Why the Georgia-Florida game will stay in JAX

 

I’m going to give you two very good reasons why the Georgia-Florida football game will remain in Jacksonville after the current contract expires in 2010.

Carl Brantley and Tom McMillen.

Carl and Tom are my best two friends in the world. We were fraternity brothers in college and have stayed very close for more years than I will admit in this space. College brought us together but college football—specifically the Georgia-Florida game—has helped to keep us together.

Carl lives in Colorado Springs. Tom is in Ringgold near Chattanooga. All three of us have pretty busy lives. But since 1981, with only one exception, we have gathered together in Jacksonville on the Georgia-Florida weekend to play golf, enjoy an adult beverage or two, and tell lies about our youth. We have friends in Ponte Vedra like Briz Dodd, who is our host, and Ben English, who for many years prepared the barbeque lunch for the Bulldog Club pep rally at Metropolitan Park. It is a tradition that never gets old.

I share this personal stuff in order to make a point: There are untold thousands of stories like mine about this game. I know people who have been staying in the same condominiums with the same group of friends for 25 years or more. Some bought their own condos in Amelia Island and St. Simons because of this game. They have standing golf games, poker games, cookouts, and shopping trips—all built around this event.

I just can’t see Damon Evans, the Georgia athletics director, telling those fans that this tradition, which began in 1933, is coming to an end.

Now Evans is a very smart man. He learned from his predecessor, Vince Dooley, that the only real  leverage the Georgia athletics director has in the negotiations with the city of Jacksonville is his ability to ultimately move the game. More than once over the years when the contract would come up for renewal, Dooley announced that he was taking the temperature of the Georgia people about the possibility of moving the game back to campus. Then Jacksonville would throw in a few things to sweeten the deal and the game would come back.

I understand where Damon Evans is coming from. He should listen to his head football coach, Mark Richt, who has been pretty consistent in his desire to move the game around. And you should know that from a scheduling standpoint, playing one of your SEC home games in Jacksonville every other year can create some headaches. And there is no doubt in my mind that if the game were played at the Georgia Dome, the Atlanta Sports Council would make it special just like they have for other events that come to our city.

And certainly the merchants, hotels and restaurants in Athens would love to have another home game—especially that game. So there are all kinds of real world pressures to move this event.

But the one thing you DON’T do if you’re Evans is move the game because portions of your fan base think Florida has some sort of competitive advantage in Jacksonville. Yeah, the Gators are 16-3 in the series since 1990, but that doesn’t have anything to do with where the game is played.

After all, Vince Dooley was 17-7-1 against Florida from 1964-88. Back then it was the Florida people who wanted to move the game back to campus because they were convinced that Georgia had some magical spell in that building. There wasn’t any magic to it and that was proven when Dooley retired in 1988 and Steve Spurrier came to Florida in 1990. Spurrier mocked the idea that Georgia would have some kind of advantage in Jacksonville, which is an hour from the Florida campus.

In that 19-year stretch Georgia has won three times (1997, 2004, 2007). In the 16 losses I can think of only two times (2002, 2005) where I thought Georgia clearly had the better team and lost. The 2002 loss (20-13) I will never be able to explain. In 2005 (a 14-10 loss) quarterback D.J. Shockley could not play due to an injury. Eight of those 16 Georgia losses were to teams that won the SEC championship. Another loss was to a Florida team (1990) that would have won the SEC championship if not for violations created by the previous staff. Of those nine losses, four were to teams that either won the national championship (1996, 2006, 2008) or played for the national championship (1995). So Georgia hasn’t been losing to bad teams.

 Of course Georgia should have won more than three games in the past 19 years but again, it doesn’t have anything to do with where the game is played.

Evans said he’s not in the excuse-making business. Good for him.

Because here is the cold truth that Georgia fans have to face:  Florida has won more games than Georgia in the past 19 years because the Gators have a lot of really good players who have played better in the white-hot spotlight that this game creates. If Georgia wants to win more games against Florida the Bulldogs have to sign better players who play better, not ask for a change of venue.

 

 

283 comments Add your comment

uuugh.

May 19th, 2009
1:38 pm

Point taken…

AltamahaDawg

May 19th, 2009
1:40 pm

Alphare, I dont really understand the question. Ovbiously, the motive is convenience to you. I don’t disagree with you on that. I appreciate that. But lets call it what it is. I have a feeling that moving the game to Orlanda is not really your agenda.

uuugh.

May 19th, 2009
1:45 pm

…and I was at the last Florida Game in Athens and it was not much fun. Maybe Bo would have a different opinion of UF fans had he been there!

The timeouts called at the end of this year’s game reminded me a whole lot of Spurrier calling passing plays late in the 4th to break 50.

Keep it in Jacksonville…I just want the players and coaches to give me a reason not to dread watching the game as I have the past 10 years!!

Losing when you are supposed to win and getting absolutely crushed when you aren’t picked to win.

AltamahaDawg

May 19th, 2009
1:45 pm

really..crap, that was easy…I had a lot more.

BTW I never saw you make a case for home, so I wasn’t pointing out you earlier. Your case for the benifit to Athens is very legit, and very true. (although see my responce). I was more addressing what I have heard a few times as the lost opportunity for the UGA AD bankroll in not having the home game, and that’s simply not accurate.

Gatorzone

May 19th, 2009
1:46 pm

Reality, it is funny to see how condescending UGA fans can be to their own fanbase. Move the game and lose Valdosta recruits to FSU.

mightyKC

May 19th, 2009
1:47 pm

Natureboy809: “mightyKC, you’re a moron. Do you really think that guys who go through Sping and late summer practice in GEORGIA are concerned about heat with it being an average of 69 degrees in Jacksonville in October? Add this to the list of lame excuses.”

love ‘dem puppy fans! no, “moron”, coach mark richt is the one that really thinks that. sheesh.

“When people ask me the question, ‘Do you really think [Jacksonville] is a neutral site?’, I say, ‘No, it’s not neutral,’ ” Richt said. “When you play in the state of Florida every year — we fly, they drive; it’s hotter for us, it’s cooler for them.”

and love all the why don’t so and so agree to a neutral game site blah blah blah….look, this has been going on for 80+ years. have some respect for the game, and for the tradtion that has been set by our forefathers. everyone is about me-me-me-now-now-now. nut up, pups!

AltamahaDawg

May 19th, 2009
1:53 pm

uuugh, you hit the nail on the head, I dont think there is anything worse than sitting there getting that “not again” feeling. Well, moving the game to Atlanta and if/still getting that feeling would be far worse IMO.

But to be accurate, the sinking feeling of losing in J-ville has been more of a realization that we arent going to be pulling off the upset. As Tony pointed out, and I have said many times in here, there have been very rare times when we lost with a better team. I think I can count more pure upset losses in Athens than in J-ville over the past couple of decades. Can anyone dispute that?

Tide rising

May 19th, 2009
1:57 pm

Gatorzone,

That’s a valid point that no one seems to be mentioning. There is a tremendous amount of football talent in south Georgia for recruiting purposes and its not just in Valdosta.

It seems that the last thing you would want to do as a dawgs supporter is to alienate the south georgia fan base and potential recruits who get less exposure to UGA football. By taking away the one game that’s in their backyard you would do exactly that.

For the same reason that Nick Saban wants to play neutral games in the Georgia Dome(recruiting exposure in Georgia) the dawgs should keep the game in Jax for recruiting purposes and to keep FSU at bay. I think FSU is only something like 40 miles from the Valdosta and if you look at all the great teams they used to field a decent amount of their talent came from south Georgia. That is recruiting talent that for the most part Richt has been able to sway back up to Athens. It would be a shame for the dawgs to risk losing that big edge.

emorydawg

May 19th, 2009
1:59 pm

I almost never post here but I had to chime in on this one. Folks one thing that I haven’t seen anyone mention is the fact that this game, at this facility, is one of the most unique things in major college football. This game sets both schools apart from all of the other schools in the country. The fact that the game is played in Jacksonville is what draws a lot of the attention. Add that both teams are, for the most part, highly ranked going in and you have the makings for a special experience year in and year out.

uuugh.

May 19th, 2009
2:03 pm

Altamaha…I really just don’t want it at the dome. That place sucks. And the economic benefit would go to a number of Tech supporters were the game held in Atlanta (and I have seen one too many 45-42 posts on these blogs to support them benefitting from our game in any way!). If it has to be moved, which it seems Richt is bent on, Home and Away is the only other option.

Florida plays in Nike gear too right? Nike should just buy the naming rights to Alltell Stadium. One weekend a year would be an advertising bonanza for them with a de-facto sponsorship of the Coctail Party! Then in the interest of protecting their Nike contracts, neither coach would mention moving the game. Ever.

Problem solved.

UGA VI

May 19th, 2009
2:06 pm

Why give a tough UF team any sort of advantage?….even if it is slight.
Enough of the comparisons of the 94-95 home and home scores….those were terrible UGA teams that were 6-4-1 and 6-6 respectively. The 95′ game in Athens was led by a scout team backup (Brian Smith) while the gators were 12-1 both years. This does not reflect the current competitiveness of the rivalry where every advantage could be a breaking point.
I say rotate between Atlanta and Jax for the next few years. It couldn’t hurt and will put some added revenue in the state’s coffer.
Since my days as a UGA student I have had many good times in jax/st simon’s but that is no reason to keep the game there every year. Quite frankly, all of the losing has really taken a lot of steam of the trip.

coachx

May 19th, 2009
2:10 pm

To Dawgfan,
UF cannot drop UGA off their schedule b/c as long as they are in the SEC East they muct play each other.

UGA can play hard ball with UF and refuse to sign an extension of the Jacksonville contract without a Ga Dome appearanceevery X amount of years. If one of the schools refuses to sign an extension with the city of Jacksonville it does not mean UF can simply drop UGA from the schedule. It simply means the game will be played on a home and home rotation…………like every other SEC rivalry does.

gary

May 19th, 2009
2:11 pm

Lets see, the Iron Bowl moved, the UT-Bama series moved, why can’t the Georgia-Florida game be moved? Either do it at the campuses or have alternating neutral sites. A good point was made on the radio yesterday; if the boosters and ADs can be convinced that moving it will result in more money, then it will be moved. Sorry but tradition has long went out the window. I would prefer these games be put on the campus of each school.

Oh and one more thing…….why would anyone want to go to Jacksonville? What is there to do in Jacksonville and why would I want to stay in a 2nd rate hotel just to see a game?

Atlanta Gator

May 19th, 2009
2:12 pm

Alta~Dawg—-Roger that. It’s still a rivalry, and as long as winning the game means as much to both teams as it does, it will remain a rivalry. I, for one, will never miss the sound of silence at the Atlanta office, following a week of barking in the halls before the Game.

BTW, I see you’ve given up the ghost on the e.e. cummings thing . . . no more “altamahadawg,” eh?

Lenny in Ludowici

May 19th, 2009
2:16 pm

Aight. I’ve got the solution to your problem. The UGA-UF game should be moved to Fitzgerald. Geographically, it’s roughly halfway between Athens & Gainesville. It’s got a good sized high school field. If golf is what you like then there’s a nice municipal course. If you want some high falutin’ eateries then take a short drive over to Tifton. They’ve even got the Fire Engine Museum for entertainment. Weather? Well, it’ll still be warmer for the Dogs, but the fine folks down there have volunteered to put air conditioners on the Georgia sideline.

Maybe the Georgia backers who want the game moved are Democrats. Change is in the air, after all. Or maybe Flarda’s just in their heads.

Otto

May 19th, 2009
2:18 pm

Tide, Auburn, FSU, and UF have been known to regularly raid South Ga. The last thing UGA needs to do is give up publicity in South Georga.

UGA VI and how will it help recruiting with UF winning in Atlanta. We alienate S. Ga and give them publicity in Metro Atlanta. Will the UGA fans really be energized driving down from their Atlanta homes just in time to sit in their seats for the game without any real tailgating?

Yes I was in Athens for the Florida game and fans for both sides seemed really flat.

G8R GRAD

May 19th, 2009
2:20 pm

Distances from Jacksonville:

Rome 335 mi.

Miami 348 mi.

Pensacola 332 mi.

All things being, er, well, equal . . . .

Atlanta Gator

May 19th, 2009
2:20 pm

Otto—”Really flat,” or just sober? LOL

Otto

May 19th, 2009
2:22 pm

Bama UT moved? Only dates the game has been home and home since 1908.

Otto

May 19th, 2009
2:23 pm

Atl Gator, UGA fans have had no problem being sober after the game but you do have a point lol.

Anonymous

May 19th, 2009
2:24 pm

Or Really flat out hammered!

OaktownGator

May 19th, 2009
2:33 pm

When I first stated attending these games in person, in the early 80s, it always amazed me how it felt like Georgia fans were the home team – in the state of Florida. And Georgia’s teams played like they were the home team, and made the big plays to get most of the wins.

It turned completely around, and TB is right as to why – its all about coaching and attitude. The location wouldn’t make any difference, any more than it does with us and FSU right now.

It’s our day right now, and as a Gator fan, I’m going to enjoy it, no matter where the game is played. But Dawg fans shouldn’t delude themselves into thinking the location will make a difference in the outcomes. It wouldn’t, and it didn’t in the years the stadium was being renovated.

The WLOCP is one of the biggest events in College football year in and year out. It is bigger than the overwhelming majority of the bowl games, including some played on New Years. It will still be a big game if it goes home and home, but it won’t be the WLOCP any more (which it still is, regardless of what our University presidents try to say), and it certainly won’t carry the national interest that it does now.

An alternating neutral site that could maintain the atmosphere that Jax provides would be cool, too, but I think the neutral site tailgating party of the year atmosphere s/b retained.

KingGator

May 19th, 2009
2:36 pm

Excuses, excuses, excuses!! Leave the game in Jax. where it belongs, and get to the details of coaching and recruiting!!

It’s one of the great venues in all of sports!!

TNDawg

May 19th, 2009
2:37 pm

It is articles like this that continue to show that Tony B. is the best in the business. All great points. Thanks a lot Tony!

Atlanta Gator

May 19th, 2009
2:41 pm

G8R GRAD—-And the list gets more interesting when you consider the other major urban areas in Florida and Georgia . . .

Driving distances to Jacksonville:

139 miles from Savannah, GA
141 miles from Orlando, FL
207 miles from Albany, GA
225 miles from Tampa, FL
264 miles from Augusta, GA
270 miles from Macon, GA
285 miles from West Palm Beach, FL
292 miles from Columbus, GA
327 miles from Fort Lauderdale, FL
347 miles from Atlanta, GA
349 miles from Miami, FL
358 miles from Pensacola, FL
363 miles from Athens, GA
378 miles from Naples, FL
415 miles from Rome, GA
505 miles from Key West, FL

Strangely enough, Jacksonville is dangerously close to the combined population center of Florida and Georgia. Oh yeah, and Jacksonville and the south Georgia coast have great beaches and Atlanta does not. Why did they decide to have this game in Jacksonville again? I mean apart from the fact that smalltown north Florida and smalltown south Georgia are among the two most fertile high school football recruiting areas in the country?

Rob

May 19th, 2009
2:42 pm

UF happens to be in the middle of a dynasty right now and, like Tony said, have had some pretty damn good teams over the last 19 years, ask Florida State and Tennessee. They would be dominating just about any other program out there regardless of where the game was played. Don’t overreact people.

Atlanta Gator

May 19th, 2009
2:44 pm

Otto—-Come on over to the Dark Side. I have a blue baseball cap with an orange “F” on it for you. It would making post-game inebriation much more pleasant. Jeans shorts are optional.

= )

Rob

May 19th, 2009
2:51 pm

Lenny, personally I’d like to see the game in Jesup.

Jax is the most logical site for the game. Every few years this debate pops up and every time Jax anties up and the game stays put. Why will this be any different?

G8R GRAD

May 19th, 2009
2:51 pm

And as I posted yesterday:

“I got to enjoy the Georgia perspective recently by travelling with some Geargia fans (good friends), staying on St Simon’s, going to the game and returning to a great meal and a stay at the beach.

You guys have it down to a science!”

That trip was more fun than any of those I enjoyed as a Floridian!

If it ain’t broke, . . .

Anonymous

May 19th, 2009
2:56 pm

Otto:

Atlanta Vader isn’t really your father is he?

shannon

May 19th, 2009
2:58 pm

Tony, with all due respect, at least show the full scope of the argument so people can make an informed opinion. For example, over that 16-3 run by UF, do you happen to knwo how many of those games UF came off a bye week? Of course you don’t. Do you know what happened the last time we had a bye week before this game? Drilled them. I will take Richt’s advice over yours any day. You do not need to be involved in discussing football if you do not see how a UF bye week, plus the temperature change (it probably averages 73 with 60% Humidity in Athens game week while Jacksonville averages 78-82 with about 85% humidity), plus the lost day of prep (UF comes over on gameday while UGA flies down on friday) has some bearing.

Turn it around: if this game is played in Atlanta for the next 20 years and UF plays Ole Miss before it while we are off, and they fly in Friday while we are prepping, we would win 15 of those 20.

As far as the vacation part for friends, get over it. That is selfish. I want to see my team have more chances to win CHAMPIONSHIPS than worrying about a week getting hammered on a beach.

Charlotte Dawg 06'

May 19th, 2009
2:59 pm

Nice write-up Tony. Sadly I never did get down to J-ville while I went to school in Athens. After reading this column and some of you all’s comments I am going to make it a point this year to get down there and experience this in the flesh. Numbers don’t lie and The Gators have clearly had our number for a number of years. I think there is, indeed, a huge mental aspect weighing on the players in this game, and Florida’s coaches have consistently been able to fire up their players more often.

Otto

May 19th, 2009
3:01 pm

Atl Gator, I grew up in the 80s going down to Daytona Beach with the family on Thursday. We drove up to the game on Saturday. The drive back down 95 South was always great after the game under Dooley. I hope one day that will return.

shannon

May 19th, 2009
3:02 pm

One more thing. If you think the change in climate for us vs what UF is used to game week does not matter, then it wouldn’t matter if a northwest team came down here in Sept-but it does. If this were the vandy game, the talent could still win out, but when its equal talent those little things add up. For example, I know you worship at the throne that is Tebow, but do you think that playing AT LSU while UF was off last year had SOME little bearing on that game? If you do not, you are ignorant-I don’t care how many columns you write. You can be President of the USA and still be an idiot-just look there now.

Georgia Gator

May 19th, 2009
3:04 pm

shannon:

I fail to see the logic in your argument:

Is it your position that since 1990, UGA would’ve won more than they did against what has been, simply put, a better football team, more often than not?

Do you really think venue would’ve made that significant a difference?

Puh-lease!

Otto

May 19th, 2009
3:05 pm

Shannon, I want championships, top recruits, media publicity to win the championship, and to keep them from recruiting our backyard. The game has been more even over the past 5 years. UGA is 2-3 and the 1 blow out under CMR was after the end zone dance which is expected. Scheduling before the game has also been much more even.

G8R GRAD

May 19th, 2009
3:10 pm

My GA/FL experience:

Drive to Jax from school;
Meet family (including Ga grad Mom)for brunch;
Get fannies kicked by Dawgs for 90 min.;
Familial kisses and hugs goddbye after the slaughter; and
drive back to Gainesville a beaten Gator.

What are you Georgians complaining about?

Lenny in Ludowici

May 19th, 2009
3:10 pm

Hey Shannon, if a bye week is so important, why not schedule a bye instead of moving a game?

If temps are so important, what are you going to do when you have to play in Gainesville? Seems to me you have more of an advantage in Jax than home/home. Either way, UF is A)used to the heat at home B)going to cooler climes in Athens. How is that an advantage?

Gatorzone

May 19th, 2009
3:21 pm

Wow, Shannon. Why don’t you cry a little bit?

austindog

May 19th, 2009
3:26 pm

I’m all for moving the game, but a stat I’d be interested in seeing is other teams’ records vs UF since 90. Some gator must have that info handy.

Otown_Gator

May 19th, 2009
3:29 pm

I went to both the 94 game in GV and the 95 game in Athens!! Loved the atmosphere in Athens even though the people there ruined it. Loved it even more when we scored the most points ever by a visiting team between the bushes!!! It’s not a question of where to play the game, it’s a question of where would the Dawgs like to take their beating!! Woof

Otto

May 19th, 2009
3:33 pm

Since ‘90

14-5 against LSU
13-6 against Tenn.
16-3 against UGA

Is changing stadiums really going to change that much? Coaching and talent will win it.

Georgia Gator

May 19th, 2009
3:36 pm

“. . . but when its equal talent those little things add up.”

And therein lies the rub.

jbirdawg

May 19th, 2009
3:41 pm

Great article. Spurrier elevated UF in the nineties to perennial top ten rankings. UGA struggled and only twice was ranked in the top ten. One of those years beating UF. Richt has now raised UGA to almost a perennial top ten team. He is 2-6 vs the gators and realistically should be 3-5. Spurrier was wise to set up his bye weeks in the nineties so that UF had the bye before UGA as much as possible. Of the games UF had a bye week prior to UGA(and UGA played) the gators are 12-1, when neither teams had a bye, 1-1, and when UGA had a bye and UF played, UGA is 1-0. These numbers are from memory so I may be off a game. At that point in the season bye weeks = fresher legs and do make a difference, especially in years where the teams are relatively equal. Hopefully the bye UGA has this year helps. But the game in Jax should stay. With all the focus on the SEC this game can be as big as the red river.

Georgia Gator

May 19th, 2009
3:42 pm

Sorry, should’ve read:

“. . . but when its equal talent . . .”

And therein lies the rub.

Rob

May 19th, 2009
3:43 pm

Are we really talking about weather as an issue? Seriously? The game is in late October… it’s not still hot then. In fact, I can remember wearing long sleeve shirts and the GA fans wearing their NASCAR jackets to those games. I know, global warming has impacted NE Florida more than Georgia. There’s a hole in the ozone layer over Jacksonville, right UGA fans? That explains the disparity.

bh

May 19th, 2009
3:44 pm

Come on Tony! Nobody in there right mind would say that it is not a significant advantage for Floriday to play in Jacksonville. I understand yours and many others traditions, but all the pain would be forgotten in about 2 to 3 years if someone would have the guts to stand up and say, we are going to do what is best for the football program, not just the guys with deep pockets who can afford to vacation around one football game.

DenverDawg

May 19th, 2009
3:46 pm

where’s Ted Striker?

Dorsey Hill

May 19th, 2009
3:46 pm

Otto,

Damn, is LSU looking to move the game out of Baton Rouge with that record?

UF is beating LSU for the same reason they beat us and everyone else: they’ve been consistently better than their opponents. They win in Baton Rouge, Knoxville, and everywhere else, except they have struggled in Mississippi. Can we move the game to Jackson, Ms? Similar name right?

Let’s just get better and beat them in Jax. I do agree that the game is too important for one team to have an off game the week before though. They should both play or both be off.

mightyKC

May 19th, 2009
3:48 pm

shannon, let me guess…you’re a UF grad…maybe even a lawyer.

as someone already said, schedule the friggin bye week EVERY year, you whiners.

game in gville: advantage, gators…you’ll have to come down to the big, bad humid florida sun.

game in athens: advantage, gators…we get to play in less humid conditions than we’re used to!!

STFU