By MIKE CASAZZA
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia finalized scheduling through the 2021 season Thursday, confirming three previously reported games and unveiling another.
The Mountaineers will play Youngstown State in 2018, James Madison in 2019 and Florida State in 2020. The Gazette-Mail previously reported all three games and reported earlier Thursday WVU will play Indiana State in 2021.
The game against the Seminoles will be the 16th edition of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game, and WVU, designated as the visiting team, is guaranteed a payday that far exceeds a home game. The Mountaineers have to buy and sell 30,000 tickets, and the cost of any unsold tickets comes out of a $4.25 million payout.
When WVU played Alabama in the 2014 Kickoff Game, it cleared more than $3 million, which is well above the $2 million or so it makes for a home game.
“The Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game is an outstanding event, and we look forward to playing Florida State in the game to open the 2020 season,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. “Florida State is one of the top teams in the nation each year, and it will be a challenge for us and a great way to open the season.
“Our players and coaches like playing in neutral-site games in pro venues. When we played in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in 2014, our players, coaches and fans really enjoyed playing against Alabama in a great environment and we expect the same in this game. It will be a great experience for our players to play in Atlanta’s new indoor stadium.”
The game will be played in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which opens this year and will be the home of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. Alabama and Florida State play the first college football game there in the 2017 Kickoff Game. The average attendance for Kickoff Games is more than 67,000, which ranks higher than 35 bowl games this season, and the team payout averages $4.7 million, which is higher than 26 bowls.
It will be televised on ABC or one of the ESPN networks, and prior games have drawn more than 47 million viewers since 2008.
“These are two elite football programs and this game promises to be a battle of powerhouses,” said Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl chairman Percy Vaughn.
James Madison, Youngstown State and Indiana State play in the Football Championship Subdivision. WVU beat Youngstown State this season and plays host to Delaware State next season. For the next five years, WVU will play one FCS team and two FBS teams and has two FBS teams scheduled from 2022-24, meaning more FCS opponents are likely on the way.
WVU is unbeaten in 17 games against FCS teams and 6-0 under Holgorsen, whose seventh season begins Sept. 2 against Virginia Tech at FedEx Field. For their trouble, Youngstown State and JMU will receive a $550,000 payout from the Mountaineers. Indiana State will receive $500,000.
JMU, the 2004 national champion, and Youngstown State, the champion in 1991, 1993-94 and 1997, play one another for the title Saturday in Frisco, Texas. Indiana State, a Youngstown State opponent in the esteemed Missouri Valley Conference, is currently without a full-time head coach after Mike Sanford, Sr., resigned after four years to join his son, Mike, who is the new head coach at Western Kentucky. Sanford was 18-30 in charge of the Sycamores.
WVU, which also beat Youngstown State in a home game in 1938, plays host to the Penguins on Sept. 8, 2018. The Mountaineers open that season against the SEC’s Tennessee in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Sept. 1 and play on the road against the ACC’s North Carolina State on Sept. 15.
The Mountaineers beat JMU at Mountaineer Field in 2004 and at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, in 2012. WVU is the host for the opener on Aug. 31, 2019 and follows with games at Missouri on Sept. 7 and at home against N.C. State on Sept. 14.
Florida State, the 2013 national champion and a part of the first College Football Playoff a year later, is coached by Clarksburg native Jimbo Fisher, who attended Liberty High and started his college career at Salem College.
The Seminoles are 3-0 against WVU with wins in the 1982, 2005 and 2010 Gator Bowls, the last being former WVU coach Bobby Bowden’s final game with Florida State. The two teams play their first regular-season game in Atlanta on Sept. 5, 2020.
“We all know that West Virginia and Florida State have met in bowl games before, but this provides a quality regular season matchup for both teams on a national stage,” WVU athletic director Shane Lyons said. “The game will be a great chance for the two fan bases to make a road trip to Atlanta and get the 2020 season started.”
The Mountaineers play at the American Athletic Conference’s East Carolina on Sept. 12 and play host to the Big Ten’s Maryland on Sept. 19.
WVU has never played Indiana State and is the host on Sept. 11, 2021. That season begins with a Sept. 4 game at Maryland. After the Sycamores, the Mountaineers play host to the ACC’s Virginia Tech on Sept. 18.
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