Butch Jones opened Wednesday’s post-practice press conference by thanking the students for purchasing their allotment of tickets for Sunday’s game against Utah State – roughly 12,000 tickets.
“First of all I would like to say thank you to our student body, all the student tickets are sold out for Utah State. We talk about being One Tennessee and when most places, their student attendance, their student ticket sales are down at Tennessee we are selling out our student section. Now we need to make this a regularity within Neyland Stadium. But I want to say thank you to them. I really appreciate all their support and look forward to this season venturing onto this journey with them.”
On Thursday, had he spoken to the media, he certainly would have extended his gratitude to the remaining 90, 455.
It was announced this afternoon that Tennessee has now sold all 102,455 available tickets for Sunday’s game. The 2014 home opener is officially a sellout.
Sunday’s #Vols Opener is officially SOLD OUT! #VolNation, Thank You! pic.twitter.com/ORzVNNMEZ9
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) August 28, 2014
Now…Here are some numbers for you.
For a football program coming off of three straight 5-7 seasons, excitement appears to be at it’s highest point in quite some time. This will mark Tennessee’s first sellout of a home opener since 2007 against Southern Miss and Butch Jones knows that his young team will receive a huge boost from the orange-clad faithful in attendance.
With Utah State only requesting 800 tickets, Saturday’s game will feature a 99.22-percent Volunteer crowd – perhaps the most lop-sided attendance differential between two teams in the history of Neyland stadium. As soon as the news broke, both players and coaches alike began to chime in on the sellout immediately on social media:
Sold out baby!! 102,455 ! — Chris Weatherd ™ (@ChrisWeatherd42) August 28, 2014
— Coleman Thomas (@CTVols55) August 28, 2014
1 0 2 4 5 5 #GoVols — Willie Martinez (@UTCoachMartinez) August 28, 2014
Neyland Stadium sold out Sunday! Best fans in America! Everyone wear ORANGE and bring that Volnation Intensity!! #GBO pic.twitter.com/QVQrSiF1l4
— Dave Lawson (@UTCoachLawson) August 28, 2014
As impressive as it may be, a packed house doesn’t guarantee victory. But when your opponent has only played four games in front of more than 35,000 fans in the last two years, there is certainly some optimism that a raucous crowd will make things extremely difficult on the Utah State offense.
And maybe it’s just me, but I can’t help but think about what this means for the Tennessee program. Neither Lane Kiffin with his brash attitude nor Derek Dooley and his three opportunities to do so could manage to do what Butch Jones has already done in year two – sell out the home opener. When Phil Fulmer did it in 2007 his team was coming off of a nine win season with a fourth-year quarterback. That team would go on to an SEC Championship Game appearance and a bowl win over Wisconsin. Butch Jones has done it coming off of a 5-7 season in which the Vols lost to Vanderbilt and failed to make a bowl.
He did it by making a sellout a priority.
We heard Coach Jones talk about a lot of numbers during the summer: Team 118, 63-effort, the power of one, one tennessee…etc. But the one he always mentioned most was 102,455. He talked about it after nearly every practice and mentioned it in every interview he has done since training camp began on August 1st. He made 102,455 the most important number for him, his team and his fans heading into the first game.
Now that he’s accomplished that goal, the only thing left now is for Jones and his team to take the field in front of those 102,455 on Sunday in search of their new most important number.
Win number one.