KNOXVILLE — From the gridiron to the steep-banked oval of Bristol Motor Speedway, it appears that the University of Tennessee and Virginia Tech have finally agreed to a long-discussed football game at the storied race track.
A formal announcement is not expected until Monday, but multiple sports media outlets Wednesday confirmed the poorly-kept secret. Tennessee's athletic department was declining to comment on the speculation Wednesday, but Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver all but confirmed it, telling ESPN, "It has a chance to be a great event."
The event appears to be for the 2016 season — likely Sept. 10, 2016, although it could be shifted to Thursday or Friday instead of Saturday to maximize television exposure.
As raceways go, Bristol Motor Speedway — which hosts two Nascar Sprint Cup races each year along with a variety of other races — is best-suited for a football game. Track owners have long sought an agreement from the two schools to play a football game at the site. Located near the TN-VA line off I-81, Bristol Motor Speedway is located roughly halfway between Knoxville and Blacksburg.
The oval stadium surrounding the asphalt track and infield can hold up to 160,000, which would easily make it the largest crowd to ever watch a college football game. The current record is just over 115,000, at Michigan Stadium.
The matchup would be the schools' first football meeting in the regular season since 1937, despite their close proximity. They met in bowl games in 1994, when Tennessee defeated Virginia Tech in the Gator Bowl, and 2009, when the Hokies won in the Peach Bowl.