DESTIN, Fla. — In recent seasons, you have been able to count on two things involving Tennessee football: neutral-site regular-season games and the start of the season not being on Saturday.
Last season, UT opened at home against Appalachian State on a Thursday night. In 2014, Tennessee opened on a Sunday against Utah State.
Neutral-site games also have been popular. In 2012, Tennessee opened against North Carolina State in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. In 2015, the opener was in Nashville against Bowling Green. In 2016, Tennessee played Virginia Tech at Bristol Motor Speedway before the largest crowd to ever witness a college football game. Next season, UT plays West Virginia in Charlotte.
Former UT athletic director Dave Hart liked the neutral-site games for two reasons: It helped recruiting and it stuck it to the city of Knoxville for imposing a 4.5 percent amusement tax. Tennessee home games usually generate over $4 million, with a local economic impact exceeding $10 million.
Will new athletic director John Currie continue that practice?
“The first priority is always going to be our fans in Neyland Stadium and the impact Tennessee football has on Knoxville, greater Knoxville and the Tennessee community,” Currie said. “But we’re fortunate in this conference because we only play eight conference games. We’re able to massage things to where we have seven home games every year at Neyland Stadium. With that said, there are examples of good opportunities to do neutral-site (games).”
Currie said he hasn’t talked to Vols coach Butch Jones “extensively” about neutral-site games, but Currie thinks there can be recruiting and brand benefits to playing at a neutral site.
“We have alums all over the country,” Currie said. “There are a lot of good reasons to consider playing elsewhere. Ultimately, we want to do what we believe collectively is in the best interest of our football program having the best possible chance to win a championship.”
Currie said the school must be careful with neutral-site games.
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