GAINESVILLE -- For the first time since George H.W. Bush was President, the Gators will play a non-conference game outside the state of Florida.
UF will kickoff its 2017 football season in primetime against Michigan at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the school announced Thursday.
The Cowboys Classic is scheduled for Sept. 2.
“You don't get these opportunities very often,”' UF 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.”
The Big Ten-SEC matchup will be the Gators' first non-conference game outside the state of Florida since losing at Syracuse (38-21) in 1991, but Foley called the marquee non-conference game "the exception, not the rule."
"I think when you are presented with unique opportunities you need to look at it for your fans' sake, for your program's sake,'' he 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."
UF and Michigan have met twice -- 2003 Outback Bowl, 2008 Capital One Bowl -- both wins by the Wolverines.
Each school will receive 25,000 tickets for the neutral-site game. According to the Michigan release, Florida will serve as the home team, while the officials will come from the Big 12 conference.
According to David Jones of The Florida Today, the Gators will receive a $6 million payout for participating in the Cowboys Classic.
AT&T Stadium, originally Cowboys Stadium, opened in 2009 and hosted Super Bowl XLV. The $1.2 billion stadium can seat over 100,000 (with expanded standing-room only tickets) and is scheudled to host the 2014 NCAA Men's Final Four and the first college football national championship under the new playoff format in 2015.
“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.”
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton