MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - WSFA 12 News has learned Montgomery will be home to a new college football showdown starting in 2017. The game will be called the Montgomery Kickoff Classic and is set for Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017 at historic Cramton Bowl.
The classic will feature two Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) powerhouse programs in Jacksonville State and Tennessee-Chattanooga. The game will be aired on ESPN.
Montgomery already hosts the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl at the end of the season.
Organizers of the Camellia Bowl say they've set the stage for even more events like it.
""The community, our sponsors, the city, the county, the CVB. You know, everybody being so supportive of the Camellia Bowl. The fans turn out. We have such a wonderful crowd. We sold almost 13,000 tickets locally for the Camillia Bowl and so the footprint is here that college football is well thought of in our community."
Officials behind the new Montgomery Kickoff Classic say it's the city's success with the Camellia Bowl that made Montgomery an easy choice to host the new game.
"We've got a lot of history here over the last two and a half years since we launched the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl so we know that the city has been very supportive," said Pete Derzis, Senior VP of ESPN Events. " The corporate community, the civic community. We think it's got everything we look for."
City of Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said, "The Montgomery Kickoff Classic complements the flood of sporting events, festivals, and conventions that now call Montgomery home and have helped our hotel occupancy rate soar to the highest level in the state. This signature event will make the Montgomery brand even more synonymous with sports tourism in the Southeast, and we are grateful to ESPN, the Central Alabama Sports Commission and the Chamber for bringing this first-ever experience kicking off the college football season to our city, further propelling the Capital of Dreams to the forefront of the sports world."
JSU and UT-Chattanooga are currently ranked in the top five in the FCS for the 2016 season. The Gamecocks played the Mocs twice in 2015 with JSU winning both games by a combined nine points.
"It's going to be an exciting time to have two teams that are within an easy drive to come and participate," Derzis said. "And we're going to stage it and nationally televise it and make it an affordable, family activity and we think it's going to be very successful."
Montgomery County Commission Chairman Elton N. Dean, Sr., said, "The Commission is thrilled about the opportunity to once again work with ESPN, the City of Montgomery and the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce to spotlight Montgomery County, Alabama, as a sports-loving, supportive community. The matchup between Jacksonville State and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga will be an exciting way to kick off the 2017 college football season."
Jacksonville State played in the FCS National Championship game in 2015. The Gamecocks lost to North Dakota State, 37-10.