It's Official: UNC vs. LSU to Kickoff 2010

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- North Carolina will open its 2010 football season against LSU in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta. The game will be played Sept. 4, 2010 in the Georgia Dome and will be televised nationally by ESPN in prime time.

"While our focus is on our 2009 season, being selected to participate in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game against LSU is a wonderful honor," North Carolina head coach Butch Davis said in a school press release on Wednesday. "This game is recognized throughout college football as the premier event of college football's opening weekend and it offers an exciting opportunity for our team, staff, and fans. We are honored to represent the Atlantic Coast Conference in what will surely be an exciting atmosphere in the Georgia Dome."

This matchup has been the worst-kept secret of the summer, as various media outlets reported the likelihood of a UNC-LSU pairing dating back to the ACC Football Kickoff event in July.

UNC Athletics Director Dick Baddour indicated on Wednesday afternoon that Gary Stokan, president of the Atlanta Sports Council and the Chick-fil-A Bowl, initially approached North Carolina about the 2010 opener and school officials reciprocated the interest. The opponent was not set at that time, but Baddour felt that the program would be ready for the limelight in what will be Davis' fourth year in Chapel Hill.

"I really feel like we're on schedule," Baddour said. "I think we're ready to play that kind of game in an opening way. Our program, a few years ago, had some success with that kind of highlight and it was beneficial for us, and so maybe we can duplicate that."

Part of the reason the announcement was delayed is due to the fact that North Carolina already had a full nonconference slate for the 2010 campaign. UNC officials approached South Carolina about potentially moving the '10 scheduled game in Columbia to a different year. According to Baddour, South Carolina officials expressed a willingness to help as long as UNC returned the favor in finding the Gamecocks another opponent for '10 on short notice.

"In the football world, the scheduling part for a year out can be tricky," Baddour said. "So it had to work for [South Carolina] that there could be a game for them that they could find acceptable.

"And that's sort of the beauty of ESPN being involved, because they can bring some things to the table for South Carolina and South Carolina's opponent that we couldn't just [by] ourselves. If we're out there trying to find a replacement for us for South Carolina, that could take six months. ESPN could make that happen very quickly because they've got some exposure."

North Carolina and South Carolina have mutually agreed to move next season's game, which was originally scheduled for Sept. 18 in Columbia, to the opening Thursday night of the 2013 season (Aug. 29, ESPN). In addition, next year's contest vs. William & Mary, which was originally scheduled for Sept. 4, has been moved to Oct. 30.

This will be the seventh meeting between LSU and North Carolina with the Tigers holding a 5-1 advantage. The two teams have not met since 1986. Carolina's lone win in the series was a 34-7 decision in the first meeting in 1948. The Tigers and Tar Heels are currently ranked No. 9 and No. 19, respectively, in the USA Today Coaches Top 25 poll.

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