TAMPA, Fla. - Tennessee is expecting to pay for 500 to 700 unused tickets for the Outback Bowl, according to UT athletic director Mike Hamilton.
The Vols have sold approximately 7,000 tickets to Tuesday's game against Wisconsin, UT's second consecutive bowl trip to Tampa.
UT used approximately 1,500 tickets for its official party and donated 2,500 tickets to the United Way's agencies in Tampa. Hamilton is expecting a few hundred tickets to be purchased by last-minute shoppers. He last checked on the total just before Christmas.
The SEC underwrites the cost of up to 3,000 unused bowl tickets for each conference team. Most of those went to the United Way.
The Vols were allocated 12,000 tickets as part of the SEC's bowl agreement with the Outback. Typically, schools are only responsible for purchasing 11,000 tickets from the Outback, but that allocation is raised by 1,000 as compensation for a bowl game taking the SEC championship game loser, which often doesn't travel as well as it traditionally might.
"I'm a believer that there is an effect coming off a championship game loss," Hamilton said.
He should know. In the last seven seasons, the Vols have faced that scenario three times: 2001, 2004 and 2007.
"In each of those cases, we've sold less tickets than we've sold in previous years at those bowls," Hamilton said. "I always felt like that (SEC championship game loss) wasn't as big of factor, but having experienced it personally three times, I think that is a reality."
Hamilton understands fans' financial plight, having to make two trips in less than a month. UT had well over 50,000 fans in the Georgia Dome when the Vols played LSU for the SEC championship.
Hamilton said he expects plenty of orange-clad faithful for Tuesday's game, many of which will secure tickets through secondary markets, such as the Internet or street vendors.
"I think you'll see a lot more Tennessee fans in the stands," Hamilton said.
Forewarning?: Offensive lineman Anthony Parker insists he's not thinking about the decision he'll make about entering the NFL draft following the Outback Bowl. However, the junior with consistently sore knees, expects that his medical history will be a factor in his decision.
"I think it will," Parker said. "You know I've got the whole knee issue. Who knows how long I'll be able to play?"
French Connection: UT tight ends Brad and Jeff Cottam's grandfather, Roger French, coached on Wisconsin's staff 1966-69.
French also made coaching stops at then-Memphis State, Minnesota and Northern Iowa before embarking on a 21-year stint as an offensive assistant at BYU.
"Once we got into football," Jeff Cottam said, "he gave us a lot of tips and stuff, what he thought we should do."
Bowl Bounty: UT players received a $350 Best Buy gift certificate, a Fossil watch and a Sony Digital Camera, valued at more than $300, as bowl gifts for participating in the Outback.
"We got a lot of good stuff," receiver Austin Rogers said.
The booty also is a way for some players to make some extra money.
"Quite a few guys probably keep them," Rogers said of the gifts, "but I know some guys that try to sell it because they don't want the camera or they don't want some stuff."
Valued Visitor: Tennessee walk-on linebacker Shane Reveiz visited practice on Saturday. The former Farragut High School standout will have surgery to remove a potentially life-threatening growth on his heart.
Reveiz is expected to undergo surgery sometime during the first week of January. If all goes well, he could potentially be able to return to the team in August.
Sizing Up Speed: With LSU facing Ohio State in the national championship game, the national media has focused mightily on the time-honored cliche that SEC athletes are significantly faster than Big Ten athletes. UT coach Phillip Fulmer said he doesn't completely subscribe to that theory.
"I don't think there's a tremendous amount of difference at all. … We may have a few more (fast) guys possibly on a roster, but you put 11 on 11, there's good players on both sides of the field," he said.
Broadcast In Tampa: The Vol Network's "StadiumCast" frequency for the the Outback Bowl in Tampa will be 87.9 FM. Fans attending the game can tune into the Vol Network broadcast at Raymond James Stadium by bringing a portable radio.