The Florida Gators announced on Wednesday that the program has agreed to open up the 2017 season against the Michigan Wolverines at AT&T Stadium – formerly known as Cowboy’s Stadium – as part of the 2017 Cowboys Classic in Arlington, TX.
When it kicks off against Michigan on Sept. 2, 2017, Florida will be playing its first non-conference regular season game outside the state of Florida since 1991.
“You don’t get these opportunities very often,” said UF athletic director Jeremy Foley in a school release. “Our schedule has been pretty consistent through the years. We were presented this opportunity and just thought it was something that our fans would embrace, our program would embrace. It would give us great national visibility. Obviously, a very difficult ballgame against a storied program – that excites us.”
Though a broadcast partner has not yet been signed for the showdown, which will kick off in prime time, it will no doubt be an extremely attractive national matchup. More than 90,000 fans will be able to attend with each school getting 25,000 tickets to divvy up.
The Wolverines announced in their release that they will be the away team with the Gators set as the home team. The Big 12 will send a crew to officiate the game between teams from the Southeastern Conference and Big 10.
Florida and Michigan have not squared off on the gridiron since the 2008 Capital One Bowl. The Wolverines topped the Gators 41-35 in former head coach Lloyd Carr’s last game and the final contest of Tim Tebow’s Heisman Trophy-winning season.
UF also fell to UM 38-30 in the 2003 Outback Bowl.
As it turns out, the schools’ basketball teams squared off in the same venue as part of the 2013 NCAA Tournament last March.
The one drawback for the Gators in scheduling an additional neutral-site games is the removal of a record-friendly, revenue-generating home contest from their schedule. Foley cautioned this will not be a regular occurrence.
“I think when you are presented with unique opportunities you need to look at it for your fans’ sake, for your program’s sake,” he said. “It’s something we will not do on a consistent basis because we like playing seven home games. Seven home games are obviously important to our program, important to the city of Gainesville.
“It will be very much the exception, not the rule, but to sit here and totally close the door on these opportunities just doesn’t make sense.”
He added: “This is a great opportunity to expose the University of Florida nationally, playing one of the greatest programs in the history of college football, I think a tremendous trip for our fans. We just haven’t done much of this, certainly as long as I’ve been athletic director. I think there are a lot of positives that come out of it.”