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We are starting to see a change in college football, with teams like Alabama focused on getting away from neutral site game. If you’re a fan, this is the best scenario for the team you root for, especially if this means for home-and-home games against competitive teams.
For far too long, schools have relied upon the neutral site games to provide a big payday and potentially a decent game. But over the years, Athletic Directors and coaches around the country have started to shift back towards hosting non-conference matchups. The allure of playing neutral site games, like the one’s in Atlanta or Orlando to open the season have started to fall off.
No longer do teams need to rely on these games for money or even getting on primetime television against a top-tier opponent. Now, there will continue to be some teams that find a value in playing a game at a neutral site, like Tennessee. The Vols are going to open the 2023 season in Nashville against Virginia, while there is talk of playing the 2024 season opener in Charlotte.
Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne spoke at the SBJAF conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday and had this to say.
Alabama Moving Away From Neutral Site Games
Looking at this past season, the Alabama vs. Texas matchup in Austin was one of the premier games of the season. The Longhorns will return the favor in 2023, as we start to see colleges change their ways. The Tide will even play South Florida next season in Tampa, brining their fans to the sunshine state for the home game for new Bulls coach Alex Golesh.
Due to expansion around the sport, some games have been erased from the schedule. In 2023, Georgia was scheduled to play Oklahoma, but due to the Sooners joining the conference soon, both parties were asked to hold off. We will still have North Carolina and South Carolina playing in Charlotte to open the 2023 season, while LSU and Florida State battle in Orlando.
In 2024, Georgia and Clemson will open the season in Atlanta.
But, schools across the country would like to see an extra home game, while not wanting to give up one to a neutral site. Even though the payouts are great, it benefits a school more to have these premier matchups on-campus. Don’t forget, Texas A&M will travel to Miami next season for its return game with the Hurricanes. These are the type of games that will sell tickets, not the powder-puff games that teams are scheduling at the moment.
Yes, it will hurt schools that rely on paychecks from Power-5 opponents to fund their athletic departments, but the sport needs to move on. One game a year against a lower-tier school is fine, but when a conference like the SEC decides to play ten conference games, the “Buy Games” will disappear.
It’s good for the sport, which is great for the fans. In the end, they’re the ones watching and attending, so it’s about time schools started to pay attention.