It’s official – the Tennessee Volunteers and Virginia Tech Hokies will rewrite the history books when the schools play a football game at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2016. Rumors about the game began percolating online last week until being confirmed during a news conference Monday morning.
The ”Battle of Bristol,” as it’s being called, will easily shatter the current attendance record for an NCAA football game, but other than that, this game won’t even register on the scale of monumental moments in college football history.
Sure, the speedway holds around 160,000 fans and is located 125 highway miles southwest of Blacksburg, Va. and 111 highway miles northeast of Knoxville, Tenn. – ideally situated between the two schools’ campuses. But Sept. 10, 2016 won’t even come close to being one of the truly meaningful days in college football history.
Number 1: this won’t even be the first football game at Bristol. Back in 1961, when the grandstands didn’t hold nearly the amount of fans they do today, it hosted a preseason NFL game between the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles.
Now, the capacity has increased tremendously, lending the venue to the megalomaniacal visions of its owner.
”Our goal is to set a world record for the largest attended football game in the world,” track owner Burton Smith told The Associated Press. And that goal will be achieved.
But there have been far more significant games in the annals of college football, heralding moments that changed the sport forever. Here are just a few examples to illustrate what does constitute a truly historical college football game.
Disclaimer: The first-ever college football game was a inherently obvious choice here that the author didn’t deem it necessary to include.
Creation of the NCAA
On Nov. 25, 1905, Yale’s J.J. Quill broke the nose of Harvard’s Hooks Burr with an open-fisted punch. At the time, football had not become as much a part of the fabric of America as it is today, and folks were outraged by what transpired during this game. The incident was a near fatal blow to the sport, which people wanted to ban because of excessive violence.
None other than President Theodore Roosevelt happened to be one of these people and decided to call in the presidents of the two schools to have a conference. The result was the formation of the NCAA and a completely new rule book, which some might say was a significant development in college football history.
Introduction of the forward pass
The North Carolina Tar Heels claim they threw the first forward pass in the game of football in 1895 in a 6-0 win over the Georgia Bulldogs. If they did, it wasn’t a legal play according to Smithsonian Magazine, which cites the legalization of the pass as taking place 10 years later.
In December 1905, representatives of 62 schools met in New York to change the rules of college football to make the game safer, following a season during which there were 18 recorded fatalities. The biggest change was to make the forward pass legal. Though it didn’t revolutionize the game right away, since many established coaches failed to embrace the new-fangled offensive weapon, the rule change was the beginning the transformation of football into the modern game.
The first SEC Championship Game
In 1991, the SEC expanded to 12 teams, split into East and West divisions and became the first conference to hold a championship game. The first SEC Championship Game was played in 1992 at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala. No. 2 Alabama defeated No. 12 Florida 28-21.
The SEC’s pioneering move forever altered the way college football’s regular season ends, as many other conferences have adopted the divisional/championship-game format. The first to do so was the Big 12 in 1996.
The preceding games significantly changed the sport of college football forever. Unfortunately, the “Battle of Bristol” seems more of a novelty than something of substance.