Penn St.-UCF set for Ireland opener
It's finally official: Penn State is heading to Ireland.
In a long-awaited news release, Penn State said on Sunday morning that it will play UCF at 1:30 p.m. (8:30 a.m. ET) at Croke Park in central Dublin on Aug. 30, 2014. It's the first international game in the Nittany Lions' 127-year history, and it will open the 2014 season for both teams.
"We are thrilled to announce that we will play UCF at Croke Park to open the 2014 season," Bill O'Brien said in the release. "Our players and coaches are so excited to go to Ireland and play a college football game in such a historic and outstanding venue. I have great respect for coach [George] O'Leary and his team, and playing UCF in Ireland will be a fantastic experience for all the players, coaches and fans."
The two coaches from PSU and UCF aren't strangers. O'Brien worked with O'Leary at Georgia Tech from 1995 to 2001, and they helped win the 1998 ACC conference title.
PSU will play UCF at home Sept. 14 this season before heading to the overseas game next year.
"We are very excited about the prospect of playing our 2014 season opener in Dublin," O'Leary said. "It's a great opportunity for UCF, and a chance for us to grow the exposure of our football program."
Because of the sanctions and bowl ban posed by the NCAA, O'Brien has emphasized for awhile now that PSU would find a sort of replacement in the regular season. Rumors swirled about Hawaii as a possible destination, until Ireland became an option.
The announcement was expected for months and, Sunday morning, it finally became a reality.
"Our visit this weekend has only reinforced our reasons for wanting to come and play in Dublin," PSU athletic director Dave Joyner said. "We've not only grown our appreciation for the games so entrenched in the history and traditions here in Ireland, but have also confirmed that, because of the Irish people and their hospitality, Penn State fans are going to love their time here in late summer of 2014."