(Updated 8 p.m.)
Georgia’s football team will open next season in Atlanta against Boise State, which has emerged as an improbable powerhouse in recent years.
The Bulldogs and Broncos will play on Sept. 3 in the Georgia Dome in the fourth annual Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, event organizers announced Friday. The game will be nationally televised in prime time on ABC or ESPN.
The Georgia-Boise State pairing marks the first time Atlanta’s season-opening event has included a team from inside the state or a team from outside the SEC/ACC footprint.
“It was too good an opportunity to turn down,” Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said.
Arranging the matchup required machinations involving a number of schools. The final contractual obstacles were cleared mid-afternoon Friday, game president Gary Stokan said.
To clear room on its schedule, Georgia canceled a contract with Louisville that had called for games against the Cardinals in 2011 (in Athens) and 2012 (in Louisville). The Chick-fil-A Game will pay Louisville $600,000 to buy out the contract with Georgia, Stokan said. North Carolina agreed to replace UGA on Louisville’s schedule in 2011 and 2012.
Boise State also had to alter its schedule to accommodate the game. The Broncos had been scheduled to open next season at Ole Miss, but the Boise State-Ole Miss game will be pushed back to 2014, when it will be played in the Georgia Dome as one of two “Kickoff” games that year. Alabama will face a team yet to be determined in the other 2014 game, Stokan said. BYU agreed to replace Boise State on Ole Miss’ 2011 schedule.
ESPN was instrumental, Stokan said, in finding ways to make the pieces fit.
In the end, Georgia traded home-and-home games against Louisville -– a series that did not fit McGarity’s scheduling philosophy – for a high-profile, close-to-home matchup against Boise State.
“We felt like it was important that we be on the national stage,” McGarity said. “We felt it would bring a level of excitement that we really need in our program.”
McGarity noted that the arrangement leaves Georgia with six games in Athens in 2011 but will allow a seventh home game to be added in 2012. He said Georgia is close to a deal with a non-BCS opponent, which he would not name, to play in Athens on the 2012 date that the Bulldogs previously were scheduled to be in Louisville.
Louisville said in a news release that Georgia’s decision came “much to the dismay of the Cardinals.”
“While we certainly would have preferred to keep the series with Georgia, we are pleased to open up the season next year at North Carolina and look forward to hosting them … in 2012,” Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich said in the release. “We were thrilled when we secured a series with Georgia five years ago. We were approached to mutually agree to cancel this series, but we declined. Georgia exercised their option to cancel our series.”
The three previous Chick-fil-A Kickoff games matched an SEC team vs. an ACC team: Alabama vs. Clemson in 2008, Alabama vs. Virginia Tech in 2009 and LSU vs. North Carolina this year.
Boise State brings “a nationally known brand” to the game, Stokan said. The Broncos, ranked No. 3 in this week’s Associated Press poll, carried a 9-0 record and a 23-game winning streak into Friday night’s game against Fresno State.
The Georgia-Boise State game will change the dynamics of the 72,000-seat Georgia Dome for the event. While tickets were evenly distributed between the teams in the previous three Kickoff games, the planned allocation for this matchup is 7,500 tickets to Boise State and the rest of the available seats to Georgia, Stokan said.
Georgia will receive about $1.7 million and Boise State about $1.4 million for playing in the game, Stokan said.
As previously announced, N.C. State will face Tennessee and Auburn will play Clemson in two 2012 “Kickoff” games at the Dome.