Q&A: Music City Bowl head thrilled with Vols-Huskers pairing

Q&A: Music City Bowl head thrilled with Vols-Huskers pairing

December 18th, 2016 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Nebraska quarterbacks Tommy Armstrong (4) and Ryker Fyfe (17) have been battling hamstring and wrist injuries leading into their Dec. 30 showdown against Tennessee in the Music City Bowl.

Photo by Charlie Neibergall

Next year will bring the 20th Music City Bowl, but there is no overlooking the 19th version.

Two storied programs, Nebraska and Tennessee, are set to vie Dec. 30 at Nissan Stadium, and Nashville Sports Council president Scott Ramsey is quite pleased with the pairing. Ramsey was a guest this past week of "Press Row" on Chattanooga's ESPN 105.1 FM.

Q: What has you most excited about this year's Music City Bowl?

A: "The week between Thanksgiving and the conference championship games, this is the matchup we had hoped would materialize for us for a couple of reasons. These are two of the most tradition-rich programs in all of college football, and Nebraska has never played in Nashville. A couple of years ago, we created a flexible selection deal with the ACC and the Big Ten, so teams like Nebraska, Michigan and Penn State were brands we were hoping to expose to our city.

"When you pair that with Tennessee, which obviously has a huge presence in Nashville, we just felt like there were a lot of positives. Our goal every year is to fill our stadium up and fill our city up, but we also want to put a good product out there for ESPN to get some great ratings, and we feel this matchup can do all three of those."

Q: Have have sales been going?

A: "We feel pretty confident about a sellout at this point. We have less than 500 tickets scattered out, mostly in the upper level but some in the lower level. Hopefully in the next few days, we'll see those go. We expect a great environment."

Q: How many sellouts would this make for the Music City Bowl?

A: "This will be our fifth, which includes our very first one (when Virginia Tech beat Alabama at Vanderbilt Stadium in 1998). Since we've been at Nissan Stadium, we've sold out Kentucky-Clemson (2006), Kentucky-Florida State (2007) and Tennessee-North Carolina (2010), which was the only other time in our history that we've had Tennessee."

Q: So many other bowl games will have so many empty seats. What can be done about that moving forward?

A: "My first reaction is that this is not just specific to bowl games. The travel is a factor, and the good seats are changing now two or three times. The ability of going the old way and buying from the bowl, the school or from Ticketmaster is totally blown out the door, because you can now get tickets hundreds of different ways.

"The ability to sell more than 60,000 tickets is tough, and I think you may see stadiums shrink a little bit to 50,000 or 60,000, because those crowds are still dynamic and could be as good as you get. The secondary market has changed this a lot."

Q: There have been different ways bowl opponents have been paired through the years. How do you like the current "Pool of Six" model?

A: "I love it, and I think it's the most positive change we've had in the 19 years I've been doing this. Fan travel habits have changed in the last 20 years, and I think a lot of fans are looking for the three- or four-day getaway in a car or a short flight that will not disrupt the Christmas or New Year's holiday. After the creation of the four-team playoff and the New Year's Six, when you don't know how many teams from each league will be involved, we now have flexibility to put the right teams in the right matchups.

"We used to be locked into a draft order and a perception of who picked who and who passed on who. This now is a system that's going to create much better matchups across the board, because we've had LSU-Notre Dame, Texas A&M-Louisville and now Tennessee-Nebraska. Those are matchups we couldn't put together before."

Q: Tennessee will be wearing grey uniforms to remember the victims of the Gatlinburg fires. Will the Music City Bowl honor them as well?

A: "The answer is yes, but we're still kind of working on how we'll do that. We've got a unique situation with Nebraska as well, because we want to recognize the tragic (punter) Sam Foltz passing this past summer, so we're kind of working through both of those situations."

Q: Do you have a favorite Music City Bowl to this point?

A: "There are a lot of them that stick out for different reasons. The finish of the Tennessee-North Carolina game that ultimately led to the 10-second-runoff rule change is one we'll remember. The officials declared the game over, and then they came back and declared that it wasn't over. Some fans had left, so that was a little chaotic.

"We had Frank Beamer in our first game, and we've had Bobby Bowden. Notre Dame-LSU helped change the perception of our game for the good, and that ended on a last-second field goal. I think this one will be good, too."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.