Penn State and Central Florida made it official Sunday, announcing that they will open the 2014 football season in Ireland.
The Croke Park Classic will be played Aug. 30 at Dublin’s historic Croke Park, home of Ireland’s Gaelic Athletic Association. The game will kick off at 1:30 p.m. (8:30 a.m. EST) on ESPN2.
The game was announced Sunday in Dublin during halftime of a Gaelic football game. Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner attended the game along with Central Florida head coach George O’Leary.
To accommodate the game, Penn State has shifted its previously scheduled season-opener with Temple to Nov. 15. The Lions will have two bye weeks in October during the 2014 Big Ten season.
Penn State coach Bill O’Brien has lobbied for a destination game since the NCAA levied sanctions against the program last July. Though Penn State is ineligible to play in a bowl game until the 2016 season, it can take advantage of an NCAA bylaw allowing teams to play an out-of-country game once every four years.
The opportunity to play in Ireland began when Penn State and Virginia agreed to suspend the second game of their two-year series scheduled for this September (Virginia will host Oregon instead). The Lions then scheduled Central Florida, in part because of the ties between the coaches. O’Brien worked for O’Leary at Georgia Tech and was set to become O’Leary’s offensive coordinator at Notre Dame in 2001.
Central Florida will visit Penn State this September. Penn State initially said that it was discussing a trip to Orlando in return. Instead, the programs pursued the Ireland game, marking the first international competition for both football teams.
“On a personal level, obviously coach O’Brien and I are both of Irish heritage, so it means a great deal to both of us to be in a position to bring our teams here,” O’Leary said.
This will mark the eighth American college football game in Ireland in NCAA history. Notre Dame defeated Navy last year in Dublin. Notre Dame and Navy also played in the last college game at Croke Park, in 1996.
In a release, officials said that last year’s Notre Dame-Navy game drew 35,000 U.S. visitors to Dublin and generated about $130 million in economic impact. Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s minister for transport tourism and sport, said the Penn State-UCF game would be “every bit as important.”
Croke Park, which has a capacity of 82,500, will be configured to seat 69,000 for the game.
Tickets already are on sale for the game through Ireland’s Ticketmaster site. Prices range from $26 to $104 for available seats. Official travel packages, which include a pre-game tailgate at the Guinness Storehouse, also are available.