Grambling will play reigning Rose Bowl champion Texas Christian next season, bringing the program back for another game in Dallas-Fort Worth, home to one of its strongest alumni bases. The Tigers already face Prairie View A&M annually in the Metroplex.
“It’s a done deal,” interim Grambling athletics director Aaron James told me. “Next year, in ’12, we are opening TCU’s new stadium.”
The TCU matchup is set for Sept. 8, 2012, at historic Amon G. Carter Stadium, which is in the midst of a $143 million renovation project. Expanded home-game capacity is expected to be upwards of 40,000; TCU has already sold a school-record 20,817 season tickets for 2011.
Information on the 2012 game’s guarantee was not immediately available. Whatever the cost for TCU, however, the allure of scheduling Grambling is clear: Over the last decade, the team, in tandem with the Tiger Marching Band, has helped a series of FBS teams to record-smashing gates.
Louisville welcomed 41,227 for a 2000 game against Grambling, then the 10th largest crowd in Cardinal Stadium history. Three seasons later at San Jose State, the Tigers drew 31,681, marking the first sellout for a football game at Spartan Stadium since 1990. (In 2004, without Grambling as an opponent, the Literacy Classic drew two-thirds fewer fans, just 11,360.)
Washington State played Grambling before 51,486 fans at Seattle’s Qwest Field in 2005; the school hasn’t counted more than 50,000 fans at that venue since. Grambling’s 2006 game at Houston drew 27,302 — then the biggest home crowd at Robertson Stadium since 31,784 fans watched Texas played the Cougars there in 2001.
The Tigers also helped set a new home attendance record at Louisiana-Monroe in 2007, drawing 30,101. Grambling’s away game at Nevada in 2008 brought in 20,078 folks — just outside the Top 10 all time for the Wolf Pack at Mackay Stadium. And in 2009, the Tigers were there for the first sellout ever at Oklahoma State’s newly completed Pickens Stadium, helping OSU attract 56,901 fans to outdraw an earlier record-setting game featuring SEC foe Georgia.
The University of Arkansas was also on Grambling’s radar as a possible out-of-conference foe. But ultimately school officials believed that Tiger fans in Texas would show up in greater numbers.
“When we played Oklahoma, we set a new attendance record,” James said. “This time, we are going to Dallas, and we have a big fan base there. I think we can do it again.”
TCU’s stadium opened 81 seasons ago. Officials hoped to have the renovations completed in time for the Frogs’ 2011 home opener, set for September against ULM.