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Tennessee Athletics photo / Quarterback Hendon Hooker and the Tennessee Volunteers ended their 2021 football season in the Music City Bowl inside Nissan Stadium, the same venue that now will house the Vols in their 2023 opener against Virginia.

Tennessee's football team on Monday went from the very unique to the very familiar.

The Volunteers were scheduled to open their 2023 season at Brigham Young University, which sits at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains in one of the sport's most picturesque settings. Instead, Tennessee will begin on the banks of the Cumberland River inside Nashville's Nissan Stadium against Virginia, according to an announcement from Vols athletic director Danny White.

Tennessee closed last season in Nissan Stadium, falling to Purdue 48-45 in the Music City Bowl.

"Pivoting to play a marquee nonconference opponent in Nashville made sense for multiple reasons," White said through a statement. "This is a more accessible game for our fan base. I expect that we will have a much larger contingent of fans in Nashville than would have been able to travel to Utah. Our fans also have heard me talk about the importance of finding new revenue to grow our operating budget, and playing Virginia at Nissan Stadium is an opportunity for a net-positive revenue game.

"I appreciate Virginia AD Carla Williams and the Nashville Sports Council for working with us to make this attractive matchup happen."

The Vols were scheduled to play at BYU on Sept. 2, 2023, as the return game from Sept. 7, 2019, when the Cougars ventured to Neyland Stadium and pulled out a 29-26 win in double overtime.

Under terms of the agreement, the first $2 million in net ticket revenue will be used to cover Tennessee's buyout of the BYU matchup. The Nashville Sports Council will receive the next $500,000, and the next $3 million will be evenly split between Tennessee and Virginia.

Tennessee would then receive an 80% cut of the remaining revenue.

"Both programs have a place in Nashville sports history, having both played in the TransPerfect Music City Bowl," Nashville Sports Council President and CEO Scott Ramsey said in the release. "We look forward to hosting them along with their loyal fan bases and once again showcasing Nashville on a national stage."

The Vols, whose last meeting with Virginia was a 23-22 triumph in the Sugar Bowl following the 1990 season, opened their 2002 and 2015 seasons in Nissan Stadium, whipping Wyoming (47-7) and Bowling Green (59-30), respectively.

 

Phillips signs

Tennessee announced Monday that five-star prospect Julian Phillips has signed to play for Rick Barnes and the Vols.

The 6-foot-8, 200-pound small forward from Link Academy in Branson, Missouri, committed to Tennessee last Thursday. He is scheduled to enroll in June.

"He has the type of character and humility that we value in our program," Barnes said. "Basketball-wise, his versatility and ability to impact the game in so many ways is special. Julian is a three-level scorer, which is extremely valuable in our system. Defensively, we're very excited about his combination of length and athleticism, as it enables him to effectively guard multiple positions.

"We expect Julian to blend into our current team nicely and make an immediate impact."

 

Burke honored

Blake Burke, who led Tennessee in its three-game baseball series against Georgia with a .625 batting average, was named Monday as the Southeastern Conference's Co-Freshman of the Week.

Burke is the fifth Vols player to earn league freshman of the week honors this season, joining Jared Dickey (twice), Drew Beam (twice), Chase Burns and Christian Moore for a total of seven weekly honors. From the first year of the award in 2006 through last season, Tennessee had eight total honorees.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com.

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