Aug 23, 2013; Bristol, TN, USA; A general view of the Bristol Motor Speedway during practice for the Irwin Tools Night Race. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

College Football And Motorsports To Merge For Epic Event

Up-tempo football hits the fast lane.

According to multiple news sources, an announcement will be made early next week about combining one of the world’s largest arenas with a college football game.  The 160,000 seat Bristol Motor Speedway will host a neutral non-conference game between Virginia Tech and Tennessee in 2016.  The event is expected to be soldout.

2009 Peach Bowl - Tennessee Volunteers and the Virginia Tech Hokies

2009 Peach Bowl – Tennessee Volunteers and the Virginia Tech Hokies
Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

One of the first sources to announce the information was Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports who tweeted,

“#VaTech to play #Tennessee at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2016, per source. Expected to draw a record 150,000-160k fans.”

Administrators from both schools are said to be planning for appearances next Monday at an official press conference at the Bristol facility.  It’s thought the date for the game will be September 10, 2016.

Bruton Smith

Ever the promoter, the facilities owner, Bruton Smith, has mentioned many times that he wanted to utilize the monstrous stadium for other uses.  Even though NASCAR races at the track and draws over 100,000 fans, it used to be packed and sold-out for its two weekend events every year, but attendance has fallen off – so Smith is looking to leverage the big venue with other types of entertainment.  Smith, through his company Speedway Motorsports Inc., also owns eight other racing facilities.

This is not new to Bristol.  The first year the track was opened in 1961, the National Football League played an exhibition contest on a Saturday September 2nd between the Washington Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles.  There were 9,000 in attendance and the Eagles won 17-10.

In recent times, this idea of a college football game at the ‘World’s Fastest Half Mile’ oval track was first broached by Smith back in 2005.  He offered the same schools $20 million each to play a football game in the infield of the track.  Virginia Tech was interested but Tennessee was not.  The Tennessee Volunteers already play at one of the biggest stadiums in the country: Neyland Stadium which seats over 102,000.  The Hokies of Virginia Tech play in 66,000 seat Lane Stadium.

Note that both schools are less than two hours from Bristol, which is about halfway between the two universities.  Oddly enough, although the two teams are located little more than 200 miles from each other, they haven’t played together in a regular season football game for 76 years.

Aug 24, 2013; Bristol, TN, USA; A general view during the NASCAR Irwin Tool Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Would smash current record

The largest attendance for a college football game – 115,109 – was in Ann Arbor, Michigan, at ‘The Big House’, otherwise known as Michigan Stadium, this past September 7th between the visiting Fighting Irish of Notre Dame and the home team Michigan Wolverines, who won 41-30.  Michigan owned the record before that when they played Notre Dame two years ago.  Bristol would obliterate these records, considering the stadium holds 35,000 more than Michigan Stadium.

The head football coach for each team, Frank Beamer of Virginia Tech and Butch Jones of Tennessee, reportedly had been seen at Bristol races this year, giving room to rumors that a deal was in the works.  No details are known yet but the costs will likely be immense and the logistics for putting a football field inside the track won’t be easy.  However, media companies like ABC/ESPN would likely pay a huge amount for such an event, which could possibly offset the extra expenses.


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Tags: Bristol Motor Speedway Bruton Smith College Football Tennessee Volunteers Virginia Tech Hokies

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