Alabama to open 2008 season with Clemson in Georgia Dome
In making the announcement Friday, Atlanta officials said the game is intended to launch a tradition of season openers at the Georgia Dome. The Alabama-Clemson game will be televised on ESPN or ABC and organized by Atlanta's Chick-fil-A Bowl staff.
The Chick-fil-A Bowl matches teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference, and bowl president Gary Stokan said the plan is to select teams from those conferences for future season-opening games at the Georgia Dome, a neutral site.
Auburn beat Clemson 23-20 in overtime in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Monday night. Clemson will return for its second consecutive game in the Georgia Dome and will play three straight games against teams now in the SEC for the first time since 1925. Clemson closed its regular season by beating South Carolina.
The last time Clemson played Alabama was 1975, and the 56-0 rout was the Crimson Tide's 11th straight win in the series.
"Do you happen to have the score from that last game?" Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said Friday. "It's not a rivalry."
Stokan said his committee initially worked to try to bring a second, smaller bowl game to Atlanta, but he said the goal turned to a season-opening game when the NCAA approved a 12th regular-season game.
He said a coin flip determined Clemson will be the home team. SEC officials will be used.
"For Alabama to be able to play in Atlanta is certainly something we look forward to," Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said. "It's great for national exposure and great for recruiting."
Alabama and Clemson each adjusted its 2008 schedule to accommodate the game in Atlanta.
"This is a one-game stand, so it needed to be on a neutral site," said Alabama athletic director Mal Moore, who showed in 2007 his willingness to play a game at a neutral site.
Florida State beat Alabama 21-14 in Jacksonville on Sept. 29 before a Jacksonville-record crowd of 85,412.
Stokan didn't announce a guaranteed payout for each team but said it should be comparable to the $2 million earned by Alabama and Florida State for the game in Jacksonville.
Alabama and Clemson will each receive about 33,000 tickets, according to Stokan.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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