Posted: 3:38 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013
By Phillip Heilman
The Gators will kick off the 2017 football season in a unique way.
Florida will open the season with a non-conference matchup against Michigan on Sept. 2 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, in the 2017 Cowboys Classic, the school announced Thursday.
“You don’t get these opportunities very often,” Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said in a 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 stories program — that excites us.”
Choosing to play Michigan to open the season goes against the program’s typical scheduling philosophy and could make for a very difficult season. In addition to a grueling SEC slate that could expand to nine games by then, Florida will have matchups against Michigan and Florida State — two programs that are perennially among the best in the country.
The Gators have not played a non-conference opponent from outside the state of Florida since losing to Syracuse in 1991. However, the prestige of the opportunity was too much to ignore.
Michigan opened the 2012 season against Alabama in the Cowboys Classic in a game that drew more than 90,000 fans and garnered heavy national attention. AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, is a $1.2 billion venue that was opened in 2009 and is considered one of the marquee stadiums in all of the world.
The stadium was site of the Super Bowl in 2011 and is scheduled to host the 2014 NCAA men’s Final Four and the first college football national championship game under the new playoff format in 2015.
Foley said scheduling this type of matchup 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.” Ticket and broadcast information will be released at a later date.
“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,” Foley said. “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.”