ESPN, Florida Citrus Sports Team Up For Orlando Kickoff Game; Florida State vs. Ole Miss in 2016
The Florida State Seminoles will play the Ole Miss Rebels in the Orlando Citrus Bowl stadium on Labor Day, 2016. The neutral-site season-opening game on the evening of Monday, Sept. 5, will be televised nationally by ESPN as the first of an annual Orlando Kickoff game.
“We’re excited to bring regular season neutral-site college football games back to the Citrus Bowl stadium and establish Orlando as a major kickoff destination for the future,” said Florida Citrus Sports CEO Steve Hogan. “Florida State and Ole Miss will undoubtedly be a game worthy of national attention and we can’t wait to welcome fans from Tallahassee and Oxford to Central Florida to start the 2016 season.”
At present, Florida State enters play this week riding a 26-game win streak – the longest active streak in the country — and on the heels of its third national title. The Seminoles have been outstanding under coach Jimbo Fisher, going 4-0 in bowl games, 55-10 overall (.844) with three Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) championships while running up an astounding 36-2 the last three years.
“We are pleased to be able to play again in the Orlando Citrus Bowl and look forward to seeing the changes in the venue,” said FSU Athletic Director Stan Wilcox. “We have a large base of fans and alumni in Central and South Florida who travel to all our home games, and we have been looking to play some games that might require less travel for our fans around the state. The new College Football Playoff has placed a renewed focus on quality non-conference games. I know it will be a game that will excite both fan bases and one that will draw a great deal of national attention.”
This will be the seventh neutral site game for the Seminoles in Orlando as they have posted wins over Memphis State (1990), Notre Dame (1994), Duke (1995) and Wake Forest (1996) while tying Stetson in The City Beautiful in 1952.
“Orlando is a terrific destination, and the renovations to the Citrus Bowl Stadium will provide an outstanding environment for the 2016 ACC Labor Day Monday Night Game,” said ACC Commissioner John Swofford. “The matchup featuring Florida State and Ole Miss is an exciting way to begin the 2016 college football season. Labor Day night continues to be a special part of our ESPN partnership and an excellent platform for ACC Football.”
To date, Ole Miss has no previous appearances in either of the Orlando’s two bowl games. The Rebels have gotten off to their best start since 1963, winning their first seven games and reaching as high as the No. 3 spot in the Associated Press Poll. Head Coach Hugh Freeze has led his teams to bowl appearances in each of his three seasons as an FBS head coach, including both seasons at the helm in Oxford. The Rebels have already earned eight wins this season, matching last year’s total and the most they’ve had since back-to-back nine-win seasons that featured Cotton Bowl victories in 2008 and 2009.
“Kicking off 2016 with Monday night football is a big thrill for our program, and this is a great game on many levels,” said Ole Miss Director of Athletics Ross Bjork.” “Florida State is one of the traditional powerhouses of college football, and with the evolution of the college football playoff, matchups that provide a boost to our strength of schedule are a priority for us. Orlando is a destination city, and I know Rebel Nation will respond in a big way to provide a bowl game like atmosphere to kick off the season. We appreciate our partnerships with ESPN and Florida Citrus Sports to make this featured game a reality.”
The game will be the first regular-season appearance by a Southeastern Conference (SEC) team since September 28, 1991, when Florida defeated Mississippi State, 29-7 in front of a crowd of 69,328.
“This will be an exciting addition to the college football season,” said SEC Commissioner Mike Slive. “We are pleased that a Southeastern Conference team will help introduce a new annual game at a site where the SEC has enjoyed a long and productive relationship with the city and its people.”
The 2016 Orlando Kickoff game is a the first in a multi-year agreement between Florida Citrus Sports (FCSports) and ESPN Events, a subsidiary of ESPN, to host a major neutral-site college football game in the Orlando Citrus Bowl stadium during the opening weekend of the college football season.
“Both schools have a rich football tradition and we are excited to be working with Florida Citrus Sports to bring a game of this magnitude to the Orlando area,” said ESPN Regional Television Senior Vice President & General Manager Pete Derzis. “This coupled with the redesign of the stadium makes Orlando an attractive destination of early season football games.”
This will be the second time the Seminoles and Rebels square off on the gridiron. Ole Miss earned a 33-0 victory at home in the only other meeting (1961).
Tickets will go on sale in 2016, with Florida Citrus Sports members getting priority access as they do for the annual bowl games.