TSU Considers Adding Artificial Turf At Hale Stadium, Set To Visit Notre Dame In Season Opener

Hale Stadium. Photo: Courtesy of Tennessee State Athletics

Since adding former Tennessee Titan Eddie George as its head football coach in 2021, Tennessee State University Athletics has been trying to grow as much as possible. Recently, the Tigers are asking fans to fill out a survey regarding the possibility of adding artificial turf to Hale Stadium.

The purpose of the surgery is to gauge if fan attendance and participation would increase if TSU added artificial turf to its football stadium.

“In an attempt to make William J. Hale Stadium more versatile in the areas of competition, practice and other special events, the University is exploring artificial turf,” says the opening statement in the survey.

Hale Stadium is 69 years old and seats 10,000. The Tigers split their home season between Hale and Nissan Stadium after getting renovations in 2012.

In 2021, TSU finished its season 5-6 with a conference record of 3-3 in George’s first season as head coach.

This upcoming season, the Tigers will be making a trip up to South Bend to face independent powerhouse Notre Dame on Sept. 3 to kickoff their season. It is set to air on NBC for a national audience.

“TSU and Notre Dame are two iconic programs that have helped shape today’s college athletics landscape,” shares Dr. Mikki Allen, TSU Director of Athletics. “We are setting the foundation for long-term success under Coach George’s leadership. The goal is that TSU will be a destination program for the next generation of student-athletes to come.”

This will mark the first time in program history the Irish will face a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) when the Tigers make their trip to South Bend for the Irish’s 2023 home opener.

Cumulus Media’s Westwood One, NFL Renew & Expand Longstanding Partnership

Cumulus Media’s Westwood One and the National Football League have extended and expanded their partnership with a new multi-year agreement to air audio broadcasts of NFL games.

Westwood One has been the official network audio broadcast partner of the NFL for more than 35 consecutive seasons and 50 years overall. Westwood One will continue to provide play-by-play coverage for Monday Night Football, Sunday Night Football, and Thursday Night Football. It will also cover Thanksgiving Day; select international games; the entire postseason, including the Wild Card and Divisional Playoffs, as well as AFC and NFC Championship games; and the Super Bowl.

Cumulus affiliate 104.5 The Zone has been the home for Titans radio since 2010. Legendary broadcaster Mike Keith has been the radio voice of the Titans for 22 seasons.

“What an honor it is for Westwood One to continue our multi-decade programming relationship with our iconic NFL partners by extending our exclusive network audio broadcast rights,” says Suzanne Grimes, President, Westwood One and EVP Corporate Marketing, Cumulus Media. “Equally exciting is the opportunity to further grow our NFL fan base by expanding our relationship to include digital distribution rights as well as innovative, new content opportunities.”

Under the terms of the new deal, Westwood One retains exclusive national broadcast radio distribution rights to the aforementioned games. The new and extended rights also state that games will be available free to fans on affiliated stations’ primary digital platforms and on the NFL App.

Westwood One will also offer expanded coverage of NFL tentpole events throughout the year, including NFL Honors, NFL Combine, NFL Draft, and NFL Schedule Release.

“We’re pleased to continue our valued, long-term partnership with Westwood One,” adds Brent Lawton, VP Media Strategy and Business Development. “Audio is an important platform for the NFL, and Westwood One has a long history of delivering excellent game broadcasts and other content. We’re excited to expand with Westwood One on to digital platforms, providing our fans even more ways to follow the sport they love.”

In addition to live game coverage and pregame and halftime shows, Westwood One Sports also offers feature programming such as NFL Insider, NFL Preview, NFL101, and NFL Fantasy Forecast.

Report: Governor Bill Lee Proposes $500 Million Towards New Titans Stadium

Nissan Stadium. Photo: By Donald Page/Tennessee Titans

As momentum towards the building of a new Titans stadium is growing, Tennessee governor Bill Lee has proposed giving the organization $500 million in bonds, according to a report by Axios Nate Rau.

According to the report, the money given to the Titans will come with a stipulation that the stadium will be domed, with no open-air stadium and no renovations.

These updates come after the Titans initially planned to renovate the stadium for an estimated $600 million, but the organization later discovered the estimate to renovate is close to $1 billion while building a new stadium is about $2 billion.

Mayor John Cooper has made it clear that the city will not be financially supporting the construction of the new stadium, according to the Axios report. Cooper also refused to use public funds to support the construction of the Nashville SC stadium when he initially took office back in 2020.

With a new stadium on the horizon, the Titans, as well as the city, will be aligned with venues like SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas and Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

The Titans aren’t the only team in line for a new stadium. The Buffalo Bills are receiving $850 million from the state of New York and Eerie County, as well as a 30-year lease from Governor Kathy Hochul, according to the Buffalo News. The NFL will also loan $200 million to Bills owners Kim and Terry Pegula.

Dates for construction to begin or complete have not been announced. Titans CEO Burke Nihill stated that the organization plans an 18-month design phase and a 30-to-31-month construction phase with the hopes to be completed by 2026, according to a report from the Nashville Post.

The next step is to find the additional funding for the stadium, which may be between $1 billion and $1.5 billion. Any and all decisions will need to be reviewed and approved by the Nashville Sports Authority.

Titans To Host Joint Practice With Buccaneers & Cardinals

Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Photo: Donald Page/Tennessee Titans

The Titans plan on hosting joint practices this summer during training camp and intend to invite both the Arizona Cardinals and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

This will be the second time Tom Brady will be visiting Nashville in a Titans joint practice. Tennessee hosted Brady and the New England Patriots for a joint practice in August of 2019. Head coach Mike Vrabel played alongside Brady with the Patriots from 2001-2009, winning three Super Bowls.

The Bucs were one of the best teams in the NFC in 2021-22, picking up the No. 2 seed for the playoffs. They went on to lose to the eventual Super Bowl champions, the Los Angeles Rams. Brady is returning to Tampa this season after announcing his retirement in February only to announce in March that he will be returning.

The Cardinals started off the season as one of the hottest teams in the league. They kicked off the season in Nashville and beat the Titans 38-13. Things slowed down for Arizona later on when they lost four of their last five regular season games.

Arizona lost to the Rams 34-11 in the NFC Wild Card game finishing the season with a record of 11-6.

“Not only is it an evaluation, but it is also preparation,” Vrabel said to TennesseeTitans.com’s Jim Wyatt. “These are good football teams. You saw what Arizona did to us the first week of the season [last year]. It’s a talented team, a fast team, and we know how good Tampa Bay is. These are opportunities for us to prepare and also evaluate our team.”

Dates and times for the joint pracitces have not been determined.

Titans Make Offensive Move, Trade For Wide Receiver Robert Woods

Pictured: Wide receiver Robert Woods. Photo: By Donald Page/Tennessee Titans

The Tennessee Titans are wasting no time building their offense, and have officially traded for LA Rams wide receiver Robert Woods.

Woods will replace the recently dropped Julio Jones as the Titans No. 1 receiver. In return, the Rams received the Titans 2023 sixth-round pick.

Woods just completed his ninth NFL season and has played in 125 career games with 115 starts while spending time with the Rams (2017-2021) and the Buffalo Bills (2013-2016). Woods has recorded 570 catches for 7,077 yards and 35 touchdowns throughout his career. He also has 74 career rushing attempts for 507 yards and five touchdowns.

In a press conference with the Titans today (March 23), Woods expressed his excitement to join the team and shared that the Titans were his top choice when the Rams asked where he’d like to be traded.

“I am joining a great offense, a great team,” Woods explained. “I am really excited to get to work with Ryan Tannehill, A.J. Brown, and everyone to get this thing rolling. We have a great back on the backfield, and you have to have a good running back to get the passing game going. I think Derrick Henry will complement what I do and what we’ll do in the passing game, especially with Tannehill and T.D. [Todd Downing] calling plays. It should be an exciting group.”

A two-time captain with the Rams, Woods totaled 367 receptions for 4,626 yards and 23 touchdowns in 68 games in five seasons in Los Angeles. Among all players (WR’s, TE’s, RB’s) with a minimum of 50 games between 2017-21, he ranked in the NFL’s top 12 with 5.4 receptions per game (12th), 68.0 receiving yards per game (12th) and 3.5 receiving first downs per game (11th). Among wide receivers during that span, his yards after the catch yardage total (1,992) ranked fifth in the NFL.

“I feel like this team has it all, and I feel like I can be that addition that can be a part of getting them over the hump,” Woods added. “They have been to the playoffs and now we have to finish it off and win a Super Bowl here.”

Woods is the latest offseason move the Titans have made. Tennessee has also agreed to terms with kicker Randy Bullock, tight end Austin Hooper, running back Dontrell Hilliard and cornerback Buster Skrine.

Titans Release Wide Receiver Julio Jones

The Tennessee Titans have released wide receiver Julio Jones after trading for him last June.

In paperwork filed to the league, the team listed him as a post-June 1 designation, which saves the Titans $9.5 million in the salary-cap.

“It looked like we were headed in the right direction and then had some setbacks along the way,” said Titans GM Jon Robinson at the NFL scouting combine. “Unfortunately, he wasn’t out there enough to really make an impact week after week. When he was out there, he helped our football team but it was one of those things that seemed like there was a nick every week that we were trying to work through. That’s a balance that you always work through as players’ careers start to get a little longer. You see some things and wonder if that was an isolated instance or if it’s going to be a repetitive thing.”

Jones played just one season with the Titans, but spent much of the time on the sideline with injuries. In just 10 regular season games for the Titans in 2021, Jones caught 31 passes for a career-low 434 yards and one touchdown. Jones also caught six passes for 62 yards in the team’s playoff loss against the Bengals.

In the 2020 season with the Falcons, Jones only played nine games due to an injury-riddled year.

A seven-time Pro Bowler, Jones tallied 12,896 receiving yards and 60 touchdowns in his 10-year career with the Falcons.

Teammate and fellow Titans wide receiver AJ Brown tweeted, “You have taught me a lot in a short period of time. I’m grateful to be apart of you journey. You’re the reason why I started to begin to play this game. A HOF receiver is what you are and what I strive to be one day. Thank you, I’ll take it from here! Salute!”

The Titans have now released five players this offseason including Rodger Saffold, Kendall Lamm, Darrynton Evans and Jackrabbit Jenkins.

Titans Resign Center Ben Jones & Tight End Geoff Swaim

Ben Jones. Photo: Courtesy of the Tennessee Titans

The Titans have resigned center Ben Jones and tight end Geoff Swaim as Tennessee continues to make roster moves before the new league year begins on Wednesday, March 16.

Jones, a key member of the team’s offensive line, was given a two-year, $14 million contract, according to ESPN. Jones has played 10 years in the NFL, spending the past six seasons with the Titans. He’s only missed one start for the Titans since arriving in 2016, after playing his first four NFL seasons with the Texans.

Tennessee signed Swaim to a one-year contract extension. He played in 16 regular season games for the Titans in 2021, recording a career-high 31 catches for 210 yards and three touchdowns. Since joining the Titans in 2020, Swaim has totaled 40 catches for 293 yards, four scores in 26 games, and 24 starts.

Along with these signings, the Titans announced the release of cornerback Janoris “Jackrabbit” Jenkins. By releasing him, the team has saved $7 million.

Vanderbilt Football Promotes Nick Howell To Defensive Coordinator

Nick Howell. Photo: Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

Vanderbilt head football coach Clark Lea has announced the promotion of Nick Howell to defensive coordinator.

Howell was hired in January as the team’s defensive backs coach after spending the previous six seasons as the defensive coordinator at Virginia. During his time there, the Cavaliers received a bowl bid in four seasons, highlighted by an ACC Coastal championship and Orange Bowl invitation in 2019.

“Nick brings a wealth of experience in the role of defensive coordinator, but more importantly, he is skilled at building an environment to drive the style of defense we want to see at Vanderbilt,” says Lea. “Nick will be an excellent culture builder for us and he has already started building relationships with our men. I’m excited to have Nick leading our defense and we’re looking forward to watching the unit progress under his direction.”

In his first two seasons at Virginia, the Cavaliers produced three first-team All-ACC selections in Quin Blanding, ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year Brenton Nelson and Juan Thornhill. Linebacker Micah Kiser won the Campbell Trophy after leading the ACC in tackles for a third straight season.

Prior to his time with UVA, Howell spent nine seasons at BYU, rising up the ranks from defensive intern to defensive coordinator and helping the Cougars to eight bowl games. Howell’s final BYU defense in 2015 ranked sixth nationally in sacks per game, while his 2014 unit finished 20th nationally in rushing defense.

Howell got his coaching start at the high school level, serving as head coach and defensive coordinator at three Utah high schools before being hired at BYU. He graduated from Weber State in 2005 and received a master’s degree from the University of Phoenix in 2007.

The Commodores open the regular season Aug. 27, at Hawai’i before the home slate begins Sept. 3 against Elon.