Tennessee Vs. Virginia Season Opener Sells Out Nissan Stadium

Photo: Courtesy of the University of Tennessee

The season-opening football clash between the Virginia Cavaliers and the No. 12-ranked Tennessee Volunteers, set to take place this Saturday (Sept. 2) at Nissan Stadium, is officially sold out.

“We are thrilled to announce this Saturday’s game is officially sold out,” says Scott Ramsey, President & CEO of the Nashville Sports Council. “We are excited to welcome the tens of thousands of fans to Nissan Stadium for what promises to be an exciting and memorable matchup between these two outstanding programs.”

Saturday will mark the third time Tennessee has played in a regular season non-conference game at Nissan Stadium since taking on Bowling Green in 2015 and Wyoming in 2002. The Vols, who are coming off an 11-2 season, last played at the stadium in the 2021 TransPerfect Music City Bowl. That game, which was also a sell-out, saw a record-breaking attendance of 69,489 fans.

Virginia returns to Nissan Stadium for the first time since 2005, when they took on Minnesota in the then-Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl presented by Bridgestone. The Cavaliers won that game 34-31 on a late field goal.

Fans who cannot attend in person are encouraged to tune in to the live broadcast at 11 a.m. CT on ABC.

Titans Waive Kicker Michael Badgley & Five Others

Michael Badgley. Photo: Donald Page/Tennessee Titans

The Tennessee Titans have released six players following their final preseason game against the New England Patriots on Sunday (Aug. 27), including kicker Michael Badgley. This cut comes just days after the Titans agreed to terms with Bagdley.

The Titans waived five other players as the team begins to trim their roster. These players include defensive back L.J. Davis, wide receiver Gavin Holmes, guard Zack Johnson, center James Murray and tight end Justin Rigg.

Badgley kicked in the team’s final preseason game against the Patriots, making three of four field goals. Earlier, the team waived kickers Caleb Shudak and Trey Wolff. Tennessee is now without a kicker with just two weeks until the regular season begins when they visit the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, Sept. 10.

The Titans and all NFL teams must be down to 53 players by Tuesday (Aug. 29). Follow The Sports Credential to stay updated on the Titans’ final cuts before the deadline.

Titans Make Kicker Decision, Sign Michael Badgley

Michael Badgley. Photo: by Donald Page & Tennessee Titans

One of the Tennessee Titans’ biggest decisions this preseason was finding a kicker and they’ve made that decision in agreeing to terms with veteran kicker Michael Badgley.

The team has also released kickers Caleb Shudak and Trey Wolff, who had been competing in training camp.

Badgley, nicknamed the ‘Money Badger’, was released by the Lions and Commanders recently. He served as Detroit’s primary kicker in the 2022 season, and he made 20 of his 24 field goal attempts for the Lions in 2022, with a long of 53.

Badgley has spent time with the Colts, Chargers, Bears, Lions and Commanders in the NFL, along with a brief stint with the Titans in 2021. He’s 94-of-115 (81.7 percent) on field goal attempts in his career, with a long of 59 yards. He’s made 155 of his 160 PATs.

The Titans wrap up the preseason on Friday night against the Patriots at Nissan Stadium before final roster decisions have to be made by Aug. 29. Decisions at offensive line, wide receiver, defense and the backup quarterback will be decided this weekend after the Patriots game.

Vandy’s Will Sheppard, Matthew Hayball & Wesley Schelling Named Preseason All-SEC

Will Sheppard. Photo: Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

Vanderbilt football players Will Sheppard, Matthew Hayball and Wesley Schelling have been selected Preseason All-SEC by the league’s coaches.

Schelling was named the First-Team long snapper, while Sheppard picked up a Second-Team nod at wide receiver and Hayball was named the Third-Team punter.

Schelling was a First-Team All-SEC selection by the coaches a season ago, the first time the league honored long snappers as part of the all-conference voting. He was the first Commodore to be a First-Team All-SEC selection since 2016. The Nashville native executed all 108 long snaps during the season and recovered a fumbled punt for a touchdown in Vandy’s win over Florida.

Sheppard was a Second-Team All-SEC selection by the Associated Press last season after leading Vanderbilt in receiving touchdowns for the second consecutive year. He finished 2022 with 60 receptions for 776 yards and nine touchdowns. His nine touchdown receptions were second in the SEC and 11th in FBS. The most important six points came with 32 seconds left against Kentucky, giving Vanderbilt their first conference win since 2019.

Hayball is on the Ray Guy Award Watch List after ranking second in the SEC in punting average a season ago. He punted 59 times for an average of 45.36 yards, which was also 11th nationally. That clip ranks fourth in Vanderbilt’s single-season history. The Aussie also forced a fumble at Alabama.

The Commodores open the 2023 campaign Saturday (Aug. 26) against Hawai’i. Kickoff at FirstBank Stadium is set for 6:30 p.m. CT.

TransPerfect Music City Bowl, Amazon Renew Partnership for National Anthem and ‘God Bless America’ Contest

Chapel Hart. Photo: Courtesy of TransPerfect Music City Bowl

The TransPerfect Music City Bowl is in search of two vocalists to sing renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America” at this year’s game inside Nissan Stadium.

Marking the fourth edition of this captivating contest, the bowl has once again partnered with Amazon for the Amazon Voice of the Bowl competition. Aspiring and professional singers keen on performing these two iconic patriotic songs during the 26th installment of the TransPerfect Music City Bowl, set to take place on Dec. 30, 2023, at Nissan Stadium, can now submit video auditions for consideration.

“At Amazon, we are proud to partner with the TransPerfect Music City Bowl for another Amazon Voice of the Bowl, an initiative that blends the power of sports and music,” Courtney Ross, Senior Manager of Community Engagement at Amazon, says. “By providing a stage for diverse talents to shine, we celebrate creativity and community, fostering connections that resonate far beyond the game.

“This partnership underscores our commitment to innovation and inclusivity, reflecting the very heart of what Amazon stands for.”

Candidates can submit their acapella performances to anthem@nashvillesports.com throughout the next month. Auditions for the national anthem should not exceed one minute and 30 seconds, while auditions for “God Bless America” should be no longer than a minute. Contestants are asked to include their name, age, email address and contact information along with their entry.

On Sept. 21, five finalists will be unveiled, and they will have the chance to perform live at the Amazon Voice of the Bowl grand finale event on Oct. 28, held at Ole Red.

Tennessee Builders Alliance Tapped As Construction Manager For New Titans Stadium

Titans stadium rendering. Photo: Courtesy of Manica

The Tennessee Titans have announced that Tennessee Builders Alliance (TBA) will serve as Construction Manager at Risk on their new stadium project team. The Metropolitan Sports Authority approved the selection at its Aug. 17 board meeting.

TBA is comprised of construction industry leaders including Nashville-based I.C.F. Builders, Brentwood-based Polk & Associates, Turner Construction Company and AECOM Hunt. Collectively, the team has more than 55 years of NFL stadium construction experience and a long history of building iconic sports facilities. Turner and AECOM Hunt have successfully worked on 17 of the 30 most recently completed NFL stadium projects.

“The breadth of knowledge that TBA brings to the table is second to none, and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome them to the project team,” says Burke Nihill, Titans President & CEO. “TBA’s familiarity with our local landscape in combination with its understanding of the latest industry trends is the perfect mix of innovation and experience. TBA also shares our dedication to thinking community-first as we raise this transformational building from the ground up, made truly for Nashville.”

The new stadium will be built on the east side of the current stadium campus, along Nashville’s East Bank. Features of the building include: a circular translucent roof; exterior porches with panoramic views of Nashville; improved sightlines for all spectators through a range of diverse seating experiences; and a 12,000 square foot community space available for use year-round. TBA will oversee the preconstruction and construction management services in the development and construction of the stadium and will also select trade contractors to work on the project.

“The Tennessee Builders Alliance is thrilled to work with the Tennessee Titans, the city of Nashville and the Metro Sports Authority as we build a world-class facility for our neighbors,” says John Gromos, Principal-in-Charge of the Tennessee Builders Alliance. “TBA recognizes that we are building more than a stadium. We are also building a brighter future for diverse members of our community and strengthening the Middle Tennessee economy for everyone.”

A website detailing upcoming opportunities to participate in construction of the new stadium is expected in coming months. In the interim, businesses interested in working on the project can fill out the general interest form at TennesseeTitans.com/Procurement.

As outlined in the new stadium development agreement, the Titans are responsible for leading the procurement process for the selection of the firms that will oversee the design and construction of the stadium. In keeping with the Metro Government’s procurement regulations and practices, the Titans were assisted in the Construction Manager selection process by an evaluation committee including representatives of the Titans, Metro Nashville and Sports Authority.

Diverse business participation and minority contracting are key priorities for the entire project team, with commitments to meet and exceed participation goals set by the Business Assistance Office and to work with a diversity reporting consultant who will provide monthly reports to the Sports Authority regarding minority contractor and subcontractor participation.

The Titans will present the final contract for TBA’s services to the Sports Authority for consideration at a board meeting in the coming months. Groundbreaking for the new stadium is expected to occur in early-to-mid 2024, with an anticipated opening in 2027.

A waitlist for those interested in purchasing PSLs or suites in the new stadium is now open at TitansNewStadium.com.

Vanderbilt Hall Of Famer Earl Bennett Joins SEC Opportunity Forum

Dr. Earl Bennett. Photo: Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

Vanderbilt football alumnus and current Executive Director for Player Development & Administration Dr. Earl Bennett has been selected to join the 2023-2024 cohort for the Southeastern Conference Opportunity Forum.

The SEC Opportunity Forum is one result of SEC Bylaw 23, a conference rule adopted by the SEC Presidents and Chancellors in 2021 to encourage, facilitate and assist member institutions in attracting, hiring and retaining individuals from historically underrepresented groups in the leadership of athletics departments, particularly in the roles of Athletics Director, Head Coach and Senior Woman Administrator as well as in positions that typically lead to those roles. It is designed to connect mid to senior-level administrators in the conference from the historically underrepresented groups with industry leaders, and assist them with advancement in the profession.

The four-part series of engagements for the new class will include in-person sessions at the SEC Office in Birmingham, the SEC Football Championship in Atlanta, the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament in Nashville and the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin.

“The Southeastern Conference remains committed to the success of our institutional partners,” says SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. “We join our member institutions in the quest to help prepare leaders in the field of athletics, and this program helps prepare the next generation of leaders to assume critical roles within athletic administration.”

Bennett, a Vanderbilt Hall of Famer and SEC Legend, is in his third season at his alma mater after joining Clark Lea‘s initial staff. In his player development role, Bennett helps oversee the holistic development of the team’s student-athletes. He helps coordinate the team’s efforts in personal development, career development and community service, among several other areas.

The Birmingham, Alabama, native was an All-SEC selection in all three seasons for the Commodores, collecting 2,852 career receiving yards and 20 touchdowns. He departed for the NFL as the SEC’s all-time leader in career receptions and still holds the Vanderbilt record for receiving touchdowns in a game with five against Kentucky in 2005.

His most famous reception was a 2005 touchdown catch with a minute and 11 seconds left in the game to defeat Tennessee,28-24, at Neyland Stadium, giving Vandy their first win over the Vols since 1982.

Bennett was a third-round pick by the Chicago Bears and spent five seasons in Chicago, catching 185 passes for 2,277 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Off the field, Bennett has earned both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Vanderbilt, and completed his PhD in education from the University of Houston in 2022.

Titans New Stadium Waitlist To Support Local Schools

Photo: Courtesy of the Tennessee Titans

The Titans have announced that the New Stadium Waitlist will support local schools via a ONE Community book drive in partnership with Head Coach Mike Vrabel’s 2nd & 7 Foundation.

Each time a new member joins the waitlist, a new book will be donated to Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS), with the goal of getting a take-home book in the hands of every MNPS first- and second- grade student and populating books in elementary school libraries across Nashville. The initiative aims to increase reading proficiency across the community, a key component of the organization’s ONE Community commitment to education.

“Access to books is a huge barrier in increasing literacy among our future leaders, and we’re so grateful to 2nd & 7 for again partnering with us to break down those barriers,” says Johari Matthews, Titans Vice President and Executive Director of the Titans Foundation. “In the conversations about our ONE Community partnership with MNPS, one of the core needs they expressed to us was deeper support of their literacy initiatives. We’re excited to support that objective in a creative way through the New Stadium Waitlist.”

The donation will feature children’s books from 2nd & 7’s own book series, “The Hog Mollies,” which features a group of friends who learn valuable life lessons through their adventures. Co-founded by Vrabel, the mission of 2nd & 7 is to promote reading by providing free books and positive role models to kids in need, while encouraging young athletes of the community to pay it forward. The organization has donated over half a million books to  children in need across the country since 1999.

“The joy of reading is something we want every child to experience, and we appreciate the Titans for helping to get more books in the hands and homes of our youngest learners,” says Dr. Adrienne Battle, Director of Metro Nashville Public Schools. “We look forward to celebrating this gift and continuing our partnership with the Titans to support our student-athletes and scholars alike.”

“We are grateful to the Tennessee Titans for their commitment to helping us tackle illiteracy,” says Amy Hoying, Executive Director of 2nd & 7. “Partnerships like this help highlight the critical need for access to age-appropriate books. Teachers are working so hard to keep kids on track, and we can support them by providing age-appropriate materials and community role models to inspire these young readers.”

Joining the waitlist secures a spot in line to purchase PSLs and suites in the new stadium when sales begin. Other benefits to joining the waitlist include presale access to Nissan Stadium events, discounts at the Titans Pro Shop, priority access to home playoff games in the current stadium, special ticket offers and access to private events. Current PSL and suite holders do not need to join the waitlist, as their priority is already secured.