The biggest game in college football history

University of Tennessee and Virginia Tech Make History, Along with 157,000 Fans

Fans file into the Bristol Motor Speedway. The Tennessee Volunteers faced off against the Virginia Tech Hokies in Bristol, Tenn. drawing a crowd of almost 157,000 fans.

A typical football game can be overwhelming, with over 43,000 screaming fans sporting brightly colored clothes in support of their team. What would it be like if that number was tripled? The Tennessee Volunteers faced off against the Virginia Tech Hokies in Bristol, Tenn. drawing a crowd of almost 157,000 fans. Because the state lines of Tennessee and Virginia run through downtown Bristol, two twin cities were created: Bristol, Va., and Bristol, Tenn. The game broke the record for the most attendance of a college football game ever.

“It was packed,” sophomore Tennessee fan Katie Schaefer said. “To get out of the Vol Walk area took us about 45 minutes because there were so many people.”

This particular game was planned over three years ago, but a game this size has been dreamed about for decades. Since fitting this many people in a college football stadium would have been a challenge, Marcus Smith, president and COO of Speedway Motors, planned the use of Bristol Motor Speedway, which can hold up to 162,000 people.

“Obviously, it was at not a normal football stadium,” Sophomore Kirby Betchick said, “so it was really interesting to watch because of how big the space was.” 

The worst seats in the stadium were over 150 yards away from the field.

“We weren’t far away, but I couldn’t even imagine being at the top though or any farther back,” Schaefer said.“It was just an experience to be there, whether you could see or not.” 

Unlike Schaefer, Betchick was not at the game but she did not regret not attending.

“I don’t know if I would want to be there because the seats were really far away from the field and so I feel like I saw the game better than everybody else there,” Betchick said.

Both teams were already making history by playing the largest college football game in American history, but winning the game would be even more impressive.

“The first quarter, when [Virginia Tech] scored two touchdowns and got ahead, it just got silent over where we were. As soon as Tennessee got back in it, people were going crazy,” Schaefer said. “As soon as we scored, Rocky Top started blaring and then everyone was standing up screaming Rocky Top. I screamed so loud I lost my voice the next day.”

Though it would seem 156,990 fans are impossible to organize, each seat had colored cards which were used to create different patterns across the stadium when held up. Fans would hold up the specific colored cards, which were found on their seats when they arrived. Different parts of the stadium formed the words “Vols,” “Hookies,” “U.S.A.” and even the American flag during the national anthem.

“During the national anthem, we looked up and this whole side was the flag and one end zone was U.S.A.,” Schaefer said. “It was so cool.” Every single seat was a part of the spectacular American display. While being part of a human American flag is impressive, it does not compare to the incredible halftime show.

“Tennessee’s band is known for being good. At halftime, Tennessee had created an eagle out of their band members and they had pulled out a flag in the middle and [Lee Greenwood] was singing, and they had fireworks going off,” Schaefer said. “Tennessee killed it.” Even fans who were not at the game were impressed.

“I think it was pretty cool because it was going down in history as the biggest football game,” said Betchick. “I think it would be really cool to see another one of those, maybe even bigger.”