Thursday, September 08, 2005
ESPN2's cameras are rolling, a major conference opponent is playing, Lee Greenwood is singing and, yes, that's Howard Schnellenberger's bobblehead doll nodding its approval in the background.
It's the Owls
"This game allows us to see where we are in the higher echelon of football and gives our fans a chance to see someone of this caliber," Schnellenberger said. "If we can measure up and have a competitive game, it will go a long way in the introduction of our program to the nation."
The nation may see the game as
FAU is hoping for a big audience in the stands, too, perhaps the biggest since the program's inaugural game in 2001, when 25,632 watched the Owls lose to Slippery Rock at Dolphins Stadium.
FAU expects a crowd of 25,000.
"We have quite a bit dedicated to this game," Athletic Director Craig Angelos said. "We think this is the best opportunity we have to sell the most tickets and get the biggest crowd. This is a big event for us."
Getting the Big 12's Cowboys
to agree to play in
Last year, Angelos
contacted OSU Assistant Athletic Director Jason Lewis, who worked with Angelos at
But the Owls were short one
home game for 2005, so Angelos jokingly asked if the
series could start at FAU. OSU, which figured a trip to
FAU's first season in the Sun Belt Conference also paid off, since the league has a deal with ESPN2.
Mike Tirico, who will do play-by-play tonight, credits Schnellenberger for putting his Owls on ESPN2's schedule.
"I had my eyes on this team after they had a 5-0 start last season and even when they played Colgate in the (2003) I-AA playoffs," Tirico said. "I was intrigued by this game because Howard is here. I don't think we would be doing this game in this time slot if it wasn't for Howard. We knew something was going on here, so I wasn't shocked when I saw this game on our schedule."
Kirk Herbstreit, a member of ESPN's Saturday GameDay crew, is the analyst tonight and he's already familiar with the Owls.
"I didn't know them with
the depth I do now, but we have mentioned them on GameDay,"
Herbstreit said after spending Wednesday at the
The Owls have appeared on ESPN, but that Division I-AA playoff game against Colgate was a regional telecast. FAU, in its second and final year of the transition process to I-A, is making a major stride by hosting a prominent I-A opponent this quickly.
South Florida started football
in 1997 and hosted
"To get a game like that at home is very difficult to do," said Steve Sloan, who was AD at UCF from 1995 to 2002 and is now at UT-Chattanooga. "Getting a game like that at home validates your program. I don't know much about anything, but I know scheduling and FAU did a tremendous job getting that game."
"We felt we needed to add some things to the game to make it an event," said Dexter LaMont, FAU's Assistant AD for Marketing and Promotions.
The Owls are coming off a
season-opening loss at
"It feels good to play a high-profile team, especially if we can go out there and compete with them or win," senior receiver Thomas Parker said. "This is a powerhouse school — a Big 12 team. You can't do any better than that."