On December 19th, the University of Florida football team announced that it will play the Michigan Wolverines September 2nd, 2017 in AT&T Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys. This will mark the first time the Gators have played a nonconference regular season game outside of the state of Florida since 1991.
“You don’t get these opportunities very often,” Foley said in that release. “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.”
Gator Country has obtained Florida’s event agreement with Cowboys Stadium LP (abbreviated CSLP) as well as Stadium Events Organizing Committee and ESPN Productions, Inc. for the 2017 Cowboy’s Classic, so just how sweet of a deal will this be for Florida?
UF will be the home team for the game officiated by a Big-12 crew and the Gators as well as the Wolverines will earn six million dollars for the game as a “participation fee.” This figure is more than every non-BCS bowl game and more importantly every cent stays in Gainesville; the Gators do not have to share it with the rest of the conference as they would with a BCS game payout. The money will be received within 10 business days of the game per the agreement. Florida will not be responsible for operating or staffing AT&T stadium and CSLP will keep concession revenue, game merchandise and other gameday revenues.
A minimum of 25,000 tickets will be allotted to Florida and Michigan for its fans, the most important part of the entire agreement may be that UF will not be held financially responsible for any of the unsold tickets, all it has to do is return them. This makes this game, for all intents and purposes; a highly lucrative bowl game without the monetary responsibility of incurring a loss because fans don’t fork out the money for tickets. And you can be sure those tickets won’t be cheap.
The least expensive ticket will be $50 for students only, the face values for all other tickets range from $150-$350. One team will control exactly half of the 400 level of the AT&T stadium-seating chart. They will also control sections C307-C314, C206-C214 and C104-131. The other team’s allotment on the seating chart will mirror those sections with the same amount of seats.
Florida will be provided with 250 tickets free of charge (presumably for players’ families) and two suites. Band seating, as well as admittance for the cheerleaders, Dazzlers and the Albert mascot will be free. If Florida should ask it to do so, CSLP will give a mutually agreed-upon area for a pep rally on the day of the game.
One major difference from a regular UF home game is that alcohol will also be sold during the game until the end of the third quarter in non-premium seating areas of AT&T Stadium. Be ready to bring your wallet though, a beer will run you upwards of eight dollars.
Per the agreement, ESPN reserves the right to cancel the game if Florida commits a major NCAA violation in its football program resulting in players being able to immediately transfer or if they incur a postseason ban of two or more seasons and eight or more scholarships per year in either 2015, 2016, or 2017. Conventional wisdom says ESPN has this leverage because those penalties would cut the visibility of the program, therefore making the game less enticing for potential sponsors.
Should Florida stay out of trouble, they’ll be enjoying a financial windfall thanks to a unique opportunity given to its fans in north Texas in a few years. Foley echoed those sentiments in the December release.
“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.”