Croke Park is to host an American football colleges fixture in the autumn of next year.
Details are expected in the next few days of the meeting of Penn State and the University of Central Florida.
I could read Irish papers writing about college football for hours. It’s so fun to get the outside perspective on something we are so used to. “Fixture?" Yes, please.
This deal makes sense for a myriad of reasons. For Penn State, the school basically gets a bowl game during its third season of NCAA sanctions. Now when coaches are recruiting high school seniors, they can promise a chance at the postseason in 2016 and beyond in addition to a trip to the Emerald Isle for the players' first game in a Nittany Lion uniform. That is not a terrible sales pitch.
Central Florida can make the same claim to recruits – come to Ireland with us – while also bumping up its profile going into life as a member of the American Athletic Conference. With Sunshine State recruiting insanely competitive, every little edge helps, and a trip to Dublin certainly qualifies as one.
(Oh, and let us not forget the two head coaches are named O’Leary and O’Brien.)
For Ireland, it’s a boon to a still struggling economy. When Notre Dame and Navy played at Aviva Stadium in Dublin to start the 2012 season, the game brought in a reported 60 million Euros to the country from 35,000 visiting American fans. Even if the Nittany Lions and Knights can’t replicate that success, Ireland will happily take a fraction of the haul. (The Irish and Midshipmen also played at Croke Park in 1996.)
And for fans? You now have an excuse (if you needed one) to book a trip to Ireland. Go on a tour of the Jameson or Guinness factories, dance your face off at Copper Face Jacks, take a bus tour of the Dingle Peninsula, get amazing seafood in Kinsale, wander around Galway, or check out any of the historic sites that dot the island.
There are also reports that Notre Dame, Alabama and Boston College are being considered or games in 2016 and 2018. This is in addition to last month's news that Ireland is being considered as a site for a future bowl game.
Either way, this is some tricky navigation of the NCAA sanctions by Penn State, and a nice bit of creative promotion from Central Florida. Good work from both sides getting this put together.
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