Recruiting. Thatâ€™s one big reason Alabama Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban and Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer will bring their teams to the Georgia Dome on September 5.
The teams will bask in the glow of extensive television coverage via ESPN and possibly a primetime ABC slot. The 2008 Chick-fil-A College Kickoff game between Alabama and Clemson drew a respectable 3.6 rating on ABC, and served as the host for ESPNâ€™s College GameDay. Big time attention for a big time game.
Big time games draw big time recruits.
â€œThe kids we are recruiting, the kids Nick is recruiting, there is no question they want to play in games like this,â€ Beamer said.
Saban agreed. â€œI think playing good competition is always good for your team,â€ he said. â€œThe caliber players you want to recruit like playing in these kinds of games.â€
Putting aside the recruiting and public relations benefits, both coaches see other tangible and immediate benefits to the game. Saban credited the Clemson game in helping turn the Alabama program around.
â€œI think it really motivated our players in the off season to work hard and prepare well for what was going to be a very challenging game (last year against Clemson),â€ Saban said. â€œI actually think it made our team better in a lot of ways. Attitude, commitment, work ethic were all things that we probably need to improve on and I think that game played a significant part in helping us do that.â€
Beamer said his past experience showed his team responded well when preparing for an established BCS type program.
It canâ€™t be all good. There can be drawbacks. What about losing to start the season? It didnâ€™t turn out well for Clemson.
â€œSomebody has to win and somebody has to lose, but if it doesnâ€™t work out perfectly, you still have a chance to learn and grow from it as a team,â€ Saban said. â€œI think there is nothing but positive benefits to this.â€
And there is one benefit for the schools win or lose. Both will earn about $2 million from the neutral site event. The teams are alloted about 31,700 tickets each. It was a hot ticket in 2008. With Virginia Tech and Alabama both potential top ten teams, it could be even hotter in 2009 for the Chcik-fil-A College Kickoff Game.