South Carolina will open the 2017 season against N.C. State on Sept. 2 with a neutral site game in Charlotte and has a game scheduled there against North Carolina in 2019.
That trend is likely to continue because USC Athletics Director Ray Tanner is a fan of having the Gamecocks open the season with neutral-site games.
The new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta could play host to the Gamecocks in the future.
“I’ve had some conversations with Gary Stokan (President and CEO of Peach Bowl, Inc.) in Atlanta at the new Mercedes-Benz stadium,” Tanner told The State. “We haven’t secured any dates there but we have had some dialogue about maybe an opportunity going forward.”
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The matchups in Atlanta are known as the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Games and this year feature Alabama vs. Florida State on Sept. 2 and Tennessee against Georgia Tech on Sept. 4.
Clemson has taken part in the game twice, losing to Alabama in 2008 and topping Auburn in 2012.
Future matchups include Auburn vs. Washington in 2018, Alabama vs. Duke in 2019, West Virginia vs. Florida State in 2020 and Georgia vs. Virginia in 2020.
Tanner said opening the season with a well-known out-of-conference opponent offers several advantages.
“I think it’s great for both schools and for your brand to be in a nationally televised game right out of the gate,” Tanner said. “Your fan base gets a chance to go to another football game within driving distance. Both schools get some revenue from the game, too. I think it’s a great opportunity, and Coach (Will) Muschamp embraced this opportunity to go play in Charlotte. The players get the NFL stadium experience. Just a lot of pluses in a game like this.”
USC has listed in its 2017-18 budget expected revenues of $2 million from the game in Charlotte.
The one negative Tanner sees is that it can be a big challenge in the first game of the year and to play a non-conference Power 5 team.
“Some schools will schedule as many as four (out-of-conference) games that are really not competitive in many cases,” Tanner said. “I think fan bases everywhere, they like to see these tough games every single weekend. It’s very difficult for players and coaches to be in this position, but I think it’s what the fans like and we’re excited to be a part of this one.”
USC’s ticket allotment for this year’s game at Bank of America Stadium is 14,000 and the Gamecocks have not sold all of their tickets yet, but Tanner expects them to be gone before Sept. 2.
Tanner said game officials in Charlotte told him they are expecting a bigger crowd than when USC and UNC played in 2015. That game attracted 51,664 fans.
Ticket prices for the game two years ago ranged from $70 to $258. This year they are being offered from between $65 and $240. Tanner is pleased with the decrease but said there could be room for improvement.
“If you go across the country, I think there’s four or five (neutral games) that are higher-priced than we are,” Tanner said. “But still I think that’s a big concern in certain parts of the stadium is ticket prices. It’s something I think we’ve got to continue to look at.”