The college football season just wrapped up, but it's never too early to start thinking about the future.
Even the distant future.
Florida announced on Thursday that it will travel to the Lone Star State and take on the Michigan Wolverines in the 2017 season-opener on Sept. 2, at the Cowboys Classic at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
"The opponent was extremely attractive. The facility, the city, and the national exposure -- I think it will help in recruiting,'' Florida athletics director Jeremy Foley said in a release. "It will give fans a great experience to get away, follow the Gators and start the season."
***Update Feb. 7, 2014***
According to Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press, Michigan will receive a nice chunk of change for participating in the event.
End of Update
It will be Florida's first appearance in the Cowboys Classic, which started in 2009. Michigan head coach Brady Hoke took his team to the event to open the 2012 season against Alabama, and is excited about a return trip.
"We are excited to make a return trip to Dallas for the Cowboys Classic against Florida," he said in quotes released by Michigan. "This is a great way to reach our fan base in the south and to continue to expand our recruiting efforts in the state of Texas."
It will be the third meeting between the two programs. Michigan is 2-0 against the Gators, claiming victory in the 2003 Outback Bowl and the 2008 Capital One Bowl.
For Florida, it's a departure from the norm.
The Gators haven't played an out-of-conference game outside of the state of Florida since 1991, when the then No. 5 Gators lost to the then-No. 17 Orange 38-21 at the Carrier Dome.
"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," Foley said.
|Cowboys Classic Through the Years|
|2009||BYU over Oklahoma||14-13|
|2010||TCU over Oregon State||30-21|
|2011||LSU over Oregon||40-27|
|2012||Alabama over Michigan||41-14|
|2013||LSU over TCU||37-27|
|2014||Florida State vs. Oklahoma State||NA|
|2015||Alabama vs. Wisconsin||NA|
|2017||Florida vs. MIchigan||NA|
It's also a sign that the potential for a nine-game conference schedule in the SEC may not be as much of a deterrent to programs with out-of-conference rivals in-state from scheduling big-time out-of-conference opponents as originally envisioned.
The SEC has adopted an eight-game conference schedule through the 2015 season, but after that, it's anybody's guess. With the conference heavily involved in the programming business thanks to deals with ESPN, the SEC and the creation of the SEC Network, adding another conference game would provide more inventory to its television partners.
These games aren't going away, and the matchup between Michigan and Florida—two traditional powers—will be a fantastic way to kick off the 2017 season.