Hello, Vol Nation. We're nearing the end of August—one of the most exciting times of the year.
As we prepare to embark on a new academic and athletic year—celebrating UT's 225th anniversary—it's my hope that all of our teams aim to build on the positive momentum generated by our top-25 finish in the Learfield IMG College Directors' Cup this past year.
That's a credit to our incredible student-athletes and our outstanding roster of head coaches and their respective staffs. But every single day you either get better or you get worse—you never stay the same.
I'm thrilled to be working closely with our new Chancellor, Donde Plowman, an outstanding leader who is already impacting our campus in significant ways. I'm also excited to help welcome a new freshman class to the university this week. Members of this year's freshman class represent 26 countries, 46 states and 88 of the 95 counties in Tennessee. More than 20 percent of the class are first-generation college students. I look forward to seeing great—and loud—student crowds at our various athletic events throughout the coming year.
The pads are popping on the football practice field, Neyland Stadium is set to host eight games this fall, our soccer program earned its highest-ever preseason ranking at No. 10, volleyball is ranked in the top 20 and the Doug Dickey Hall of Fame Plaza is nearing completion. There is a heck of a lot of optimism here on Rocky Top.
Football season kicks off next Saturday, Sept. 1, when we host Georgia State at Neyland Stadium at 3:30 p.m. ET. As was recently announced, we'll implement alcohol sales at football beginning with the BYU game on Sept. 7. I'm confident this new fan experience enhancement will not detract from the safe, positive and family-friendly atmosphere that Neyland Stadium has long been known for.
There is a lot happening the weekend we host Georgia. Not only will we dedicate the Dickey Plaza that Friday, Oct. 4, but we'll be hosting Coach Dickey's 1969 SEC Championship team that weekend as well.
Sales of our new "Vol Pass" ticket option for football season continue to go well, and a limited number remain available at AllVols.com.
Our soccer team opened its regular season with a 3-1 win over Fordham last night. That was be the first of 10 home matches at Regal Soccer Stadium this fall. It's our hope that the sport's surge in popularity from the recent Women's World Cup carries over to the collegiate season and results in some great crowds to see our women's soccer team in action.
After an incredible debut season under head coach Eve Rackham, volleyball looks to build on its second-place SEC finish this year. Single-game and season tickets are available now at AllVols.com. The squad has a home exhibition vs. High Point on Saturday, Aug. 24, before opening the season against Illinois at Thompson-Boling Arena on Friday, Aug. 30. That sounds like a great night to set a new attendance record!
Fall is also an important time for our cross country, rowing, golf and tennis squads. They host a very limited number of home events this fall. Below is a complete list so you can make plans to attend:
Cross Country | Tennessee Triangular | Aug. 30 at Cherokee Farm Cross Country Course
Women's Golf | Mercedes-Benz Collegiate | Sept. 16-17 at Cherokee Country Club
Rowing | Secret City Head Race | Oct. 20 in Oak Ridge
Swimming & Diving | Orange & White Intrasquad Meet | Sept. 20 at Allan Jones Aquatic Center
Women's Tennis | Tennessee Fall Invite | Oct. 26-28 at Goodfriend Tennis Center
The swimming & diving team also hosts four additional home events in November, including dual meets against Purdue, Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt.
After much anticipation, our golf programs have moved into the beautiful new Blackburn-Furrow Clubhouse at the Mack and Jonnie Day Golf Practice Facility. We'll be dedicating the clubhouse during a special ceremony on Friday, Sept. 13.
Our men's golf team has put together a fantastic schedule of tournaments for this year. Two of their first three events provide opportunities for the squad to defend championships from a season ago. Women's golf, meanwhile, has impressively bolstered an already talented roster that advanced all the way to the NCAA Championships last spring.
And of course, the rest of our winter and spring sports are hard at work and wasting no time preparing for their own successful seasons.
Beginning today, Big Orange Fridays are back. You can receive special discounts all around town just by wearing your orange. Visit BigOrangeFriday.com for a list of participating sponsors and discounts.
Looking back on the past several months, our "Summer of Smokey" outreach tour made it to all 95 counties throughout the state of Tennessee, covering more than 7,000 miles and interacting with more than 18,900 Big Orange fans along the way. It was a fun and unique way to deliver the Rocky Top experience to the entire state. Kudos to our Fan Experience staff for their execution of this successful initiative.
I mentioned earlier the optimism and excitement that is in the air. I want to invite each and every one of you to come experience that on Rocky Top this fall. Check out the changes and progress around campus and support our teams. If you've never been to a soccer or volleyball match, give it a try. We can't be the type of athletic program we aspire to be without you.
Thank you for all you do, and let's have a great semester!