KNOXVILLE - The University of Tennessee athletic department recently resisted the urge to schedule what would have been one of college football's most hyped-up regular season games in years.
Atlanta Sports Council President Gary Stokan approached UT men's athletic director Mike Hamilton last month about the possibility of playing Southern California - coached by former Volunteers' boss Lane Kiffin - in a season-opening, 2011 game in the Georgia Dome.
Hamilton declined, saying the Vols already have a full schedule for 2011, including out-of-conference September games against Cincinnati and at North Carolina.
Aside from that, Hamilton noted that UT and Southern Cal have verbally agreed to play a home-and-home series in 2021 and 2022.
Hamilton said Southern Cal, as host team of the first game in that potential series, is responsible for sending UT a formal contract. Hamilton said the Vols haven't received that contract.
"As we look down the road, we're not opposed to playing (Southern Cal) if the opportunity presents itself in the right situation," Hamilton said. "Honestly, we've already got a verbal agreement to play them in the future, and that's been out there for a while now."
UT certainly hasn't shied away from marquee, non-conference matchups in the past, and its future schedule follows a similar pattern. The Vols have home-and-home series scheduled in the next decade with Oregon (2010, 2013), North Carolina (2011, 2012), Oklahoma (2014, 2015), Connecticut (2015, 2016), Nebraska (2016, 2017) and Ohio State (2018, 2019). They also have single-game matchups scheduled with Cincinnati in 2011 and North Carolina State in 2012.
The North Carolina State game is scheduled for Atlanta, and Hamilton said Stokan has twice approached the Vols about adding another season-opener in the Georgia Dome. Southern Cal was one of "four or five" teams discussed for that series, and Hamilton said he wouldn't mind playing any of those teams - but not for a few years, given the Vols' full calendar.
Challenges already presented by future schedules aren't lost on Hamilton.
"The reality is you want to give the fans some good games, but you've got to win some games, too," Hamilton said. "We're trying to get our program back where we want it, and we've already bitten off plenty to chew. We've already scheduled several great out-of-conference games for our fans."
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