Saturday the University of Tennessee football team wraps up a tumultuous and heartbreaking season against the Kentucky Wildcats. Recently dismissed head coach Derek Dooley will not be on the sidelines and there may be fewer fans than usual in the stands.
Wednesday afternoon the UT Ticket Office indicated there were still approximately 15,000 tickets available for the Kentucky game. The win-loss record is not the only contributing factor. Historically, home games on Thanksgiving weekend see a slight drop in
attendance compared to the rest of the home SEC schedule. That is especially true in the student section as campus turns into a ghost town during Thanksgiving break.
"As much as I love UT football, I am going home to spend Thanksgiving
with my family," said UT freshman Kristie Finch of Lebanon, Tennessee. "I have some friends that are going to the game, but their families live in the Knoxville area."
If anything demonstrates the extreme highs and lows of this season for UT, it is online ticket prices. When the Vols were 2-0 and ranked in the top 25 going into the game against Florida, tickets were being sold for ridiculously high amounts. At the time, even upper deck end zone seats were listed on stubhub.com for a minimum of $147 per ticket. Now fans are selling upper deck end zone seats for as low as $9 for the Kentucky game. Lower-corner seats are going for $11 against Kentucky. The same seats against Florida were sold for more than $175.
Tennessee's Winning Thanksgiving Tradition
History is on UT's side when it comes to the outcome on the field. Home games during Thanksgiving break are overwhelmingly a winning tradition for Tennessee.
Since 1916, the Vols have only lost four times at home on Thanksgiving Day or the following weekend. The last time it happened was November 22, 1984 when UT lost at home 17-12 against Kentucky. Other losses at home during Thanksgiving were in 1975, 1962, and 1924. The streak is helped by the fact that most Thanksgiving home games have been against Kentucky or Vanderbilt.
The Vols have also tied a couple of times at home on Thanksgiving. Those ties took place in 1916 and 1928. Both games were against Kentucky and both games finished with action-packed scores of 0-0. Of course, a scoreless tie has been impossible since college football adopted overtime in 1996.
In addition to the home Thanksgiving winning streak, UT has plenty to play for on Saturday to prevent some unwanted records. If Tennessee loses, it will be the first time in program history the team has lost eight games in a single season. A loss to Kentucky will also mark the first time UT has lost to the Wildcats and Vandy in a single season since 1964. Losing to both UK and Vandy in the same season has only happened eight times since Tennessee started playing football in 1891.
While the Volunteers want to avoid unwanted historical records, fans say there are plenty of other things for the team to play for.
"I know some fans who are going and wanting to show support for the seniors on the football team," said Justin Joo, a senior student at UT. "You know it's their last game, too. It is my last home game a student."
"You know obviously we'd like a few more wins, but I try to stay positive," said Finch. "It is also about that Vol spirit. I'll always be a Vol fan. Go Vols."