Football announces series at Mercedes-Benz

Photo courtesy of Austin Foote

Tech football received some exciting new last week as it was announced that Tech will play an annual home game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium from 2020 to 2024.  The series will start with Notre Dame in 2020, Clemson in 2022, and Notre Dame in 2024.  Tech’s opponents in 2021 and 2023 are still to be determined.  An important thing worth noting is that all five games will be available for season ticket holders.  In fact, everyone who has season tickets will get complimentary priority parking and seating.  

This move marks a turn in Tech football. Playing in such a world-class venue will get Tech more spotlight, a necessity when it comes to recruiting. The notoriety of the Benz might also help bring in fans who do not usually come to Tech games.  With superior facilities, cheap refreshments and a good location, going to a Tech game at the Benz will appeal to more people than the usual home games.  The appeal of the Benz will help Tech find its niche in Atlanta sports culture, something that simply was not going to happen during Johnson’s tenure. Yet even in the Johnson era, when Tech’s marketing efforts lagged behind those of their rivals, playing at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game brought significant dividends. The game sold 75,107 tickets, well above Bobby Dodd’s capacity.  

Finding its place in Atlanta will help Tech increase its reach to fans and future recruits.  This opportunity is one of the reasons Collins got his job.  His charisma and energy separated him from the other qualified candidates.  This move could be the first step in increasing Tech’s notoriety, a necessity in the modern college football era.

A move such as this can only be good for recruiting. By itself, Tech playing in the Benz will not be the reason any recruit decides to commit, but it is what the team is able to do with the opportunity that matters.  The games against Notre Dame and Clemson are going to be games against two premier teams in a premier venue.  The stage could not be any bigger.  While nobody expects Tech to win — unless Tech makes a giant leap forward by 2023 or 2024 — it is the competitiveness that could give Tech more credibility in the minds of elite high school athletes.   

Primetime games such as these are hard to find in college football.  This move by Tech to utilize its proximity to one of the top stadiums in the world to challenge top-ranked opponents is nothing short of extraordinary. The game is a great marketing opportunity for Tech.  If Tech can stay competitive with its opponents and show the country its new brand, look for better recruits, attendance and viewership.  

One real concern is that in making this decision, Tech is essentially sacrificing five home games. Notre Dame fans are known for traveling well and Clemson is a recent two-time national champion whose campus is less than two hours from Atlanta. Needless to say, both programs will bring significant contingents to Atlanta. But given that those schools would have likely packed their alumni into Bobby Dodd as well, the tradeoff is worthwhile. A valiant losing effort would still sell tickets, draw television viewers and position Tech as a nationally relevant program to a degree that broadcasts on Raycom simply cannot offer.

The transition away from Tech’s archaic place with a mundane triple-option offense towards Collins energized system will be assisted by this move.  This opportunity will give Collins a stage on which to show the country Tech’s new program. Where the Jackets fall behind many football powerhouses is its dearth of “sidewalk fans” — individuals who support a college football team without any direct alumni connection. With these games, Tech can advertise its brand to fans all over the United States, and perhaps a few pick up Tech fandom. More viewers, a better venue and top-tier opponents will put Tech on the spotlight, the question is: how will they respond?