Just like that, Tennessee-Ole Miss tickets has become the toughest to obtain to a Tennessee game in four years.
While interest in the Vols’ game against the Rebels, which will mark Lane Kiffin’s return to Neyland Stadium, began to increase after UT’s 62-24 rout of Missouri on Oct. 2, it really picked up last week after the SEC announced that the game would kick off at 7:30 p.m., and further intensified after UT’s blowout win of South Carolina on Saturday.
Neyland Stadium is sold out, and fan enthusiasm is reaching a fever pitch with still five days remaining before the Vols and Rebels tangle in an SEC battle that will feature two of the nation’s top offenses. Tennessee athletics director Danny White announced Monday afternoon that the game will be a Checker Neyland effort, with fans dressing in either orange or white, depending on the section in which their seats are located, to help transform the entire stadium into the Vols’ trademark end zone pattern.
The game will mark Tennessee’s first sellout since October 2017, when Georgia visited Neyland Stadium. And fans who waited to attempt to snag tickets are suddenly finding that they’re hard to find. In fact, the Tennessee-Ole Miss ticket is probably the hardest ticket to come by since Tennessee’s 38-28 win over Florida in 2016. For a game other than Florida and Alabama, the Vols’ two top rivals, the last time a ticket was this hard to come by was the 2015 game against Oklahoma.
Just days ago, when the SEC announced that the game would kick off in primetime, thousands of tickets remained available through the UT Ticket Office, and there were plenty more tickets available through reseller sites at face value.
The smart fans were those who snagged their tickets then, before demand increased and supply dwindled. As the IH Sports Network previously reported, there were nearly 1,700 tickets remaining through the UT Ticket Office as of midnight Sunday night, but those quickly sold on Monday. In fact, so many UT fans rushed to purchase tickets on Monday that the university’s AllVols.com website was temporarily unavailable. When it came back online just before lunch time, all available tickets had been sold.
At that point, there were still nearly 500 tickets available on Vivid Seats — the reseller that is officially endorsed by Tennessee — including more than 100 seats for less than $100, although none were available for face value or lower.
By midnight Monday night, however, the number of available tickets on Vivid Seats had dwindled to 243, and the cheapest seat in the house was just $109. Most of the big blocks of tickets in the south end zone upper level that were available on Vivid Seats sold throughout the day on Monday. Only a handful of groups of four tickets remained available, and only nine sets of groups of six or more were up for sale.
There were a group of up to 24 tickets available in Section FF, on the east sideline upper level, but the asking price was a whopping $341 each.
That was the general theme with the few tickets that did remain available as of Monday night: the price tag was generally somewhere between an arm and a leg. The cheapest lower level ticket in the house, through Vivid Seats was $150, and it was a single in the north end zone. The cheapest pair of lower levels was $225 each in the south end zone.
The cheapest lower level sideline — tickets that could be purchased for less than $50 each when Pittsburgh came to town last month — was $244, and even upper level south end zone tickets, generally viewed as the worst seats in Neyland Stadium, though it’s easy to argue that the stadium doesn’t have any truly bad seats, were over $150 each in most instances.
As previously reported, there were no seats being offered for sale in the Tennessee Terrace, club level seating on the Vols’ sideline, a sign that donor season ticket holders who are notorious for offloading their posh seats for all but the biggest of games are intent on showing up for Kiffin’s homecoming on Saturday. A pair of tickets in the Terrace was offered for sale during the day on Monday, but was quickly purchased.
Fans who missed out on the opportunity to purchase tickets through the UT Ticket Office turned to online sites like Craigslist to search for tickets on Monday. But there were precious few available on the giant online marketplace, and the ones that were listed were well in excess of $100 each.
Saturday’s game will mark the first time that a former Tennessee head coach has returned to Knoxville as the head coach of another team since Doug Dickey did it in 1970 as the head coach of Florida. Dickey had left Tennessee at the close of the 1969 season, and his first Gators team was drummed by Bill Battle’s inaugural Vol squad, 38-7.
Understandably, then, Tennessee fans are eager to provide a rude welcome for Kiffin as he makes his return to the school he bolted from after just one turmoil-ridden season in 2009.
But it’s not just Kiffin’s return that has Tennessee fans juiced, nor is it the fact that Ole Miss — ranked No. 13 in the nation — is viewed as one of the country’s top up-and-coming teams. The play of Hendon Hooker, Tiyon Evans and the rest of the Vols offense has the fan base quickly warming to first-year head coach Josh Heupel. Tennessee has scored 104 points in two SEC wins since playing Florida to a 17-14 halftime deficit at the close of September, and Hooker has climbed to the top of the SEC pass efficiency ratings.
Then there is Neyland Stadium’s new colored LED lights, which will be on display for the first time in a Saturday night game, and the new fireworks display that was moved to the top of the stadium.
As if fans needed another reason to become even more excited, White provided it to them Monday when he announced the Checker Neyland effort on Twitter.
Just about the only thing that might be able to put a damper on Saturday’s environment is the weather. Meteorologists have introduced rain to the forecast for the Knoxville area as a cold front is expected to encroach upon the region. But most weather models show diminishing rain chances through the late afternoon and early evening, with cooler temperatures moving in by Saturday night.
Local football fans heading to Neyland Stadium Saturday night will have the opportunity to see former Oneida standout Kolby Morgan dressed out. Morgan, who walked on at Tennessee and punted during the Vols’ win over Tennessee Tech, has dressed for each home game this season, though he has not been a part of the team’s travel squad that made the trips to Florida and Missouri.
Morgan wears No. 93, and will also take part in the Vol Walk, which will begin at 5:15 p.m. and travel down Peyton Pass to Phillip Fulmer Way.