Speedway Motorsports chairman Bruton Smith’s decade-long dream is finally becoming a reality.
An anonymous source confirmed media reports Wednesday of plans for Tennessee and Virginia Tech to play a football game at Bristol Motor Speedway in September 2016. An official announcement is expected during a Monday press conference scheduled for 11 a.m.
Neither school would confirm any plans, but Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver did say he would be in Bristol on Monday along with head football coach Frank Beamer.
“I can just tell you I’m going to be in Bristol on Monday from about 11 to 1,” Jim Weaver told the Associated Press in a telephone interview Wednesday night. He said football coach Frank Beamer would be there as well.
“I think it has the chance to be a really nice event,” Weaver said, adding that the idea has been in the works for “three or four months.”
With a listed capacity of 160,000 at the auto racing stadium, it potentially would be the largest crowd ever to see a college football game.
The current attendance record is 115,109 set Sept. 7 at Michigan Stadium to see Michigan’s 41-30 victory over Notre Dame.
Smith made a public offer of $20 million each to Tennessee and Virginia Tech in August 2005 for a prospective game to be played in the track’s infield.
While officials from both schools, including then Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer and athletic director Mike Hamilton, expressed interest in Smith’s proposal, nothing panned out.
The proximity of the universities to the venue make it particularly appealing. The University of Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium is located 111 miles from BMS, while Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium is 132 miles from the speedway.
The schools have met eight times overall, the last time a 37-14 win by the Hokies at the 2009 Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta. Overall, Tennessee leads the series 5-3 including a 45-23 in the 1994 Gator Bowl.
The last regular-season meeting was 1937 in Knoxville.
It wouldn’t be the first football game inside Bristol Motor Speedway as the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles met in a 1961 preseason game.
Through the years, representatives of both schools’ football programs have been involved with the speedway in different capacities.
Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer has attended several races and even participated in a celebrity race at the track in 2009. Tennessee head coach Butch Jones was the grand marshal for the Food City 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race in March.