KNOXVILLE — Challenger, an American bald eagle, will swoop down into Neyland Stadium Saturday as the University of Tennessee Volunteers football team hosts the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
The eagle is set to make its entrance at the conclusion of the national anthem.
Challenger, a 16-year-old bald eagle cared for at the American Eagle Foundation in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., is the nation’s first bald eagle trained to free-fly into sports stadiums.
“This proud symbol of American patriotism reminds us all of our heritage and our future,” Philip Scheurer, vice president for operations, said Wednesday.
This will be the second patriotic flyover of the football season. Prior to the Oct. 23 Tennessee-Alabama game, four F-15E fighter jets flew in formation over the stadium.
Kickoff for the CBS-televised event is set for 3:30 p.m. ET. Gates will open at 1:30 p.m.
Fans who obtain their tickets from sources other than the UT athletics ticket office are urged to closely inspect them, Scheurer said.
“Occasionally people purchase tickets from street vendors, then are denied entrance to the stadium because their tickets are counterfeit,” he said.
Normal security measures will be in place Saturday. Backpacks and other large parcels will not be allowed inside the stadium, and cannot be stored outside the stadium gates.
Cell phones, small radios with headphones, seat cushions without arms and infant diaper bags accompanied by an infant are allowed, Scheurer said.
All bags and purses are subject to search.
The traditional Vol Walk to the stadium will begin at Gibbs Hall at 1:15 p.m., and the Pride of the Southland marching band will leave the music building at 1:50 p.m.
Streets around Neyland Stadium will be closed 30 minutes before kickoff, with directional traffic flows before and after the game.
Knoxville Area Transit will begin shuttle service from the Civic Coliseum parking garage to the stadium at 12:30 p.m.