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Florida to open 2019 season with three night games

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Woo for the cool.

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Gators will open their 2019 football season with three straight night games, the program announced in conjunction with an ESPN schedule release on Thursday.

Florida’s 7 p.m. opener against Miami in the Camping World Kickoff on August 24 has been known for months, as ESPN’s successful effort to get that primetime game moved up a week was announced in March.

But Florida will follow that game with a pair of contests that will air on ESPN networks in early September, as the Gators play their home opener against Tennessee-Martin on September 7 at 7:30 p.m. on either ESPNU or the SEC Network Alternate Channel and open SEC play at Kentucky on September 14 in an ESPN telecast.

The night kickoffs have become familiar and welcome early-season events for Florida, as the Gators began making efforts late in Jeremy Foley’s tenure as athletic director to play fewer early- and mid-afternoon games in the sweltering heat of the late Florida summer and early fall.

Florida’s last actual noon-hour home opener came in 2013 against Toledo, though the threat of Hurricane Irma led to the cancellation of a scheduled noon game against Northern Colorado in 2017. And that game against the Bears would have been just Florida’s second noon-hour September kickoff since its 2013 season began with that nooner against Toledo and a noon game at Miami, as the Gators have played just one such game — a nooner against Vanderbilt on September 30, 2017 — in the five seasons since then.

Florida has played a few noon games in the Volunteer State in early October that span — one at Tennessee in 2014, and ones at Vanderbilt in 2016 and 2018 — but the Gators have almost entirely avoided nooners in September, both in Florida and on the road, since 2013.

The announcements of kickoff times for the UT-Martin and Kentucky games also mean that a third of Florida’s regular-season games for 2019 now have announced kickoff times. The Florida-Georgia game will, as usual, air at 3:30 p.m. on CBS, with that network announcing as much on Wednesday.