Bristol Motor Speedway is ready for ETSU's return to Southern Conference (SoCon) football as the host site of the Buccaneers season opener against Western Carolina, a game that is sure to be a community-wide gathering.

ETSU, which is playing a full SoCon schedule this upcoming season, will host the Catamounts on Saturday, Sept. 17 at the Last Great Colosseum. The game will take place one weekend after the Pilot Flying J Battle at Bristol featuring the University of Tennessee and Virginia Tech. The football games are just a few of the events that make Bristol a true multi-sport complex.

"It's exciting for us to support ETSU's return to football and offer these athletes an experience they’ll never forget," said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager of BMS. Having the Bucs at Bristol is our way of joining hands with the local community in ETSU PRIDE while generating visibility for their new football program.

"Backing this game also falls in line with one of our key initiatives called; It’s MY Bristol, Baby!  The campaign encourages local residents and businesses to feel a sense of ownership - a part of the family - of this legendary Speedway. Naturally, hosting a home game for ETSU, an extended family member, just makes sense for us and will be memorable for regional football enthusiasts for years to come."

ETSU football head coach Carl Torbush and the Buccaneers know the significance of playing at Bristol Motor Speedway and are excited to be part of this historic event.

"We are very excited about this opportunity to play at Bristol Motor Speedway," said Torbush. “We are very appreciative of Jerry Caldwell and everyone at BMS in making this happen. They are great supporters and friends of our program. It has taken a lot of hard work from those at BMS, ETSU, Western Carolina and the Southern Conference in putting all this together and we are thrilled to be making this announcement. Scott Carter and our administrative staff have also put in a lot of hard work in helping making this possible.  Not only will this will be a historic event for the schools, but also our fans, the conference and FCS Football. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our players, coaches, staff, university and fans.”

Western Carolina head coach Mark Speir grew up in NASCAR country, so he’s looking forward to renewing the rivalry with ETSU in such a storied venue such as Bristol Motor Speedway.

"We are first of all very excited about the renewal of the Southern Conference football rivalry between Western Carolina and ETSU,” said Speir. “We're looking forward to being the first SoCon team to welcome Buccaneer football back to the SoCon - and to be able to do so in such a storied American sports venue like Bristol Motor Speedway is an awesome opportunity for both of our programs. Bristol is an iconic emblem in one of America's most popular sports, NASCAR. It's especially cool for me, a guy from Kannapolis, N.C., who grew up in the heart of NASCAR country and has been a fan all my life, to have our team compete on that stage in what will be transformed into college football's largest stadium. This is a great opportunity for our program and our fans."

ETSU Season Ticket Holders will receive a general admission ticket to the game at BMS with their season ticket package. Reserved seating upgrades and parking will be available when purchasing ETSU season tickets. If you are an ETSU season ticket holder and have questions, please call the ETSU Ticket Office at 423-439-4828. 

An allotment of ETSU student tickets will be available through the university at a later date.

Other guests planning to attend may place a deposit through the BMS Ticket Office at 866-415-4158 or 423-BRISTOL.

Early bird ticket prices are $25 for General Admission, $40 for Reserved seating and $55 for Battlefield seats on the track near the sidelines. Groups of 50 or more may call BMS about special pricing.

Youth tickets for children 18 and under and students from other schools with official I.D. may purchase tickets through BMS for $15.   

The Buccaneers are coming off their first season since 2003, playing as a FCS Independent in 2015. Meanwhile, Western Carolina went 7-4 overall, 5-2 in SoCon play last year.

ETSU and Western Carolina have played 45 times with the first game of the series being contested in 1932.