Alabama football coach Nick Saban agreed to speak in Athens, Tenn., on June 11 at a chamber of commerce event.
In Cleveland, 30 miles down Interstate 75, there’s some new competition four days earlier.
Tennessee coach Butch Jones has agreed to speak to the Bradley Sunrise Rotary group at a charity event on June 7.
Coincidence? Not quite.
The organizers of the “Cleveland Rocks Butch Jones” rally say they plan to outdraw Saban’s event so that Jones will win the “battle of the speaking coaches.”
Jones told the News Sentinel he doesn’t view his appearance as a slap at Saban.
“If I can, I’ll do anything in the state of Tennessee,” Jones said. “Cleveland’s a big part of us.”
The event will be at Bradley County High School and will be emceed by former UT quarterback Erik Ainge. Tickets are not yet on sale. Tennessee Sports Radio said in a release that tickets will eventually be available on its website.
As of last month, the Athens Chamber said roughly 1,000 tickets had been sold to the Saban event, rivaling the largest crowd in the group’s history.
The decision to invite Saban prompted backlash from some fans on message boards and talk radio.
Rob Preston, the chamber’s president, said he’s a Tennessee fan and that he expects Saban to speak more about leadership than football during his talk.
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.