By Alex Norman
Back in March, Tennessee football coach Butch Jones was the Grand Marshal for the Food City 500 Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway. He was impressed with what he saw at the track that some like to call “The Last Great Colosseum.”
“The magnitude of it, the excitement, the pageantry of it, this is truly a special place,” said Jones.
That track will be home to a historic matchup on September 10, 2016 when the Vols play Virginia Tech in the “Battle at Bristol.” A record crowd of more than 150,000 fans is anticipated.
“We have a great following here, to be part of it in a few years is exciting,” said Jones.
If we have learned anything about Butch Jones and his coaching staff, it is that they are tireless recruiters. Tennessee’s Class of 2014 is expected to be ranked in the top 5 nationally. This despite three straight losing seasons (under former Vols coach Derek Dooley), and no bowl game victories since New Year’s Day 2008.
Jones and his staff surely are using the future game in Bristol as a selling point to players in the next three recruiting classes.
“Everything is about making an impact. I think more so than just this game it is an illustration of how we are continuing to elevate and grow our football program,” said Jones. “The vision that we have, the relentless approach that we are taking on the field and off the field… I think it is another illustration of what’s going on at Tennessee.”
There is a good chance this won’t be the last neutral site contest for the Vols in the Butch Jones era.
“Everything is about appealing to the prospective student athlete,” said Jones. “To have marquee games and marquee venues… I think they are critical as we continue to elevate our football program.”