FORT WORTH, Texas (September 8, 2016) – Motorsports and major college football will unite this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway, a Speedway Motorsports, Inc. sister track to Texas Motor Speedway, for Saturday night’s rivalry match-up between No. 17 Tennessee and Virginia Tech.
“The Battle at Bristol” (7 p.m. CT, TV: ABC) is expecting a record crowd in excess of 150,000 at the motorsports facility in Bristol, Tenn., for a game that has been almost three years in the making. The expected attendance will easily surpass the number of fans ever to witness an American football game, eclipsing the 115,109 that watched Michigan play host to Notre Dame in 2013.
Critics considered the concept of playing a football game in a motorsports venue far-fetched and logistically impossible, but not Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage. If Gossage had his way 14 years ago, Bristol Motor Speedway may have been challenging a record football crowd established by Texas Motor Speedway.
“It’s exciting to see what’s happening in college football at our sister track, Bristol Motor Speedway, this weekend,” said Gossage, who oversees a facility that has 128,655 permanent seats and 144 luxury suites for nearly 10,000 additional guests along its frontstretch. “We were met with a certain amount of cynicism when this idea went public in 2002 here at Texas Motor Speedway.
“Our company makes things happen in a big way. The Bristol game proves the viability of the vision we shared for Texas-OU. We have versatility and a bigness that no other sporting venue in Texas offers. Can you imagine how ‘big’ Texas-OU would have been by 2016? We could have set a mark that no one could reach with two schools and teams the caliber of Texas and Oklahoma.” (Click here for video comments from Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage.)
It was the fall of 2002 Texas and Oklahoma were exploring moving their annual rivalry game from the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Gossage saw that as an opportunity to move that significant match-up to the massive motorsports facility in Fort Worth that debuted in 1997.
His plan was to seat between 125,000 and 150,000 spectators along the frontstretch of the facility. That number at the time would have doubled the capacity of the Cotton Bowl and set an attendance record for a football game in the process.
The idea was to provide enough seating for all the UT-OU fans that wanted to attend the game and also identify additional revenue streams for the schools to make the move to the speedway financially appealing.
“That would give both schools the ability to accommodate all their season-ticket holders,” Gossage told The Dallas Morning News at the time. “Thousands of fans are left out now, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
“I know that we can’t compete with the tradition and all the history that the Cotton Bowl and state fair has with this game, but I know we can bring some other forms of revenue to the table that can be divided between the schools.”
Despite Texas-Oklahoma remaining at the Cotton Bowl through 2025, Gossage isn’t giving up just yet on bringing a major college football game to Texas Motor Speedway.
An article this week proposed a NASCAR / SEC series, where all 14 conference teams would participate in a game at a NASCAR track in their region. The game that was mentioned in the article for Texas Motor Speedway was Texas A&M and Arkansas, which is currently played annually at AT&T Stadium.
“The concept of all the SEC teams playing at NASCAR tracks on a given weekend or even throughout the season is very intriguing,” Gossage said. “Bristol proves the capability, so don’t discount the idea. It’s something to look into. We know we can do it.”
Note: Click here to read the archived
Dallas Morning News story by Terry Blount from Oct. 9, 2002 about the possibility of UT-OU moving to Texas Motor Speedway.