Virginia Tech, Tennessee Will “Go Racing” in 2016

With a capacity of 160,000, Bristol Motor Speedway will become the largest college football venue in 2016.

With a capacity of 160,000, Bristol Motor Speedway will become the largest college football venue in 2016.

College football regularly draws thousands of fans per game, with many schools averaging more than 80,000 fans. Virginia Tech is known for being a perennial power in the ACC, and Lane Stadium regularly draws crowds of 66,000 fans. Tennessee also has a strong fan base in the SEC, with 6 digit crowds of over 100,000 every game. Now imagine those two crowds put together to form a giant crowd and throw in a finish line, banked turns, and pit row for show, and that’s what you’ll get in 2016.

According to reports, the Virginia Tech Hokies and Tennessee Volunteers will play a nonconference game in 2016 at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. The venue is most widely known for hosting NASCAR races twice per year, drawing crowds of 160,000 plus. Bristol will serve as a figurative AND geographic neutral site for the two teams (Virginia Tech will travel 124 miles; Tennessee will travel 113).

But perhaps the most staggering statistic is the sheer amount of people in attendance. 160,000 fans would BLOW the existing NCAA record of about 115,000 fans at the University of Michigan’s “Big House” out of the water. Considering that these two schools are steeped in tradition, history, and success (names like Peyton Manning and Michael Vick come to mind), this game has the potential to be HUGE. No pun intended.

While it is unsure how the stadium will be configured for the game, the likely assumption is that the field will be placed in the infield area between the two pit roads used by NASCAR. Engineers would likely have to construct a turf field to place over the existing asphalt. Perhaps the two teams will even bring in trailers as temporary locker rooms. The good news is that there are precedents for unique sports engineering.

In 2008, Michigan State hosted North Carolina in an NCAA basketball contest at Ford Field, the home of the NFL’s Detroit Lions using a specially-constructed court. In April 2009, the two teams met again at Ford Field in the national championship game (UNC won both games, thank you very much!). Several basketball games have also been played on aircraft carriers docked in harbor (again, UNC beat Michigan State in 2011). And the NHL has nearly perfected its outdoor ice rinks built on football and baseball fields in the annual Winter Classic.

Tennessee is a program in a rebuilding phase after losing star players Tyler Bray, Cordarelle Patterson, and Justin Hunter to the NFL. New coach Butch Jones (previously of Cincinnati fame) has the Vols at 3-3, and they nearly upset #6 Georgia last week. Virginia Tech, on the other hand, is 5-1 and ranked #24 in the AP Poll. Head coach Frank Beamer, who has led the Hokies since 1987, has won 10 games 11 of the past 14 seasons, and Virginia Tech has won 4 ACC Championships since 2004. So this mammoth game will feature two great programs three years from now. Wouldn’t it be appropriate if the winning team got a checkered flag?

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Philadelphia Flyers Fire Head Coach Peter Laviolette

lavvyThe Philadelphia Flyers announced this morning that they have fired head coach Peter Laviolette. After starting 0-3, Flyers’ management needed to shake up an organization that has looked non-competitive for the second straight season in a row. After starting last season 0-3 and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007, the Flyers were outscored in their first three games of 2013 9 goals to 3.

Laviolette joined the Flyers midway through the 2010 season, where he led the Flyers to a dramatic shootout victory on the last day of the season to clinch a playoff spot. The rest is history: the 7th seeded Flyers became the third team in NHL history to come back from a 3 game deficit to win a playoff series against the Boston Bruins. The Flyers then won their first Eastern Conference title since 1997 and came within 2 games of winning the Stanley Cup.

Laviolette also led the Flyers to an Atlantic Division title in 2011 and a dramatic, emotional victory over the rival Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the 2012 playoffs. So what’s my point here? THE WRONG MAN LOST HIS JOB.

Flyers GM Paul Holmgren is responsible for most of the mistakes in the Flyers organization. Sure he was at the helm when the Flyers went to the Cup Finals in 2010, but most of the players weren’t his. Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne, and Claude Giroux were all products of Bob Clarke’s GM days, not Holmgren’s. Moreover, Holmgren is known for blowing up the Flyers roster, trading captain Mike Richards and leading scorer Jeff Carter in 2011 so the Flyers could sign goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. Yeah, that happened.

The result was that Richards, Carter, and Gagne won a Stanley Cup in Los Angeles, the Flyers were embarrassed in the second round of the playoffs, and the Flyers “humongous big” goaltending problems persisted. Bryzgalov will now get million dollar checks from the Flyers until 2017. Think that’s bad? How about the $21 million dollar deals Vincent Lecavlier and Mark Streit signed this past offseason. Both players are in their mid-thirties, an age that most players see their stats and production drop off, not improve.

Bottom line, Paul Holmgren is SCREWING the Flyers’ organization. His propensity for star players forces the Flyers to commit large chunks of their money to big name players who don’t necessarily win games. Goaltending issues STILL exist in Philadelphia after the Ilya Bryzgalov nightmare, a move that Holmgren himself dubbed “a huge mistake”. Now the good ship Flyer doesn’t have an experienced skipper to lead the way. New Flyers coach Craig Berube has been a head coach in the AHL, but has never led an NHL team before. Bottom line, things in Philadelphia are sort of messy.

As a dedicated fan, I am extremely saddened to see Peter Laviolette leave Philadelphia. He brought intensity and energy to a team that led Philadelphia fans on a wild ride in 2010. Now, the Flyers are a team in shambles with a very unsure future. Flyers owner Ed Snider needs to take responsibility and cut the cord between the Flyers and Paul Holmgren.