Knoxville's ESPN football market a top 10 staple

Smokey IX walks down Peyton Manning Pass with his handlers during the Vol Walk outside Neyland Stadium before the Tennessee Vols' matchup against the Georgia State Panthers Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012.  (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer, Knoxville News Sentinel

Smokey IX walks down Peyton Manning Pass with his handlers during the Vol Walk outside Neyland Stadium before the Tennessee Vols' matchup against the Georgia State Panthers Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

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The Tennessee football team entered the Top 25 this week for the first time since 2008, but Knoxville's college football television fans have maintained a spot in the top 10 since at least 2002 when the city became a metered market.

Knoxville came in at No. 10 among the 56 metered markets in the nation for ESPN college football games last season.

As impressive as that might seem, Knoxville had ranked in the top five every other year dating back to 2002 — except for 2005 — when it ranked sixth.

Knoxville has ranked as high as No. 2 on five occasions, most recently in 2009, when Lane Kiffin was the Vols coach.

But if Knoxville's television market share for Tennessee's ESPNU opener against N.C. State in the Chik-Fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome on Aug. 31 serves as an indicator, Knoxville figures to be headed back up in the ESPN college football television market rankings.

The Vols' 35-21 win averaged 1,491,000 viewers (based on a 1.3 average and 945,000 households) and ranks as ESPNU's most-viewed college football game ever.

"One of the most impressive qualities which

makes the University of Tennessee such a special place is the loyalty of our fan base,'' UT vice chancellor/director of athletics Dave Hart said. "We are blessed to have one of the most passionate fan bases in both college football and all of sports, and their support plays a major role in our pursuit of excellence.''

Knoxville's ESPN ranking is sure to get a boost from Saturday's game between the No. 23 Vols (2-0) and No. 18 Florida (2-0), as Tennessee will be making its first appearance on ESPN since the 2010 season.

Last season marked the first time since 2005 that Tennessee did not play a football game on ESPN (though last season it appeared on ESPN2 five times and ESPNU once).

Stephanie DiVito, director, audience research at ESPN, said the East Tennessee market has been a strong one for the cable giant.

"Knoxville is a college football market; they move up or down depending on how well Tennessee is playing,'' she said. "Knoxville is above average for college football and college basketball. In 2011, it ranked 10th in college basketball with a 1.8 rating — the average rating (nationally) was 0.9, so that's double.''

DiVito said Knoxville also ranked above average for NASCAR, coming in 14th nationally.

The 56 metered markets represent approximately 70 percent of the nation's population.

When Knoxville first became a metered market in 2002, ESPN covered 56 college football games. That number has increased every year since, with ESPN doing 78 games last season.

Mike Griffith covers Tennessee athletics. Follow him on twitter at http://twitter.com/MikeGriffith32

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Comments » 21

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

Do us proud Knoxville, I'll be cheering my arse off in West Tennessee..GBO!!

peerlessvolfan writes:

I'll be yelling in Michigan!

Fryinpansvols writes:

Hopefully with a win Saturday night Tennessee will get more games on National televison and ESPN. GBO!

Tau_of_Tennessee writes:

I would be in Knoxville this weekend if not for a work project to finish up. I'm stuck in Jacksonville, FL. I'll have to tune in via ESPN.

Y'all have fun up there!

VOLinMAHWAH writes:

Yollerin' y'all in New Jersey!!!!!

UTengr36 writes:

Cheering from Houston, TX. I really miss being in the great state of Tennessee.

govols26 writes:

I'll be sporting all orange here on Purdue's campus.

Go Vols! Can't wait to watch the game!

snafu14u#241639 writes:

Portland,OR will be seeing some Vol Gear starting Friday @ Smitty's Golf. The Duck fans always have a remark. They think their playing us this week. Although they will see Da'Rick and we won't. Go Vols in the Great North West. BonzaiVol

azorange writes:

Big Orange loud and Big Orange proud in Arizona! Go Vols!

kwvolsfan writes:

Singing ROCKY TOP at the top of my lungs, with the orange/white pom-poms from St. Louis, Mo.

Volunteer-Varmint writes:

Stomping through the floor of my RV in Fort Worth! These people around here will be learning Rocky Top until I can's sing anymore.

Go Vols!

I'll be cheering for THE REAL UT all night!

mr_dave_n_sc#366677 writes:

Dang, I'll be in the air over the Atlantic, flying to Ireland. Hopefully will have a brew to celebrate in Dublin when I get there.

hueypilot writes:

in response to Tau_of_Tennessee:

I would be in Knoxville this weekend if not for a work project to finish up. I'm stuck in Jacksonville, FL. I'll have to tune in via ESPN.

Y'all have fun up there!

JAX based myself tau. Do you go to the alum view site. (whiskey river this year) or watch at home? I'm in PV but make it to a few games a yr like this one

615VOL writes:

I'll be in LL row 18 watching Dooley's first signature win...I'll be sure to get the wife to leave the TV on ESPN before she leaves for work Saturday though!

Chappy writes:

And yet ESPN takes every opportunity to slam The Vols and Knoxville.

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

MilitaryBrat writes:

in response to mr_dave_n_sc#366677:

Dang, I'll be in the air over the Atlantic, flying to Ireland. Hopefully will have a brew to celebrate in Dublin when I get there.

Just get that beer, at the Guinness brewery!

GO VOLS!!!

mbible1utk#324980 writes:

Moral of the story, we sit on our @%$@%# and watch TV.... not good :-P

Olddogsrule writes:

in response to CoveredInOrange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Lizzard DBs will be huntin their jock straps all evening!

Volunteerfan74 writes:

ESPN looks down on U.T. , yet calls our conference the toughest nation wide. Well the last time I looked , we were in the SEC! Therefore Corso can choose his gators and watch Bray pass all day to a 35 - 14 victory!!! GO BIG O !!!!!

VOLFAN4LIFEgovols writes:

in response to CoveredInOrange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

LOL 55 to 6!!!!!!!!!!!! Gators couldnt score 55 in the 1st 2 games lol only 27 vs BG and you think they will against the Vols LOL!!!!!! Corso will be sporting Smokey 2mrw and I suspect you will be covered in orange to hide your embarassment when your gators get stomped in Knoxville

VOLFAN4LIFEgovols writes:

in response to Volunteerfan74:

ESPN looks down on U.T. , yet calls our conference the toughest nation wide. Well the last time I looked , we were in the SEC! Therefore Corso can choose his gators and watch Bray pass all day to a 35 - 14 victory!!! GO BIG O !!!!!

Ya I hate ESPN ever since the College Gameday announcer said all vol fans was trailor trash.

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