Earlier this month, the Tennessee Vols announced that their season-opener against Bowling Green would be played on the first Thursday night in September (September 2).
The game was originally scheduled to be played on September 4.
It wasn’t long after the news was announced that complaints from fans started flooding social media.
Playing on a Thursday night instead of Saturday presents some challenges for fans — especially those with families or those who are traveling from out of town.
Vols athletic director Danny White was cognizant of those challenges when he made the announcement.
“Any time you consider moving football games to a weekday—which is rare—you want to be sensitive to out-of-town fans who have to make plans to travel to Knoxville,” said White in a statement.
“In this case, the Labor Day holiday and four-month lead time should help in that regard. Sliding our opener to this Thursday primetime window gave us a wonderful opportunity for our football student-athletes to kick off their season in the national spotlight.”
While I certainly understand the complaints from fans, it’s important to recognize that Tennessee moved this game for one specific reason.
National exposure — which ultimately helps in recruiting.
And if you think moving a game to a Thursday night doesn’t help that much, then maybe you should consider a recent quote from four-star running back Khai Prean.
“Tennessee is a school I’ve always watched,” said Prean this week to Rivals. “Every time I was looking at college football, they were playing so they naturally stood out to me.”
“It’s pretty amazing knowing the types of players they produce and the types of players they put in the NFL. Alvin Kamara, I know where he’s going and no one even expected him to be as good as he is.”
The Vols haven’t had great results over the last few years. But recruits like Prean, who is from Louisiana, have still taken notice of the program because of Tennessee’s powerful brand.
Getting that brand in front of a national audience as much as possible clearly has an impact on recruiting. That’s why this game was moved. So while it’s an inconvenience for the fan base, it’s a decision that should help the program move forward in a positive direction in the coming years.
White and new Vols head coach Josh Heupel have to get creative in their quest to return Tennessee football to the top of the SEC East.
This is just one of the many moves in their bag of tricks. We’ll likely see plenty of additional unique decisions from White and Heupel in the next couple of years.
Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports/Rivals.com