UT sees rise in football season tickets, expects to top 60,000 for opener

he University of Tennessee expects to surpass 60,000 football season ticket holders for the first time in three years, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported Thursday.

It is far from the 76,000-plus of the early 2000s but it is a positive trend for a program that has not been to a bowl game since 2010.

As of Wednesday, Tennessee had sold about 59,000 football season tickets, senior associate athletic director for external operations Chris Fuller told the News Sentinel.

Fuller expects to pass the 60,000 mark before the Vols kick off against Utah State at Neyland on Aug. 31.

UT hasn’t sold 60,000 season tickets since it sold 63,362 in 2011, according to records Fuller provided to the News Sentinel.

“That still leaves us considerably below our high-water point,” Fuller said. “But it really is a testament to how strong people feel about Coach (Butch) Jones and his staff. I think they’ve gotten really fired up about our recruiting efforts. I think it’s also a testament to people on staff here.”

The slide in season ticket sales began late in Phillip Fulmer’s tenure as head coach and continued with his string of successors, Lane Kiffin (2009), Derek Dooley (2010-12) and Butch Jones, whose recruiting and public appearances have renewed excitement for the program.

According to the report, UT last topped 70,000 in season ticket sales in 2008. That figure dipped below 60,000 in 2012. There were 57,499 season-ticket holders last season.

The Volunteers open the season with home games against Utah State (7 p.m., Aug. 31) and Arkansas State (noon, Sept. 6). Their first SEC home game is Oct. 4 against Florida.