Doubts About Vols Team and Dooley Lead School to Offer Ticket Packages For Alabama and Florida Games
Something amazing is happening with University of Tennessee football these days.
Nobody cares about it.
Well, okay, that’s a bit of a stretch. But it’s certainly not a stretch to say that 100,000 people don’t care about it. Tennessee is having such trouble selling tickets to 102,455-seat Neyland Stadium that it is actually offering mini-game packages. That’s a ticket-selling trick traditionally employed by the weak sisters of sports, like the LA Clippers before Blake Griffin. “Come see the other teams stars!”
The most shocking part of this is that it includes home games against Alabama and Florida, by far the Vols’ biggest rivals. “But not both,” UT points out, quickly. For $150, you can see the Tide or the Gators, and two other teams. Tennessee only has two other conference home games, against Kentucky and new SEC member Missouri. After that, you’re left with Georgia State, Akron and Troy. At least those who choose any of those opponents will get to see UT win a game.
All you need to know about the current state of UT football can be seen in that package as clearly as you hear can Rocky Top at Neyland Stadium: The Alabama game is included.
That just seems impossible. UT fans hate Alabama. And have since Bear Bryant gave them annual beatings in the Third Saturday of October games. UT fans would row canoes down the streams of Cade’s Cove to watch Alabama play UT in Neyland Stadium.
And now they can’t even sell out that game!? That’s not the economy, that’s apathy. You can just hear the talk now around Knoxville: “Why watch our team get hammered by Alabama when we can switch the channel at home by halftime?”
Florida, well, the Gators have struggled the past couple of years and that game no longer has the meaning it did to fans in the Steve Spurrier/Peyton Manning era. Having a few tickets for that matchup is understandable. But you can’t sell out Alabama!?
“I’ve never seen this before,” said Sideline Sam’s Knoxville connection, who has lived in the city for several years but is not a UT alumni. “There is absolutely no whoopla about the upcoming season. Fans are not expecting much, and there’s some speculation about how long Dooley can survive. ”
Ahh, Dooley. That would be head coach Derek, who did win over some fans by wearing orange pants on the sideline for some games. You can now buy your own pair at nearly every store in Knoxville that sells UT merchandise.
Dooley is 11-14 in two years at UT – 5-7 last year – but it’s really hard to know if they guy can coach or not. He’s been forced to play an incredible 47 freshmen (32 first-year) because he was basically left with little but the cheerleaders, the Pride of the Southland Band and a few used orange and white pom pomps after Lane Kiffin rapidly departed for USC.
What Kiffin left in his wake looked like what you might pick up after a tornado: A few pieces here, something familiar over there and a lot of rubble. More than half his vaunted one and only recruiting class was one and done, and not NBA style. Dooley tried sifting through the wreckage but eventually decided it was better to start over and build from scratch.
And the funny thing is, he may actually be succeeding. Tyler Bray is a promising quarterback who’s a junior this year, and he’s got a couple receivers with big-play potential. It’s not completely outrageous to look at UT as a darkhorse contender for the SEC East title. Hey, Georgia will likely do its usual faceplant before recovering, Florida is a bit of a mystery and South Carolina is, well, South Carolina. That super-soft early-season schedule (North Carolina State and Georgia State before hosting Florida, and then Akron before going to Athens-town) could build momentum for the young team.
Still, this is what you’ll hear from most UT fans: “We just don’t know exactly what to think of Dooley.”
What they do know is that they don’t want to fork over money to go to the games. Not even Alabama (though that game will sell out, and with Alabama fans who a couple of years ago bought season tickets to Vanderbilt just to see the Tide play in Nashville). And that’s a shame, because with the UT band’s Salute to the Hill, the pre-game “splitting of the T” and the Volunteer Navy lined up along the Tennessee River just across from the stadium, UT has one of the greatest atmospheres in all of college football.
That, and throw in the Alabama game? That alone is worth the three-game package.
Anybody want tickets to Kentucky and Akron? Cheap!?