By Chris Licata – TicketNews.com
There is only one stadium in college football located outside of the Big Ten Conference that can hold over 100,000 fans – Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee. Home to the University of Tennessee Volunteers, Neyland Stadium has all the excitement and intensity of the Big Ten giants, but with a Dixie twist. Located right on the banks of the Tennessee River, the stadium maxes out at 102,037 seats – making it the third largest in the country.
Originally named Shields-Watkins Field, Neyland Stadium was built in 1919. In 1921 the stadium underwent the first of 16 different expansion projects and saw its capacity increase to 3,200 people. Over the years numerous other expansions swelled the number of spectators to an impressive 104,709 seats in 2000, before the addition of a club level of seating in the eastern part of the stadium prior to the 2006 season put capacity at its current level. Additionally a similar project planned for 2009 will create club seating in the western part of the stadium, further contracting the venues capacity to an even 100,000 people. . .
Neyland Stadium got its current title in honor of legendary football coach General Robert Neyland. Neyland coached the Volunteers from 1926-1952, including two leave of absences for military service. Under Neyland the Vols most impressive season came in 1951, when the team went an impressive 10-1 and recorded the first ever televised victory in Southeastern Conference history with a 27-13 win over Alabama. Though 1951 was Neyland’s only consensus National Championship, under the general the Vols claimed National Titles in 1950, 1940 and 1938 through various polls.
More recently the famous checkerboard end zones of Neyland Stadium have seen quite a bit of success and history. During a regular season game against Florida in 2004, the Volunteers drew a school-record-setting 109,601 fans into Neyland to see Tennessee defeat the Gators 30-28 in a thriller. In 1999 the Volunteers went undefeated at home and drew a single-season school record of 747,870 fans. However, the greatest achievement in recent Tennessee history was in 1998.
The 1998 Volunteers team is famous for winning the first ever BCS Championship, but the way they did it was nothing short of extraordinary. Going an impressive 13-0, the Volunteers defeated NCAA powerhouses Syracuse, Florida, Alabama and Florida State en route to the school’s second ever consensus National Championship. Overcoming the loss of legendary quarterback Peyton Manning, Vols signal-caller Tee Martin proved up to the challenge as he led Phillip Fulmer’s squad to the promised land without their starting running back (and future NFL star) Jamal Lewis, who went down with an injury earlier in the year.
With seven home games in 2007 and high expectations (the Vols are entering the season at No. 15 according to the most recent coach’s poll); Volunteer tickets are poised to be among the most elusive in the entire SEC. The secondary ticket market seems to be the best spot for finding not only game day seats, but great bargains as well. According to TicketLiquidator.com, opening day seats for the Vols match up against the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles begin at $51. However, later in the season on Nov. 10 when Heisman Trophy candidate Darren McFadden and the No. 20 ranked-Arkansas Razorbacks come into town seats begin at only $71.