Volunteers "appreciative" to be in TaxSlayer Bowl


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Tennessee and Iowa — which will meet in the 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl — are vastly different football programs.

The Volunteers are on the upswing, eclipsing last year’s win total of five games by winning six games this season — and with it comes an opportunity for another win under second-year head coach Butch Jones.

Conversely, Iowa is looking to end a disappointing season on a high note while head coach Kirk Ferentz wraps up his 16th season at the helm.

But one thing the two programs share is unfamiliarity with each other. The two programs have only met twice before, splitting the games.  

That doesn’t mean there’s an absence of respect, of course.

“Iowa’s been a program that I have followed very closely for a number of years,” Jones said on the TaxSlayer Bowl teleconference Sunday night. “I really, really respect the job that Coach [Ferentz] has done.

“He’s been very consistent. They’re one of the programs that we model our football program here at Tennessee in terms of toughness and a mentality, which they have in their football program.”

Whereas Ferentz noted he had heard about the announcement just before the teleconference call, TaxSlayer Bowl President Rick Catlett said he had been in talks with Tennessee Athletics Director Dave Hart for several weeks, hoping the Volunteers would play in the bowl.

Catlett added similar talks were had with Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta.

“This day was like being an expectant father,” Hart said. “We’re just waiting on the final result in finding out where we were going.”

Tennessee enters its matchup with Iowa on the heels of a 6-6 regular season. This will be the first bowl game it will participate in since the 2010 Music City Bowl.

The Volunteers also have staff on board with experience in the TaxSlayer Bowl, which was formerly known as the Gator Bowl.

When Hart was the athletics director at Florida State, the Seminoles competed in the then-Gator Bowl twice, in 2002 and 2005.

“You can expect a first-class experience,” Hart said. “Without doubt. The people, the event, the state, the setting — it’s a first-class experience in every way.”

While Iowa’s camp said the opportunity to play a postseason game is exciting, Tennessee actually displayed its excitement moments after learning the news.

Still riding the high note of winning its regular-season finale against Vanderbilt, Jones found out around 5:30 p.m. Sunday about the TaxSlayer Bowl invitation. In response, he called an quick meeting with his players.

“It was just very fitting to have the opportunity to tell them of what a great opportunity they would have,” Jones said. “It’s very fitting for our seniors, with everything that they’ve been through in our football program, and to be playing in such a historic bowl game such as this.

“I’m very appreciative for everyone. It was a great, great day for us.”

Follow @JacobSheyko for updates, news, and analysis about the Iowa football team.

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