UT Vols, West Virginia to open 2018 season in Charlotte

UT Vols, West Virginia to open 2018 season in Charlotte

July 23rd, 2014 by Patrick Brown in Sports - College

Butch Jones

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

KNOXVILLE - Tennessee's trend of playing neutral-site football games is showing no signs of slowing down.

The Volunteers will open the 2018 season against West Virginia in Charlotte, N.C., at Bank of America Stadium, the home of the NFL's Carolina Panthers.

It's the third neutral-site game Tennessee will play in coming seasons, following the 2015 game against UAB in Nashville and the "Battle at Bristol" against Virginia Tech at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2016.

"The game in Charlotte presents a tremendous opportunity for our football program to play against a quality opponent in West Virginia in a first-class NFL venue," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said in the program's release. "The Charlotte area is in close proximity to many of our fans, and the state of North Carolina is a key component in our recruiting efforts.

"We very much look forward to such a unique opportunity for our student-athletes and our program."

The Vols and Mountaineers, who were 4-8 in 2013 in their second season in the Big 12, have never met, and Tennessee has never played in Charlotte, though that could change in the next three seasons since the Belk Bowl at Bank of America Stadium now has a tie-in with the SEC. The Mountaineers are playing South Carolina there next season.

West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck told the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette in April the two programs were finalizing a game.

"This matchup against Tennessee is very attractive, featuring a quality opponent from a highly visible conference at an NFL stadium," Luck said in West Virginia's release. "We have a lot of fans and alumni living in the Charlotte area, and this is another outstanding game in close proximity that our fans can travel to easily.

"We have never played Tennessee before in football and both states are similar in makeup, so it's time for us to meet on the football field."

The Vols have made neighboring North Carolina more of a priority in recruiting since Jones arrived.

Tennessee signed three players, including receiver Marquez North and quarterback Riley Ferguson out of the Charlotte area, from the state in 2013, and cornerback Emmanuel Moseley and tailback Derrell Scott in 2014.

Charlotte defensive back Stephen Griffin and Concord tailback Rocky Reid are committed for Tennessee's 2015 class.

When the game at Bristol was announced last October, Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart said he liked playing neutral-site games due to the exposure, and he said at the time the Vols were in discussions with six potential host cities for nonconference games.

Tennessee and West Virginia will get $2.5 million guaranteed plus up to $700,000 in incentives for the Sept. 1, 2018, game, according to the Charleston Daily Mail.

"Playing in this venue and in a key recruiting footprint was very appealing to us," Hart said.

"The respective fan bases will create an electric atmosphere."

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com.