Troy State signs two -year deal with Gators

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Sports Editor

Troy State Athletic Director Johnny Williams announced on Tuesday that Troy State had signed a contract to play the University of Florida in football.

The Trojans will travel to Gainesville in 2007 and 2009.

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"We’re excited about it and we want to play in Florida because we do a lot of recruiting in that state," said Williams. "It will be a premium game for our fans to go to… like the Nebraska game."

The Trojans travel back to Nebraska next year in a schedule that features a plethora of road games, including a return trip to Mississippi State, an upstate contest at the University of Alabama-Birmingham and a game in Little Rock against Arkansas. The Trojans play four home games and will travel to Mobile to take on Florida A&M.

Williams said putting this year’s schedule together has been tough.

"It was very difficult, especially getting those last two games against Florida A&M and Austin Peay," he said. "Most people have had their schedules already in place. They’re done years in advance. When it’s February and March and you’re still looking for games, it’s hard to do. Plus, us beating Mississippi State may have discouraged a few people."

As Williams pieces together the Trojans’ schedule for the future, he said TSU head coach Larry Blakeney wants his athletic director to make one opponent a mainstay – Middle Tennessee State.

"Coach Blakeney has encouraged me to get Middle Tennessee on the schedule and I think he and the other coaches have a rivalry in mind when it comes to Middle," he said.

"Now, when he told me that, I was like ‘Coach, are you sure you want to play them again?’" joked Williams.

The Rattlers routed the Trojans 54-17 last season in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Williams presented members of the Troy Rotary Club, where he was guest speaker on Tuesday, plans for an expanded Memorial Stadium. Renovations to the 52-year-old stadium will start in July and construction is set to conclude sometimes next year. Seating capacity will be increased to over 30,000.

The eastern stands will be removed during the summer.

Williams said the construction timetable was moved back due to the number of low-profile home games the Trojans will host in the fall.

"As we looked at our schedule we didn’t see any one game that would be dominant, other then homecoming, as far as attendance goes," said Williams. "In fact, Coach

Blakeney said he would be willing to play all of the games on the road if we could go ahead and get that thing built because it’s so big for recruiting to have that stadium in place. Even during the year, and having the construction going on, I think it’s going to make people realize that it’s here."

Williams encouraged the rotarians to continue to support TSU’s football program. In 2004, the NCAA will implement a new criteria for Division I-A membership, including having to average 15,000 for all home games.

"We need you to attend our games," he said. "A team we played last year, Cal-State Northridge, had to drop its football program during the offseason. Since 1990, eight California universities have dropped football. For a lot of things, California sets the trends, but we hope that’s a trend that doesn’t continue across the country."

A report made by the Birmingham News earlier this week tabbed Williams as a candidate for the vacant athletic director’s job at UAB. Last month, the University of North Alabama also sought to bring Williams back to his alma mater.

"It’s a complement to have your name thrown at the top of a list but I haven’t been contacted by anyone at UAB," he said. "It just shows that what we’ve done here at Troy State, people have noticed. And people have got a lot of respect for us."