How do you know that Tennessee football is becoming relevant again?
The Vols are on the verge of selling out Saturday’s game against MAC cupcake Akron.
Even at the height of the Butch Jones era, when Tennessee was ranked as high as No. 9 in the polls amid the 2016 season, the Vols didn’t sell out games against subpar non-conference opponents. In 2016, UT sold out its home games against Florida and Alabama, and came close to selling out — but not quite — against Kentucky and Missouri.
That year’s non-conference games at Neyland Stadium were Appalachian State, Ohio and Tennessee Tech. The Vols put more than 100,000 people in the stands for Appy State and again for Ohio, while just over 98,000 attended the homecoming game against Tennessee Tech.
Tennessee athletics director Danny White announced on Twitter Tuesday that the Vols have fewer than 1,000 tickets remaining for Saturday’s game against Akron, which will come to Knoxville as a 50-point underdog in what is widely expected to be a lopsided beatdown. Plenty of people expressed skepticism at White’s claim; one fan predicted that the upper level of Neyland Stadium would only be half-full.
Indeed, the Vols’ season-opener against Ball State saw an announced attendance of 93,000 (actual attendance was probably more like 85,000). But that was a Thursday night game, which will always hamper attendance.
By Wednesday afternoon, there were precious few tickets still available for Saturday’s game against Akron through the University of Tennessee Ticket Office. The university’s ticketing website showed a smattering of tickets remaining in Sections C, R, S, T, U, V and W, mostly for face-value prices of $120 or more.
Even resale tickets, typically easy to find for non-conference cupcake opponents, are in relatively high demand for Saturday’s game against the Zips. A check of VividSeats Wednesday afternoon revealed only a single pair of tickets available anywhere in the stadium for less than $50 each, and they were located near the top row of the upper level in the south end zone — among the least desirable seats in the stadium. Most of the tickets available for resale were listed in excess of face value.
Tennessee will enter Saturday’s game against Akron as the nation’s No. 15 team, the highest the Vols have been ranked since they were No. 14 heading into a loss at No. 3 Georgia amid the 2020 season.
The last time Tennessee sold out a non-conference game at Neyland Stadium was in 2015, and it was against No. 19 Oklahoma. The last sell-out against an unranked non-conference opponent at Neyland Stadium was in 2014, the season-opener against Utah State.
For traditional cable subscribers without a high-speed internet connection, attending Saturday’s game will be the only way to watch it. The game is being broadcast exclusively through ESPN’s digital platforms, ESPN+ and SEC Network+. The SEC Network+ platform is complementary to the SEC Network and can be accessed through the ESPN App on smartphones, tablets and connected streaming devices using your TV provider credentials.