Monday to make the game official. The Hokies and Volunteers will finally meet on Sept. 10, 2016, at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The game stands to be the most-attended college football game in the history of the sport, as Bristol Motor Speedway seats over 150,000 spectators.
The "Battle at Bristol" appears to be just a one-shot deal at the moment, but it shouldn't be.
Here are four reasons why Virginia Tech-Tennessee should meet on the gridiron annually beginning in 2016.
Money, Money, Money
Bruton Smith, the chairman and CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc., once offered both schools $20 million apiece to play a game in Bristol.
That was 17 years ago.
With the details of the 2016 game announced on Monday, both schools are expected to receive, a minimum of $4 million, for their participation if each school sells out their allotment of 40,000 tickets. While selling 40,000 tickets will not be a problem for either school, other escalators could push the payout up to $4.5 million, according to Mike Barber of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
That's not exactly the $20 million that Smith had offered, but it's a hefty payout nonetheless. Future meetings likely wouldn't generate that much of a payout for either school, but ticket sales would more than make up the difference.
Economic Impact for Region
Considering the relative proximity of both schools to Bristol, selling out the venue is a real possibility.
Both universities have rabid followings and always do well traveling. That being said, motels and restaurants within 60 miles of Bristol can raise their rates and rake in a ton of cash for the local economy.
Bristol Motor Speedway hosts several major NASCAR races per year. The city and surrounding regions thrive during race week. If you add this game to the mix each year, eastern Tennessee and southwest Virginia could see an ever bigger spike in tourism.
Politics are unfortunately a part of college football. In this case, it would be wise for the representatives of both states to get together to make sure this game happens on an annual basis.
No, the schools don't have a rich tradition of facing one another. However, it is rare that you find two college football powers this close in proximity that aren't conference rivals.
That could change with this rivalry.
Bristol is approximately 110 miles from Knoxville, Tenn., and 125 miles from Blacksburg, Va., and sits between the schools off of Interstate 81.
Fans for both schools have wanted this game for years. Tennessee doesn't really a have a natural rival outside of the SEC. The Hokies have conference and in-state rival Virginia, but is that really a rivalry anymore?
This game would not only be good for both schools and states, but college football, too. Packing over 150,000 fans into one venue each year will make people across the nation want to watch the game.
High schools kids want to play football at universities with large stadiums and sold-out crowds. They also prefer schools that play often on TV.
Virginia Tech and Tennessee both fit the bill on all of the above criteria.
However, imagine if these two schools could actually invite high school juniors or seniors to come and take in this game as their official recruiting visit. High schools kids are impressionable. Invite some of the best players in the country to this type of environment and some will look to commit right away.
This game would also serve both schools well in recruiting. Tennessee has done well in its Virginia recruiting in the past. Justin Hunter is the most recent example of a talented Virginian playing college football in Knoxville.
Currently, though, UT has only one player on its roster from the state of Virginia. Meanwhile, the Hokies have just one player from the Volunteer State.
Not only will this game help both Tennessee and Virginia Tech in its recruiting of area athletes, it would also open the eyes of recruits from other states as well. Playing in Bristol wouldn't just be a game, it would be an event.