The Kansas State football team won’t open the 2021 season against Stanford at Bill Snyder Family Stadium as originally planned.
The Wildcats have moved the location of that game to a neutral field and will play the Cardinal on Sept. 4 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, as part of the Allstate Kickoff Classic.
K-State has been exploring the possibility of moving the return game of its home-and-home series with Stanford off campus for quite some time, and the athletics department officially announced the location switch Wednesday.
Gene Taylor, the school’s athletics director, said representatives with the Dallas Cowboys originally approached him about moving the game to their stadium in the summer of 2019, when members of the K-State football team were in town for Big 12 media days. After many months of discussion, and the promise of a $2.8 million payday, Taylor decided the opportunity was too good to pass up, even though it meant giving up a home game.
“It wasn’t easy,” Taylor said in a phone interview, “because it is a marquee non-conference game against a Power 5 opponent. We have had Auburn and Mississippi State here over the years, and those games were great. But this game will be in Dallas, and that’s a huge recruiting area for football and the general student body. We also already had eight home games. We typically only have seven.
“Then when they started talking numbers, we realized we will net more than we would net from playing Stanford at home. With what we faced this year financially, being able to have that nice guarantee will help us build things back up.”
K-State athletics officials began considering playing Stanford at a neutral venue before the coronavirus pandemic arrived, and they ultimately decided to move forward with those plans after enduring a season during the COVID-19 era last year.
Taylor said the pandemic made playing a game in Arlington more attractive considering the money involved. Over the past few months, K-State has announced layoffs and salary reductions for employees across its athletics department and campus.
On average, K-State typically nets around $500,000 from a home football game, Taylor said. But the Wildcats expect to net closer to $2.2 million off of this game after expenses that will include travel for the football team and its marching band.
In other words, K-State will make more money off this game than it usually does off four home games.
“Money was a factor,” Taylor said.
It is unclear how many fans will be allowed at the game, but Taylor is hoping for a larger crowd than what most stadiums we saw in 2020.
Even though the game won’t be played in Manhattan, it still will have the feel of a K-State home game for those in attendance.
The Wildcats will receive 30,000 tickets to sell directly to fans, while the Cardinal only will receive 3,000 tickets, according to a copy of the game’s contract obtained through an open records request. K-State also will have complete control over the “pageantry elements” of the game. That includes marching band performances and pregame hype videos.
The game also will serve as a lucrative payday for only one team. Because this game originally was supposed to be played on K-State’s campus, Stanford only will receive enough money to cover travel costs as agreed upon in the original home-and-home series contract.
Stanford defeated K-State, 26-13, when the two teams last played in 2016 at Stanford Stadium.
Many fans have since looked forward to the rematch being played in Manhattan, and some have voiced their displeasure about moving a game off campus since it was first mentioned nearly two years ago. But with seven other home games on K-State’s 2021 schedule (Southern Illinois, Nevada, Baylor, Iowa State, Oklahoma, TCU and West Virginia), athletics officials thought this was a unique opportunity to play a game on a bigger stage.
“Playing a quality opponent such as Stanford in one of the world’s top sporting venues is a chance for us to showcase our program to recruits all over the country,” K-State football coach Chris Klieman said. “I know our players are excited for the challenge and the opportunity that it presents.”
Previous kickoff games at AT&T Stadium have included traditional blue bloods such as Alabama, Michigan, Auburn, Wisconsin, LSU, Oklahoma, Oregon and Florida.
That is good company.
“I certainly feel that way,” Taylor said. “When you look and see who typically gets invited to go in there and play in this sort of game, it puts us in a pretty good spot. I know our players feel that way. They are excited about it. That was a big part of the reason why we went ahead and did it.”