It’s official. Penn State will open the 2014 season against Central Florida in Dublin, Ireland.
The formal announcement came Sunday in Dublin. The Nittany Lions will play the first international game in their 127-year football history on Aug. 30, 2014 against the Knights at the city’s Croke Park, the headquarters of Ireland’s Gaelic Athletic Association.
Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner and UCF head coach George O’Leary were in Ireland for the announcement for what is called the Croke Park Classic. The news was disclosed during halftime of the Leinster Senior Football Championship final between Dublin and Meath.
“Our visit this weekend has only reinforced our reasons for wanting to come and play in Dublin,” Joyner said. “We’ve not only grown our appreciation for the games so entrenched in the history and traditions here in Ireland but have also confirmed that, because of the Irish people and their hospitality, Penn State fans are going to love their time here in the late summer of 2014.”
Penn State coach Bill O’Brien, who worked on O’Leary’s staff at Georgia Tech from 1995 through 2001, said he and his team were “thrilled” for the chance to play overseas.
“Our players and coaches are so excited to go to Ireland and play a college football game in such a historic and outstanding venue,” O’Brien said in a statement. “I have great respect for coach O’Leary and his team and playing UCF in Ireland will be a fantastic experience for all the players, coaches and fans.”
The Nittany Lions and the Knights will play this season on Sept. 14 at Beaver Stadium.
The 2014 matchup of the two teams means that Penn State’s game against Temple, originally scheduled on Aug. 30, has been moved to Nov. 15, previously an open date for the Lions.
O’Leary called the game “a great opportunity for UCF” and touched on the mutual ancestry of he and O’Brien.
“On a personal level, obviously coach O’Brien and I are both of Irish heritage so it means a great deal to both of us to be in a position to bring our teams here,” he said. “We are confident that Croke Park will be an excellent venue for us to play in. We have been hugely impressed to date with the facilities. We are confident that Croke Park will generate an unforgettable atmosphere for this game.”
The Penn State-UCF contest will be the eighth American football game played in Ireland and first in Croke Park since Notre Dame and Navy played there in 1996. The Fighting Irish and Midshipmen played last season in Dublin’s Aviva Stadium.
It’s also the first overseas game for a Big Ten team since Michigan State and Wisconsin played in Tokyo in the 1993 season finale.
Irish officials said 35,000 U.S. visitors came into the country last year for Notre Dame-Navy. The Penn State Alumni Association and the Nittany Lion Club have travel packages available starting Monday at www.psu.crokeparkclassic.com.