Hokies and Vols to meet in Chick-fil-A Bowl
The meeting between Virginia Tech and Tennessee is one of the most sought match ups of football fans of both programs. The schools are separated by a 230-mile drive and their teams have discussed playing at a 160,000-seat auto-racing stadium.
The Hokies and Volunteers have not played each other in the past 15 years. But on Dec. 31, they will play in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta, marking only their eighth meeting.
“Our fans have been talking about this as long as I’ve been in Blacksburg, and that’s 13 years,” Virginia Tech Athletic Director Jim Weaver said Sunday night in a joint teleconference. “This is something the Hokies wanted to do, and we’re just delighted that it’s worked out.”
The announcement did not come until late Sunday because the Bowl Championship Series did not release Virginia Tech. Although the Hokies were ranked 11th in the final BCS standings, they did not seem likely to be selected by any BCS game.
“I felt all along that this is where we’d end up, and hoped we’d end up, to play Tennessee,” Weaver said.
Virginia Tech (9-3) is aiming for its sixth consecutive 10-win season with a victory in the Georgia Dome. Texas is the only current programs with such a streak.
The Hokies will make playing their third trip to Atlanta this season; they lost to Alabama at the Georgia Dome on Sept. 5 and at Georgia Tech on Oct. 17. It is their second Chick-fil-A Bowl appearance in the last four seasons. Virginia Tech lost to Georgia in 2006.
In their first season under Coach Lane Kiffin, the Volunteers (7-5) have won four of their last five games. Tennessee has not been to this bowl since 2004, when it was known as the Peach Bowl. The Volunteers lost to Clemson in that game.
“We’re excited about this,” Tennessee Athletic Director Mike Hamilton said of this year's bowl match up. “When you’re coming off a losing season last year, when you don’t have an opportunity to play in a bowl, and you hire a coach and he comes in and we gained momentum throughout the year – we really believe we were right there atop the teams that were available at 7-5 for this year’s bowl line up.”
Each school was allotted about 17,000 tickets for the game, in addition to tickets sold locally in Atlanta. Gary Stokan, the president of the Chick-fil-A Bowl, said there were less than 500 tickets available and that he expected the game to sell out.
Tennessee has a 5-2 record against the Hokies. The teams last met in the 1994 Gator Bowl, where quarterback Peyton Manning led Tennessee to a 45-23 win.
But when talk surfaced about the possibility of the teams meeting at a racetrack, the passions of each fan base were flamed with excitement about another match up.
In 2005, Bruton Smith, the chairman of Speedway Motorsports, Inc., reportedly offered the programs $20 million apiece to play at 160,000-seat Bristol Motor Speedway. The athletic directors said Sunday that nothing was formally discussed, and the game never occurred.
Since then, the athletic directors said they have spoken again about arranging a game at Bristol Motor Speedway. But between Virginia Tech, Tennessee and the racetrack, an open date that worked with all three could not be identified.
More recently, the athletic directors spoke about playing a home-and-home series. The schools’ next openings are in about 10 years. Nothing has been set up.
Well aware of the history between Virginia Tech and Tennessee, Stokan joked that he spoke with Ed Clark, the president and general manager of Atlanta Motor Speedway, about re-locating this year’s Chick-fil-A Bowl to accommodate the programs.
“I talked to Ed about possibly moving this thing to Atlanta Motor Speedway and inviting Bruton Smith to the game to try to get about 250,000 people,” Stokan said. “That’s about what we’re think we’ll have from Virginia Tech and Tennessee, who have been wanting this for many years.”
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