GAINESVILLE (CBSMiami) – For the first time in decades, the University of Florida Gators football team will play an out-of-conference game outside the state of Florida.
The Gators will play the Michigan Wolverines in the Cowboys Classic in Arlington, Texas on Saturday, September 2nd, 2017.
The game will be held in prime-time with Michigan serving as the away team and Florida the home team. Game officials will come from the Big XII Conference.
It’s UF’s first out-of-conference regular season game outside of Florida since the Gators lost at Syracuse in 1991.
UF has always scheduled Florida State, which has been a clash of Top 25 teams each season, but has avoided any games outside the Sunshine State.
But, UF and other schools are changing their scheduling philosophy with the new college playoffs coming next year. Teams won’t be penalized as much for a loss as a committee will determine the final four teams in the playoff.
“You don’t get these opportunities very often,” Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said. “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.”
Each school will receive 25,000 tickets for the neutral-site game at AT&T Stadium, home to the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. The $1.2 billion stadium opened in 2009. It already hosted the Super Bowl and is scheduled for the 2014 NCAA men’s Final Four and the first college football national championship under the new playoff format in January 2015.
Michigan played in 2012 Cowboys Classic, losing 41-14 to Alabama.
“We are excited to make a return trip to Dallas for the Cowboys Classic against Florida,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. “This is a great way to reach our fan base in the south and to continue to expand our recruiting efforts in the state of Texas. Our goal is to have as many Michigan fans at the game as possible.”
This will be the third meeting between Michigan and Florida. Both previous matchups came in bowl games. Michigan won both: a 38-30 victory in the 2003 Outback Bowl and a 41-35 victory in the 2008 Capital One Bowl.
Florida has struggled to fill stands for home games the last few years, especially in games against non-conference opponents aside from Florida State. So moving a home date to a neutral-site venue — and guaranteeing a sellout and a significant payout — made sense financially.
“This is a great opportunity to expose the University of Florida nationally, playing one of the greatest programs in the history of college football,” Foley said. “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.”