KNOXVILLE -- The University of Tennessee's wait for the start of a much-anticipated 2012 football season just got shorter.
The Volunteers will open coach Derek Dooley's third season on Friday, Aug. 31, against North Carolina State in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta as the first game of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic.
Auburn and Clemson will meet in the second game of the Classic on Saturday. Game times have not been set. The Friday game will be televised on ESPNU, and Clemson-Auburn will be televised by ESPN or ABC.
"We look forward to being a part of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff weekend in Atlanta," UT athletic director Dave Hart said in the school's release. "The exposure afforded our university and football program through our participation in this season-opening event is very significant."
The Vols have not played a regular-season game on a Friday since 1939, which was a 13-0 win against N.C. State in Raleigh. UT's last trip to the Georgia Dome ended in a 37-14 loss to Virginia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
The Vols opened the 2008 season on a Monday night at UCLA, and the 2004 season began on a Sunday night in Knoxville against UNLV.
This will be the fifth year for the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. Until Georgia lost to Boise State last season, the SEC was a perfect 3-0 in the event. Alabama beat Clemson in 2008 and Virginia Tech in 2009, and LSU held off North Carolina in 2010.
The organization's first two-game, single-weekend football extravaganza is expected to attract more than 145,000 fans and generate more than $60 million in economic impact.
"When we created the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game with ESPN, our goal was to kick off the season in a special and memorable way," Chick-fil-A Bowl president and CEO Gary Stokan said in a release. "With these two games, and these teams and their fan bases, this is going to be a colossal weekend of football in Atlanta -- like nothing you have ever seen before."
According to UT's release, all Tennessee Fund donors and season-ticket holders will have the chance to request tickets from UT when the information becomes available in March. The school's remaining allotment will be made available for public purchase during the summer. All tickets will be sold through the individual university ticket offices.
The Vols are the only one of the four teams that didn't make a bowl game in 2011. Clemson won the ACC title and lost in the Orange Bowl, and Auburn finished 8-5 after taking out Virginia in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. N.C. State also went 8-5 and beat Louisville in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte.
The Wolfpack return 15 players who started that bowl game. Quarterback Mike Glennon threw for 3,054 yards and 31 touchdowns to just 12 interceptions last season, and cornerback David Amerson led the nation with 13 interceptions.
UT begins spring practice on March 26.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...