KNOXVILLE — Heightened expectations usually drive ticket sales, and the Tennessee football program is no different. The Vols open the season tonight (TV: SEC Network, 6:30 p.m.) against Appalachian State ranked No. 9 in the Associated Press poll and No. 10 in the USA Today coaches’ poll.
“It’s exciting right now, and it’s the first time we have sold out of season ticket sales since 2001, and it is a little under 73,000 season tickets,” Tennessee coach Butch Jones said Wednesday during the SEC coaches teleconference. “So the excitement is high, and we are going to need a home-field advantage Thursday night.” The number of season tickets sold by UT is 72,700. Thursday’s game was not a sellout as of Wednesday. UT spokesman Ryan Robinson said they are sold out of student tickets and only a limited amount of tickets remain for the general public.
Tennessee has made a steady climb under Jones. The program has gone from five wins his first season in 2013 to nine wins last season to being projected as the SEC East champions this season. Jones credits much of that upward momentum to UT’s in-state recruiting pipeline. “When we came here we talked about the respect we had for Tennessee high school football and the high school coaches in this great state and the relationships that needed to be built, and if you look at the expectations and really the turnaround of our program, everyone has laid that foundation, but it’s really stemmed from the Tennessee kids,” Jones said. “We talked about leaving a legacy and staying at home and you look at every great program it starts with your in-state first and foremost.”