Reports: Tennessee, Virginia Tech to play at Bristol Motor Speedway

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We have seen college football played in NFL stadiums and baseball cathedrals, in Europe and soon in the Bahamas. What’s next? How about Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee? It appears that could be in the works for 2016.

According to multiple reports from Joe Schad of ESPN.com and Bruce Feldman of CBSSports.com, Tennessee and Virginia Tech are expected to make a formal announcement on Monday with details for a regular season game at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2016.

The two schools attempted to schedule a game in Bristol years ago but a 2005 attempt ultimately fell apart due to scheduling conflicts. The owners of Bristol Motor Speedway insisted the proposed game would have to take place in November because the infield would need to be renovated and have a new turf installed following an annual race in the venue. Of course, November is when conference schedules are already in full swing, and the two or three sides were never able to work out a plan to follow through on. The interest, however, was never truly fading.

The two schools would be traveling close to the same distance for the game as well, which is part of the reason a huge crowd would be expected for the game. Tennessee’s campus in Knoxville is located 110 miles from Bristol Motor Speedway. Virginia Tech’s campus is 133 miles away. Bristol Motor Speedway has a seating capacity of 160,000. Feldman says an expected crowd of over 150,000 is already to be expected for the special regular season game. The stadium is set up well for football with a round track, and if this game goes off without much of a hitch, perhaps we will see other race tracks begin to explore the possibility of hosting a college football game. If the interest is there and the draw is right, this would certainly not be a shock at all.

The game would be the highlight of the non-conference schedule for Virginia Tech, who currently has games with Liberty and East Carolina along with having Notre Dame on the ACC schedule rotation. Tennessee currently has Connecticut and a road game at Nebraska on the 2016 non-conference schedule, so adding a game in Bristol would seem to make Tennessee’s non-conference schedule one of the more interesting ones in 2016.

The first three weeks of September of the schedules are already booked with other opponents between the two schools, and Virginia Tech’s game against Notre Dame is locked in to November. Will this game be able to be played in September, or will there be a way to work out a date in November of 2016?

Arkansas State stadium expansion includes pair of waterfalls

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The college athletics’ arms race of the past few decades has produced a number of unique designs when it comes to various stadiums and other football-centric facilities. Just about everybody is trying to hang their hat on something new and different to set themselves apart from the crowd and that ethos is seemingly creeping into just about every design element in any new building across the country.

Arkansas State appears to be the latest program to go in this direction and, based on new renderings of a north end zone project for Centennial Bank Stadium that were released on Thursday, the school is perfectly content to ignore TLC’s advice and start chasing actual waterfalls.

“This project will allow us to attract the top students in the country and provide first-class services to develop our students on and off the playing surfaces,” athletic director Terry Mohajir said in a statement on the school’s website for the project. “Additionally, we’ve created a unique feature to pay homage to the great state of Arkansas, the Natural State.”

This is far from the only water feature to be incorporated into a stadium in recent years (Jacksonville’s EverBank Field — home to the annual Florida-Georgia game — has a pool after all) but is a little bit outside the box for a smaller FBS school’s stadium. The two waterfalls are set to be placed on either side of the north end zone grandstand and include a new outdoor premium seating area as well. Also included in the project are a new weight room, a training/rehabilitation area, new football locker room, position meeting rooms, a players’ lounge, academic rooms and team-theater meeting area.

No cost breakdown or timeline were given but safe to say the former will involve millions of dollars and the latter will result in several years passing before the water is flowing in Jonesboro.

Virginia stays in-house to fill coaching void

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Bronco Mendenhall didn’t have to look far to find someone to fill the hole on his Virginia coaching staff.

The football program announced in a press release that Mendenhall has promoted Vic So’oto (pictured, No. 37) to defensive line coach.  Last season, his first with the Cavaliers, So’oto, who played his college football for Mendenhall at BYU from 2005-10, served as a graduate assistant.

So’oto replaces Ruffin McNeill, who left Charlottesville earlier this month for a spot on Lincoln Riley‘s staff at Oklahoma.

“Vic was Ruffin’s understudy for the last year-and-a-half,” Mendenhall said in a statement. “He was my very first commitment at BYU when I became the head coach. He was a very good player for us and someone who has experience playing in the NFL.

“He’s very passionate. He is very knowledgeable about defensive football and our system. He knows the defensive line play in our system, inside and out. He’s a great teacher and fits perfectly and seamlessly into this position because he was taught and mentored by Ruff this past year. Our defensive front won’t miss a beat.”

Kerry Coombs adds assistant DC to Ohio State coaching responsibilities

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Heading into the 2017 season, Kerry Coombs will have an additional title on his coaching résumé.

Ohio State announced Thursday that Coombs has been promoted to assistant coordinator, defense, by Urban Meyer.  Coombs will retain his titles of special teams coordinator and cornerbacks coach as well.

Greg Schiano will remain in his role as defensive coordinator.

“Kerry Coombs is absolutely deserving of this promotion to assistant coordinator, defense,” the head coach said in a statement. “He is an outstanding coach, instructor and mentor to the young men in this program. He is one of the best recruiters in the nation. He is incredibly loyal, and we at Ohio State are very fortunate that he loves this school and loves being a Buckeye.”

Coombs will be entering his sixth season with the Buckeyes, one of two assistants, the other being wide receivers coach Zach Smith, who have been with Meyer all five of his seasons in Columbus.

The past two years, three of Coombs’ corners — Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley in 2017, Eli Apple in 2016 — have been selected in the first round of the NFL draft. Another, Bradley Roby, was taken in the first round of the 2014 draft.

Frank Kush, winningest coach in Arizona State history, dies at age 88

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The most famous head coach in the history of Arizona State athletics has passed.

The university confirmed Thursday that the legendary Frank Kush died earlier in the day of unknown causes.  He was 88 years old.

After finishing his collegiate playing career at Michigan State and a stint in the Army, Kush’s first job in coaching was as the line coach for the Sun Devils in 1955.  When Dan Devine left to become the head coach at Missouri in December of 1957, Kush was promoted to head coach.

Kush spent the next 21½ years as the head coach at ASU, leading the Sun Devils to a 176-54-1 mark that included seven Western Athletic Conference championships.  The wins are the most in the football program’s history; in fact, he’s the only coach in the school’s history who has accumulated more than 60 wins during his time in Tempe.

From 1969-73, Kush’s ASU squads won five straight WAC titles.  They lost just six games total in that span against 51 wins.  In 1975, they went a 12-0, capping off the second perfect season under Kush with a win over Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl.

In part because of Kush’s on-field success with the Sun Devils, ASU began play in the then-Pac-12 conference in 1978.

Kush’s tenure at the school ended in controversy, however, as he was fired in the middle of the 1979 season after a player accused the coach of mental and physical abuse in a September lawsuit.  The coach was ultimately fired because the university accused him of hindering the investigation into the allegations.