Hokies and Vols Plan Track Meet
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Once again, football mavens have cast their eyes toward hockey to grab a successful promotion.
For example, in their time-honored practice of stealing from the best, the producers of NBC's Sunday night NFL showcase decided to label it as Football Night in America, a direct ripoff of the Canadian Broadcasting Company's decades-old and perennially top-rated Hockey Night in Canada.
Well, if you're going to take from the best, why not take the very best?
That's what Tennessee, Virginia Tech and the Bristol Speedway have finally done.
The idea of putting sporting events in unusual locales has been deployed out of necessity forever, but doing so solely for promotional purposes can be traced to 2003, when the Edmonton Oilers were brilliantly inspired to pay homage to their sport's tradition of pond hockey by staging the Heritage Classic on New Year's Day at the CFL Edmonton Eskimos' Commonwealth Stadium. Over 57,000 fans enthusiastically braved freezing temperatures to watch an old-timers' game featuring legends from the Oilers and Montréal Canadiens before the main event, an NHL regular season game between those two teams, which not only entertained the paying customers there, but a blockbuster audience nationally on Hockey Night in Canada.
Since then, outdoor hockey games have become the centerpiece of NHL promotions, with teams clamoring to be granted the right to host them. College hockey picked up on the success, culminating in the Big Chill, when Michigan and Michigan State packed in 113,411 fans.
Combine those with the strong ratings outdoor hockey games are getting vis à vis the blur of bowl games on New Year's Day, and it's no surprise that when the poobahs at Bristol broached a similar concept to the Vols and Hokies, something would eventually come of it.
Give credit to Bruton Smith, the top dude there, for seeing the possibilities in 2005. Bristol is equidistant from Knoxville and Blacksburg, making it only a two-hour drive for the throngs of Vols and Hokies fans who will surely flock to the storied racetrack and its capacity of 160,000 to renew a 'rivalry' that hasn't been seen in the regular college season since 1937.
An announcement will be made soon that Tennessee and Virginia Tech will play at the Bristol Speedway in 2016.
There's one little detail that still needs resolution. The speedway's infield is composed of concrete and asphalt.
Yes, NFL players lived through similar conditions when the Philadelphia Eagles played in Veterans Stadium, but these are allegedly enlightened times. The speedway needs to come up with a safe-surface solution, but the money and time will be there to get it done.
Expect this event to be a rousing success.
And in the time-honored practice of stealing from the best, expect a renovated and even larger Daytona International Speedway to approach Florida and Florida State with a similar proposal in the very near future.