We know why neutral site non-conference games have proliferated as much as they have over the last eight years: money. The dollar signs have climbed to a point where the teams involved will make more to play elsewhere than they’d net by staying at home.
Case in point: Saturday’s Battle at Bristol between Tennessee and Virginia Tech.
The neutral site game is set to draw more than 150,000 spectators — a college football record. The Hokies and Vols could also set a record as they are set to receive $4.3 million apiece simply for showing up, according to the Associated Press.
The $4 million payment was guaranteed for each team when its allotment of 40,000 tickets sold out and, according to the AP, each club could be in line for an extra $300,000 because the grandstands at Bristol sold out.
For a point of reference, the College Football Playoff paid $4 million for each team playing in a non-semifinal New Year’s Six bowl last year.
The number to shoot for is the 115,109 that showed up to watch Michigan beat Notre Dame under the lights in 2013.
“We jokingly say we’re a football stadium on steroids,” Bristol Motor Speedway general manager Jerry Caldwell said. “When you walk into the place, that’s what you see. That’s what it feels like. You walk in and you’re completely surrounded by stands just like you would be at a football stadium.”
Considering the fervor the Battle at Bristol was met with by both fan bases, Saturday’s game should be a win-win for all involved. Until one of the teams has to go home a loser, of course.
“It’s something that will live with these individuals for the rest of their lives,” Tennessee coach Butch Jones said.