One week after hosting what is expected to set a record for the most-attended game in college football history, the infield of Bristol Motor Speedway will be the site of yet another gridiron matchup this September.
Track officials announced Thursday afternoon, confirming a report from Wednesday, that Eastern Tennessee State University will play host to Western Carolina in the 2016 Southern Conference season opener for both teams on Saturday, Sept. 17.
“We are very excited about this opportunity to play at Bristol Motor Speedway,” ETSU coach Carl Torbush said in a release. “We are very appreciative of (BMS general manager) Jerry Caldwell and everyone at BMS in making this happen. They are great supporters and friends of our program.
“Not only will this will be a historic event for the schools, but also our fans, the conference and FCS Football. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our players, coaches, staff, university and fans.”
ETSU is located less than 30 miles away from BMS in Johnson City, Tennessee, and has a longstanding relationship with the track, including prospective student-athletes touring BMS numerous times.
Western Carolina coach Mark Speir is looking forward to the renewal of a former rivalry with ETSU in the Southern Conference, particularly at a place like the world’s fastest short track.
“We’re looking forward to being the first SoCon team to welcome Buccaneer football back to the SoCon,” Speir said. “And to be able to do so in such a storied American sports venue like Bristol Motor Speedway is an awesome opportunity for both of our programs.
“Bristol is an iconic emblem in one of America’s most popular sports, NASCAR. It’s especially cool for me, a guy from Kannapolis, N.C., who grew up in the heart of NASCAR country and has been a fan all my life, to have our team compete on that stage in what will be transformed into college football’s largest stadium.”
ETSU dropped football in 2003 but resumed again last season and played as an independent. It joined the Southern Conference for this season. Meanwhile, Western Carolina is coming off a 7-4 (5-2 in conference) season in 2015.
Both schools have played 45 times since their first game in 1932.