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Seminoles looking forward to showdown with Boise State in Jacksonville

The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville — Phillip Heilman The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville

May 17--Since John Thrasher became President of Florida State University in 2014, he has wanted to see the Seminoles back playing a college football game in Jacksonville.

On Wednesday afternoon, Thrasher was able to look out over TIAA Bank Field and know that it will happen soon.

Thrasher was part of a contingent in attendance as the Jacksonville Sports Council and the city formally announced from the stadium that Florida State will host Boise State in its season opener Aug. 31, 2019.

The Seminoles will be the home team and take in the ticket revenue from the game -- the city gets a share of money from concessions and parking -- before concluding their home-and-home series on the road against the Broncos during the 2020 season.

"I grew up here. This is home. This is our home, my wife and I both," said the 74-year-old Thrasher, a Lee High School graduate who was a longtime state legislator representing Northeast Florida. "We raised our children here in the area, so it's going to be a thrill to come back and have a football game just a few miles from where we grew up."

Several details are still to be decided surrounding the first-ever meeting between Florida State and Boise State, a member of the Mountain West Conference that has won at least 10 games in 15 of the past 19 seasons.

Most notably, the game time and broadcast partner. Rick Catlett, President/CEO of the Jacksonville Sports Council, said those details are expected to be announced in July. One option for the TV broadcast could be the ACC Network, which ESPN plans to launch in 2019.

Catlett said ticket prices were still being decided as of this week, but they will be cheaper than last year's kickoff games in Atlanta (Florida State vs. Alabama) and Dallas/Arlington (Florida vs. Michigan). A more reasonable expectation could be a price that is similar to the annual TaxSlayer Bowl held in Jacksonville. Additional ticket information is available at jaxsports.com.

"If you look at that game in Atlanta and that game in Dallas, club seats were $375," Catlett said. "We are not going to do that here."

Aside from the TaxSlayer Bowl and Florida-Georgia, Florida State-Boise State will be a somewhat rare neutral-site college football game for Jacksonville. Navy beat Notre Dame 28-27 in November 2016, and the most recent neutral-site game held here prior to that was Florida State's 39-21 victory over Colorado in 2008.

The Seminoles also played in the Gator Bowl following the 2009 season, beating West Virginia in legendary coach Bobby Bowden's final game. Overall, Florida State is 14-2-1 in games played in Jacksonville, though their win against Alabama in 2007 was later vacated due to academic fraud.

Asked if he had talked to his players about playing in Jacksonville, first-year coach Willie Taggart joked that his Seminoles are a long way away from thinking about 2019.

"We're still working on playing against each other right now," Taggart said. "We have a heck of a schedule ahead of us this year. I know all those guys will be excited about playing in an NFL stadium. Some of them will have a preview of what it will be for their [professional] careers."

"It's pretty cool that we've got some former players not only playing in this stadium but taking care of business in this stadium," Taggart added, alluding to current Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey and linebacker Telvin Smith.

City officials are already thinking 2019 and beyond.

Mayor Lenny Curry said Wednesday he "would like" for Jacksonville to host a neutral-site game -- in addition to Florida-Georgia -- every year. Curry said the downtown renovations planned by Jaguars owner Shad Khan during last month's State of the Franchise presentation should make the city more enticing for college football programs.

"We're going to continue to pursue athletic events, high-profile ones," Curry said. "This is a football town, a football area and a football city."

While Florida State will be the home team and has the local connection, Catlett said he is optimistic that Boise State could bring about 15,000 fans to Jacksonville.

The Broncos have scheduled aggressively in season openers, facing Oregon (2009), Virginia Tech (2010), Georgia (2011), Michigan State (2012), Washington (2013, 2015) and Ole Miss (2014) in recent years.

In addition to a marquee football matchup, Catlett believes Broncos fans will find other reasons to come to Jacksonville.

"They don't have a beach in Boise," Catlett said. "So I think their fans are going to be excited about spending Labor Day here in Jacksonville."

Phillip Heilman: (904) 359-4063

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