The neutral site game that’s been in the works for at least a decade is finally going to take place.
A source confirmed Wednesday that Virginia Tech and Tennessee will play a neutral site football game in 2016 at Bristol Motor Speedway. No date has been set.
Neither Virginia Tech nor Tennessee school officials would confirm the news, although the NASCAR racetrack has scheduled a press conference at 11 a.m. Monday with a to-be-announced panel of guests. It promises a “major announcement.”
The racetrack has a capacity of 160,000, which means it would shatter the college football attendance record if it sells out. The Michigan-Notre Dame game in Ann Arbor in September set the current mark at 115,109.
The speedway, which is in Bristol, Tenn., is about the geographic midpoint of the two schools. It’s 109 miles from Knoxville and 132 miles from Blacksburg and easy to travel to for both schools, right along Interstate 81.
Discussions for the game have taken place for more than a decade but logistics and schedules have prevented it from ever being finalized. In 2005, chairman and CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc., Bruton Smith, offered the schools $20 million each to play the game.
It won’t be the first football game played at the track. Washington and Philadelphia played an NFL exhibition game there in 1961.
Virginia Tech and Tennessee have not met in the regular season since 1937. They’ve played twice in bowl games in the last two decades, however. The Volunteers won the 1994 Gator Bowl 45-23 and the Hokies the 2009 Chick-fil-A Bowl 37-14.
Tennessee owns a 5-3 advantage in the all-time series.
A spot opened up on the Hokies’ schedule in 2016 when a home-and-home series with Wisconsin was pushed back to 2019-20. Tech’s other non-conference games that year are home contests against Liberty (Sept. 3) and East Carolina (Sept. 17) and the school’s first-ever matchup against Notre Dame, which will take place in South Bend, Ind., on Nov. 19.
Tennessee also plays at Nebraska and hosts Connecticut in 2016.
Virginia Tech’s coaches were practicing when news of the matchup broke, so they didn’t have knowledge of it. But defensive coordinator Bud Foster has been to Bristol for NASCAR races before.
“I like it. Great track,” he said. “First race I ever went to, I got stuck in the infield. That’s before they had the tunnel. Loudest thing I ever heard in my life.”
Foster pantomimed trying to shout without making any noise.
“It’d be crazy,” he added. “It’d be like playing at Lane Stadium, only double. That’d be great.”
Friend of the blog, Clark Ruhland, mocked up what the setup might look like, with some aid from Google maps by the looks of it.