Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game organizers expect a crowd of 35,000 for the Boise State-Ole Miss football game on Aug. 28 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Capacity is 71,250, which means the stadium will be about half-empty.
Organizers knew this game would be a ticket challenge, Peach Bowl Inc. President and CEO Gary Stokan said, because of the distances involved for the two fan bases and the Thursday date. It’s a 5-hour drive from Oxford, Miss., to Atlanta.
The game is part of a weeklong celebration of college football in Atlanta. The new College Football Hall of Fame opens Aug. 23 and Alabama and West Virginia play on Saturday, Aug. 30. That game is expected to sell out.
Stokan, whose company runs the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Games, the Peach Bowl and a golf tournament and is heavily involved in the hall of fame, said he’s still trying to find the right way to add a non-Saturday game to the mix. He held a Friday game two years ago (Tennessee-N.C. State drew 55,529) and has dreams of a Thursday-Saturday-Monday combo when the new football stadium opens in 2017.
Boise State sold 1,800 tickets for this year’s game but 7,500 for the Georgia game in 2011.
“We know that we’ve limited the ability for Mississippi and Boise State fans to travel. Our goal is to put on the best college football kickoff weekend, and we think we’re going to do that this year,” Stokan said. “We’ve met the goal of creating a true kickoff to college football weekend.
“ Obviously ESPN loves it because it’s great programming to kick off college football. Boise State is favored to win the Mountain West. Ole Miss is ranked in the top 20. When you’re drawing up two teams to play in a game, this is going to be a great game, maybe one of the best games over the whole start of college football weekend. We also know, with respect to these games, you also have to look at travel and it’s not easy for people to travel if the game is not on a Saturday. We haven’t figured that out yet, challenge-wise.”
This is the Broncos’ third neutral-site season opener in five years.
The 2010 game against Virginia Tech at FedExField in Landover, Md., drew 86,587.
The 2011 game against Georgia at the Georgia Dome drew 73,614.
But those games were played on Labor Day and a Saturday — and at a time when the Broncos were a top-10 program, not an unranked team coming off an 8-5 season.
Ole Miss long has wanted to play in the kickoff series in Atlanta. Its fans, however, have another road trip the week after the opener. The Rebels play Vanderbilt on Sept. 6 at the NFL’s LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., about 4 hours from campus.
This game was part of a convoluted trade that set up the 2011 Boise State-Georgia game, won by the Broncos. That game replaced Boise State’s scheduled 2011 game at Ole Miss. As part of the deal, game organizers set up a BYU game at Ole Miss and rescheduled Boise State-Ole Miss for this year’s Atlanta opener.
Stokan says despite the smaller crowd the game still will be a win for everyone involved, including organizers. The teams and their administrators will be treated to a mini-bowl experience. The Broncos, who travel on Tuesday of game week, will visit the College Football Hall of Fame and practice at the Atlanta Falcons’ facility. Pre-game festivities include a team walk through the fans outside the stadium.
Boise State gets $1.1 million for the game, plus a $50,000 contribution to the general scholarship fund.
“We’re looking forward to having them come through the College Football Hall of Fame and aspiring to be in there one day,” Stokan said.
The hall of fame, he said, is an “edu-tain-seum” — educational, entertaining and a museum. It includes helmets for 768 college football-playing schools. When guests register, they provide the name of their favorite team. The helmet for that team lights up to let everyone know a fan of that school is in the building. The visitor then is alerted to items pertaining to that school. One of the interactive exhibits includes having Steve Spurrier help you call, set up and run a play.
The hall was relocated from South Bend, Ind.
“It’s a very interactive experience,” Stokan said.
Here’s a story on a cool event the Hall of Fame did that allowed select fans to sleep there.
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