Florida and Michigan to open the 2017 season in the Cowboys Classic
Florida and Michigan will open the 2017 season in the Cowboys Classic in Arlington, Texas.
The prime-time game is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 2.
It will be Florida's first regular-season, non-conference game outside the Sunshine State since the Gators lost at Syracuse in 1991.
''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.''
Michigan will be the away team; Florida the home team. Game officials and replay crew will come from the Big 12 Conference.
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 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.''