Tennessee is packing up, heading out of town and giving its training camp a professional feel.
At least for a week anyway, and only for this season.
Derek Dooley has previously looked into the logistics of taking his team to a site away from campus for some August practices to both promote chemistry and keep the focus on football, though the Vols coach eventually elected to stick around after analyzing the options in the past. But perhaps that previous research came in handy with the possibility for distraction looming during the move-in process to the new Football Training Center, which prompted Dooley to schedule a week of practices at Milligan College in Elizabethton as he prepares for his third season with the program.
“The week in Johnson City will provide a unique opportunity to build team unity and limit distractions,” Dooley said in a school release. “The opportunity to train away from campus also allows for a more efficient move into our new Football Training Center and will reduce the wear and tear on our practice fields.”
The turf at UT will be saved that abuse starting on Aug. 9 and wrapping up on Aug. 15, dates that line up with the projected schedule to move all the operations and offices for the football program into its sparkling new facility from the Neyland-Thompson Sports Complex. The week without punishment could potentially save UT from having to re-sod Haslam Field in the middle of the season — which school spokesman Jimmy Stanton suggested might help offset the cost of renting facilities at Milligan. An exact price tag for the road trip aren’t expected to be available until after it’s over.
Regardless of the cost, shifting workouts from their own campus to one in Elizabethton is designed to make it easier to focus for both the Vols and the facilities staff, with the latter trying to wrap up the reorganization while the players, coaches and most of the support staff are gone.
But since moving into a new building isn’t going to be an annual occurrence, Dave Hart indicated that practicing elsewhere during camp won’t be either.
“The decision to train off-campus this year is not only driven by the factor of our move into our new Football Training Center, but also by the opportunity to maximize the ability of our coaching staff to become further acclimated to one another and the team in a very controlled environment,” the UT athletic director said in the release. “I support Derek’s decision and feel strongly that we need to make this investment in our football program as we prepare to open our season in Atlanta (against North Carolina State on Aug. 31).
“This is a one-time situation, and there are no plans to train off-site at any time in the future.”