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The Gators will open the 2017 season against Michigan in the Cowboys Classic.

Thursday December 19, 2013Florida to Face Michigan in 2017 Cowboys Classic at AT&T Stadium

The Gators will open the 2017 season against Michigan in the Cowboys Classic.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley receives calls regularly that pitch potential nonconference games for the Gators.

The latest offer was too good to pass up: Florida vs. Michigan at AT&T Stadium -- aka Jerry's World -- to open the 2017 season.

The 2017 Cowboys Classic is scheduled for Sept. 2, 2017, and will be broadcast nationally. When Foley was recently approached about the possible neutral-site game against the Wolverines, he was intrigued for several reasons.

"You don't get these opportunities very often,'' 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."

The matchup against Michigan will be the Gators' first nonconference game away from the Sunshine State since a loss at Syracuse in 1991.

While Florida and Michigan have met twice in bowl games, this matchup is a showcase game to open the season in front of a national-TV audience (broadcast plans will be announced at a later date). The Wolverines opened the 2012 season against Alabama in the Cowboys Classic before more than 90,000 fans at the home of the Dallas Cowboys.

While this is a rare move for the Gators under Foley's leadership, he emphasized the game does not signal a shift in Florida's scheduling philosophy.

"I think when you are presented with unique opportunities you need to look at it for your fans' sake, for your program's sake,'' Foley 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."

Ticket information for the game will be announced at a later date. The neutral-site aspect of the offer was very important to Foley.

"The opponent was extremely attractive. The facility, the city, and the national exposure -- I think it will help in recruiting,'' he said. "It will give fans a great experience to get away, follow the Gators and start the season."

Coincidentally, this won't be the first meeting between the Gators and Michigan at AT&T Stadium. Foley and Florida's administration got a good look at the facility in the spring when the Gators men's basketball team faced Florida Gulf Coast University and Michigan there in the NCAA Regional rounds.

The $1.2 billion stadium opened in 2009 and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has said he wants the state-of-the-art facility to be "more familiar than the White House."

The stadium has already hosted a Super Bowl and is scheduled to host the 2014 NCAA men's Final Four and, in 2015, the first college football national championship game under the new playoff format.

And in 2017, a Florida-Michigan season opener.

"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."

 

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