Chick-fil-A Bowl CEO says bowl and Clemson a good fit

by - Senior Writer -

Gary Stokan, the Chick-fil-A Bowl president and CEO said this week that having Clemson in the bowl game or in the Kickoff Game, makes sense for both the bowl and the school.

Stokan was in attendance at the ACC Football Kickoff last weekend at Pinehurst, N.C., and he told TigerNet that the bowl committee is excited about hosting Clemson and Auburn next year in the Georgia Dome in a game that will officially kick off the 2012 season.

Billed as the "Daytona 500 of College Football," the annual Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game matches two top teams in a BCS-style, neutral site game to open the college football season. The game is hosted in Atlanta's Georgia Dome by the Chick-fil-A Bowl and broadcast in partnership with ESPN.

This season, Georgia and Boise St. matchup in a highly-anticipated event, and next season will not only see Clemson and Auburn but Tennessee versus N.C. State as well. In 2013, Alabama will take on Virginia Tech, and 2014 has Boise St. taking on Ole Miss.

Stokan said that Clemson’s participation in next year’s game, as well as the Clemson-Auburn series that sees the two schools play in three consecutive seasons, was borne out of conversations that tried to match the two schools up in the Kickoff Game a few years ago.

“Clemson Athletic Director Terry Don Phillips is a good friend and a great professional,” Stokan said. “Clemson has been in our game more than any other school other than N.C. State. They have both been in either the Kickoff or the bowl game seven times. Clemson was in our first game when they played Alabama.

“That is when we first talked about Clemson and Auburn, and Terry Don and [Auburn AD] Jay Jacobs thought it was a great matchup so they scheduled a home-and-home. I said, ‘Hey, why don’t you do a rubber match and let us host it?’ And they agreed, and we were able to put it together, and we were able to put two games on the schedule for next season.”
vStokan said that Clemson’s attendance in the Kickoff is of mutual benefit to both the bowl and the school.

“We have a great relationship with Dabo, and we know that Clemson has outstanding fans and they have great support,” he said. “Clemson also recruits Georgia, so it makes sense for them to come down here. There is also a very good payout, and the opportunity to have that kind of national TV exposure in the first game is a great way to start the season.”

A preseason No. 9 Clemson team was throttled by No. 24 Alabama 34-10 in the game, and Stokan said if a team is going to lose, it’s better to lose early against a quality foe.
v“We all know with the BCS, it’s better to lose early to a good team that will have a good season,” he said. “That is one of the reasons why coaches like Nick Saban and Frank Beamer and Les Miles play in this game. They have all won national titles, except for Frank, and he is No. 2 on the active wins list behind Joe Paterno. They know how to schedule, and they found out it makes sense to play a high profile game like this early. I think Terry Don and Dabo, with what they are building at Clemson, feel the same way.”

Stokan said that even though Clemson plays in the Kickoff Game next year, he and the bowl committee wouldn’t have any problem taking the Tigers in the bowl game next January should the situation warrant a pick.

“That is interesting, because we had Virginia Tech play in Atlanta three times in one calendar year,” he said. “They played in the Kickoff Game, they played Georgia Tech at Tech, and then they played in the bowl game. They came three times and sold out their allotment all three times. Clemson is the same kind of program – great football team, great fans and Atlanta is easy travel for them. There are also a lot of Clemson fans in Atlanta. I wouldn’t hesitate to take Clemson in the bowl game and in the Kickoff.”

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