It looked as if the chances college football would be played in Ireland in 2016 were dead. It turns out it was just on life support.
Aviva Stadium in Dublin is expected to be announced as a host venue for a 2016 game between ACC programs Boston College and Georgia Tech. The42 in Ireland reports a formal announcement will be made by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and everything is good to go forward. That announcement could come as early as tomorrow. Croke Park, which had previously hosted Penn State and UCF to open the 2014 season, has been ruled out as a potential venue due to the Gaelic Athletic Association determining it was not financially viable. Fortunately, for those rooting for college football abroad, there seems to be support to see through on bringing American college football back to the country of Ireland.
ACC commissioner John Swofford has said in the past he was interested in taking ACC athletics abroad to Europe when possible, and Boston College and Georgia Tech have long been tied to a possible game in Ireland. When the game would be played is still to be determined, assuming it happens, but there have been discussions and rumors suggesting this game in Ireland would be more likely to be played later in the season as opposed to a season-opening game. However, that was also likely due to scheduling conflicts with the GAA and the Croke Park Classic. A change in venue may open up the possibility of a season-opening game abroad, which would seem to be more desirable for the participating schools. Although, a game abroad later in the season also gives each school and the ACC a chance to showcase its product in an exclusive time slot in the midst of the season, for whatever that is worth.
As schedules sit right now, Boston College has two non-conference games (vs. UMass and at Northern Illinois) scheduled for mid-September, with two vacancies in the first two weeks of the season. Georgia Tech has a vacancy in the first weekend of the season. Georgia Tech’s non-conference schedule is already full too, which suggests the Yellow Jackets will be playing a conference game in the opening week of the 2016 season once the ACC schedule is finalized (which may not be until the spring).
Aviva Stadium was the host stadium for the 2012 Emerald Isle Classic between Notre Dame and Navy to open the season. Notre Dame easily won that game (50-10) to kick off an undefeated regular season that landed the Irish in the BCS National Championship Game against Alabama. Aviva Stadium has a seating capacity of 55,000. The 2012 game between Notre Dame and Navy had an attendance of 48,820. Last season’s Croke Park Classic in Croke Park between Penn State and UCF saw a total of 53,304 fans attend the game.
Boston College played in the first American college football game in Ireland back in 1988 in the first Emerald Isle Classic. The Eagles defeated Army, 38-24 before 42,525 fans in Lansdowne Road. That game was played in mid-November. The 1989 Emerald Isle Classic between Pittsburgh and Rutgers was played in early December. The 1996 Shamrock Classic between Notre Dame and Navy in Croke Park was played in early November, so there is a track record of playing in Ireland later in the season. Georgia Tech would be making its first trip to Ireland.
UPDATE (6:40 p.m.): Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com reports (via Twitter), Boston College will play Georgia Tech on September 3 in Aviva Stadium. The game will kick off at 7:30 a.m. eastern.