Utah is headed to the "Big House," again.
Athletic department officials announced Monday that the Utes will open the 2008 football season at Michigan. The game, which will be broadcast as part of a national doubleheader on ABC and ESPN, is set for Aug. 30.
"We always prefer playing home and home series," Utah athletics director Chris Hill said in a released statement. "But every four or five years an opportunity like this comes that we feel has great benefits in terms of national exposure and recruiting."
Utah will receive a payout of $800,000 to play the game. Michigan replaces Washington State on the Utes' schedule. A home-and-home series with the Cougars, originally planned for 2008 in Pullman and 2010 in Salt Lake City, will be rescheduled.
"The chance to go play in an venue like the Big House, what more could you ask for? That is college football. That's the essence of college football," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who was the defensive coordinator when the Utes lost a hard-fought 10-7 decision at Michigan in 2002.
Michigan Stadium has a seating capacity of 107,501.
"That's an incredible experience," Whittingham said. "It's an experience that every Division-I football player ought to be able to experience."
Whittingham said the coaching staff is excited about the opportunity. They were privy to the discussions when talks began weeks ago.
The players are also enthused.
"I'll be huge going into the Big House with 100,000-plus," junior quarterback Brian Johnson said. "But our focus is on (2007 opening opponent) Oregon State right now. We really can't worry about 2008."Utah and Michigan have also agreed to a home-and-home series in men's basketball. The Utes are slated to visit Ann Arbor in 2009-10 with the Wolverines slated to play in the Huntsman Center in 2010-11. Details are still being finalized.