Big news for UT hoops fans!

The University of Tennessee basketball program won't stand pat under new head coach Buzz Peterson. The Vols dropped three bombshells at a Thursday news conference ... (1) lower ticket prices, (2) orange and white checkerboard baselines and (3) a non-conference home schedule that includes three ''name'' programs.

The new ticket prices should boost home attendance, which has been sagging in recent years. Tickets for exhibition games have been reduced from $8 to $5 each. Regular-season tickets have been lowered from $14 to $8 each. This does not include games included in the Big Game Pack. Season tickets will be $204 in level 300 and $234 in levels 100 and 200. The Big Game Pack (Jan. 8 vs. Kentucky, Jan. 25 vs. Louisville, Feb. 15 vs. Florida and Feb. 22 vs. Alabama) will cost just $48, down from $56 a year ago. In addition, groups of 30 or more will receive reserved seats for half price ($4 each). This rate will not be available for games included in the Big Game Pack, however.

Peterson unveiled a drawing of the new floor design, and the checkerboard baselines are a dramatic change. In addition ''Tennessee'' will be spelled out at midcourt in huge block lettering. The new Vol coach said prospects mention the checkerboard end zones at Neyland Stadium everywhere he goes, so he decided the orange and white checkerboard needs to become a part of the basketball team's image, as well.

As for the 2002-2003 schedule, it's going to be interesting. In addition to the usual Southeastern Conference powers, Tennessee will play Louisville, New Mexico and UMass at home, while playing visits to Texas A&M, Georgia Tech and West Virginia.

Here's the complete schedule (home games in all caps): Nov. 8 EA SPORTS (exh)

Nov. 14 WORLDWIDE (exh)

Nov. 22 GARDNER-WEBB

Nov. 25 VIRGINIA MILITARY

Dec. 4 at Texas A&M

Dec. 15 Georgia Tech (Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Classic)

Dec. 17 CHARLESTON SOUTHERN

Dec. 21 at West Virginia

Dec. 23 WESTERN CAROLINA

Dec. 30 UT-MARTIN

Jan. 4 NEW MEXICO

Jan. 8 KENTUCKY

Jan. 11 at Ole Miss

Jan. 15 at Florida

Jan. 18 VANDERBILT

Jan. 22 at Georgia

Jan. 25 LOUISVILLE

Jan. 29 SOUTH CAROLINA

Feb. 1 at Auburn

Feb. 5 MASSACHUSETTS

Feb. 8 GEORGIA

Feb. 12 at Arkansas

Feb. 15 FLORIDA

Feb. 19 at South Carolina

Feb. 22 ALABAMA

Feb. 26 at Kentucky

March 1 LOUISIANA STATE

March 5 MISSISSIPPI STATE

March 8 at Vanderbilt

March 13-16 SEC Tournament (New Orleans)


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