By Parrish Alford/ NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – If you’re going to open your football season with a non-conference buy-out game, you might as well go all out.
That’s what Ole Miss will do in 2011 when it opens the season at home against Boise State, one of the premiere non-BCS conference teams in the nation.
The Broncos have gone unbeaten twice in the last four seasons, including last year when they went 14-0 and defeated Texas Christian 17-10 in the Fiesta Bowl.
“Coach Chris Peterson has built the Broncos into a national power, and I expect a great deal of anticipation from our fans,” Ole Miss athletics director Pete Boone said.
ESPN helped bring the teams together. The game will be played on Saturday, Sept. 3 and will be televised nationally on a yet-to-be determined ESPN network. Game time will be announced later.
Ole Miss will not make a return trip and will pay Boise $900,000 for its one-time visit. The cost of scheduling non-conference games without return trips has risen steadily, but that figure is easily the most ever paid by Ole Miss, surpassing the $725,000 the school has agreed to pay Louisiana-Lafayette when they meet this season.
There was some discussion about Ole Miss returning the game to Boise, but those talks didn’t gain traction, said senior executive associate athletics director John Hartwell, who handles football scheduling.
Hartwell believes Ole Miss will feel less impact on its payment to Boise because of the number of tickets he expects will be sold. A non-conference opponent with a lower profile would be far less likely to fill all seats.
“We firmly believe Boise will be a capacity sellout,” he said. “We talked about a return game a little bit, but we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to return the game until 2014, and that’s quite a way out.”
Hartwell and Boise athletics director Gene Bleymaier discussed the game over approximately four months. They had discussions before ESPN got involved, but the network was helpful in helping the schools overcome the “domino effect” that occurs when one move on a schedule begins to impact other games.
Ole Miss had been scheduled to open the season with Southern Illinois but will not play that game in Week 2.
“ESPN views our game with Boise as their marquee game for kickoff weekend 2011, and obviously we’re excited to be part of it,” Hartwell said.
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt spent one season at Boise State, going 5-6 in 1997 before taking the job at Arkansas the next season.
He coached against Boise twice while at Arkansas, winning in Little Rock in 2000 and in Fayetteville in 2002.
“Diane and I had a wonderful experience there, and we’re glad they’re coming to Oxford,” Nutt said. “Boise State is one of the top programs now, and we have an awesome respect for them. It really takes our schedule to another level.”
Boise heads into the 2010 season with the nation’s longest winning streak, 14 games, and has been picked No. 2 in one preseason top 25.
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600