One moment, Tennessee’s football team looked destined to play in-state for their first bowl game since 2016. Then, things changed.
Initial reports surfaced that the Vols would be taking on Louisville in the Music City Bowl in Nashville this postseason. Brett McMurphy of WatchStadium.com was the first to report that match-up, and many ran with that initial report and other confirmations of it (including us here at RTI).
As it turns out, the Vols were in line for the Nashville-based bowl game. But then things got shifted around, and Tennessee ended up being placed in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida. The Vols are set to play Indiana on January 2nd in the bowl game.
So, how did that all play out?
In a teleconference discussing Tennessee’s bowl destination, UT Athletics Director Phillip Fulmer was asked about how Tennessee’s day played out on Sunday. Fulmer didn’t go into too many specifics, but he did provide a little insight to how the Vols’ bowl selections happened.
“I think it played out very well,” Fulmer said on the teleconference per quotes from the University of Tennessee. “There is a process in place starting with the College Football Playoff. Things fell where they did and being in the group of six that we were in, I think the Gator Bowl got the hottest team going right now with wins in our last part of our season with our five-game winning streak.
“Coach Pruitt and the job that he’s done, I think it has played out kind of normal. We are happy to be going to Jacksonville.”
Tennessee last appeared in the TaxSlayer Bowl at the end of the 2014 season, taking on Iowa on January 2, 2015. The Vols blew out the Hawkeyes, winning 45-28 in a game that wasn’t even as close as the final score would indicate.
The last time the Vols made a bowl game in 2016, UT played in the Music City Bowl. This time, Tennessee looked like that would be their destination yet again, but ultimately it didn’t play out that way.
“Nashville would have been a fantastic destination, they’ve done a great job with their bowl and again, it’s another great venue and a great place,” Fulmer explained. “Obviously, it’s in state as well. The conference commissioner in the end makes the decision and asks for our preferences, and we’ve been back and forth a couple of times as to what was best, and I think at the end we landed in the right place for this football team at this particular time.”
With the shift, Mississippi State is the SEC representative in the Music City Bowl, and the Bulldogs will take on Louisville. Kentucky was originally reported as the SEC team in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl, but now they are in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, NC and will face-off with Virginia Tech.
Tennessee and Indiana will kick-off at 7:00 PM Eastern on January 2nd. The game will be televised on ESPN.