''We certainly love the national exposure, but this is something we're doing for our fans,'' Hamilton told The Tennessean. ''Just as we acted in their behalf to get that first game (UNLV) at night, we acted in their behalf to get this game during the day.''
Bravo! Night games are a good idea in September, when players (and fans) face the risk of heat stroke due to prolonged exposure to a blazing midday sun. But night games are a lousy idea in November, when fans must spend four hours shivering in freezing temperatures.
Tennessee hasn't played a night game this late in the season since the Vols hosted Ole Miss on Nov.12, 1983. I had a chance to attend that game for free but stayed home because (1) I had no desire to sit through four hours in freezing temperatures and (2) I had no desire to be stuck in post-game traffic until the wee hours of Sunday morning.
Later, I was glad I did. The temperature dipped below freezing that night and Ole Miss upset the Vols 13-10, knocking UT out of a shot at the Cotton Bowl. Vol athletics director Bob Woodruff got so many complaints from irate fans in the days that followed that he said he would never agree to another night game that late in the season. Successor Doug Dickey honored that vow, and now Mike Hamilton is doing the same.
Again ... bravo!
The 2004 Vols already played night games against Nevada-Las Vegas, Florida and Auburn in order to get national TV exposure. They also agreed to play Louisiana Tech at night for the benefit of a pay-per-view company. That's enough night games for one season.
Hamilton admitted that another factor in his decision to decline the ESPN offer was the fact Kentucky returned thousands of tickets from its alotment and that ''I think we'll have a better chance to sell those tickets for a day game.''
In addition, there's still a chance the UT-UK game could be televised. Jefferson Pilot Sports is showing some interest in purchasing broadcast rights to it.
Whether the game winds up on television or not, I applaud Mike Hamilton's decision. The fans pay the freight for the UT football program, and they don't deserve to freeze their butts off just so the SEC can make a few more bucks off ESPN.