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


May 19th, 2009
7:41 am

All about coaching and little about location.

Gen Neyland

May 19th, 2009
7:44 am

History has shown that nothing stays the same but the struggle.

Eastside Dawg

May 19th, 2009
7:45 am

With recruiting classes that consistently rank in the Top 10, if not the Top 5, I’m not so sure the solution to our problem is just signing better players.


May 19th, 2009
7:53 am

I’m glad that the powers-that-be finally wised up on this issue concerning the Iron Bowl. Can you not have golf outings, poker games or parties in Athens or Gainesville? I still haven’t heard a good reason for not having home games in this series.


May 19th, 2009
7:57 am

Fantastic analysis Tony.


May 19th, 2009
7:58 am

Georgia always has good players. Need to look at the current coaching staff. Dooley seemed to do pretty well in the rivalry. A confident coach whould say “I don’t care where we play the game, let’s tee it up and see what happens”. I don’t know why Richt is concerned about this. He needs to figure out a way to win without gimmicks. Coach ‘em up, coach, that’s why you get paid the big bucks!


May 19th, 2009
8:11 am

Never thought I would agree with a Gator.

It comes down to coaching. Getting these kids ready to play and destroy the opponent is not what he does, and it is frustrating. Like Meyer did last year, Richt should have this game circled this year…and every year for that matter. Talent levels are there, but Meyer just gets more from his players.

I concur...

May 19th, 2009
8:12 am

…and am very amazed that 5 of the first 6 respondees to this drivel totally agree that the whole issue is coaching – UGA has the players, yet they have not been coached “up” like the UF players have. Plain and simple!

Max Sizemore

May 19th, 2009
8:17 am

So this blog means what? That some rich and powerful Georgia alums will decide where the game is played?


May 19th, 2009
8:23 am

Tony is right on in every point. Tradition is what college football is all about. To move this game would be an irresponsible, knee jerk reaction to losing . Its not about the money, UGA can negotiate the financial deal they need in Jacksonville.

If Georgia wants to improve their home schedule, how about scheduling someone other than LaLafayette, New Mex. State, or Appalachian St? If they want to play in the GaDome, then schedule a home game there instead of people like Ga Southern and Coastal Carolina. There is one other 2010 date available. Damon, why not schedule that last home game in the Dome rather than adding on someone else like the above losers? .

I predict that if this game was moved, Evans will lose a lot of his support. And while everyone loves Richt, if he forces the change, he may find out how fickle college football fans are. I dont think either man wants to go down that path.

Kid Ray

May 19th, 2009
8:24 am

great analysis TB; From an outsiders point of view. I think Richt needs a little more fire in the belly. His best game was when he let loose (2007) and the UGa players fed off his enthusiasm. Meyer simply seems to “want” it more and I think the players also feed off that. The UGa contingent needs to look more closely at their HC and start asking him some pointed questions.


May 19th, 2009
8:25 am

Gainesville 1994
Gators 52 Pups 14
Athens 1995
Gators 52 pups 17

Ted Striker

May 19th, 2009
8:28 am

Tony, I’ve noticed that the folks who want to keep the game in Jacksonville are frequently the people bringing up win/loss records.

A lot of us who want an occasional change of venue simply want a change of venue because it would improve our experience. We’re true bulldogs, we love tradition, we love Jacksonville. We’d simply love it MORE if we had LESS of it every 4 years or so.


May 19th, 2009
8:31 am

Well said, Tony. While it hurts to admit it, Florida’s players have consistently been better prepared for this game for a long time. Last year, in what should have been an epic battle between relatively even teams, I could tell Georgia was in trouble before they even came out of the locker room. Loran Smith interviewed Richt as he came out the locker room headed to the field. He asked him what was the state of mind of the team as it prepared to head to battle. His response was something like, “Well Loran, I’ve never been really good at reading what these young men are thinking.” While I both admire and respect Coach Richt and the improvements he’s making at Georgia, that statement is hogwash! I want to hear a coach say, “Man, these Dawgs are ripping and snorting and foaming at the mouth! They’ve got blood in their eyes, and if I’m Florida, I’d be really concerned.” Now, I realize that isn’t CMR’s style and that he’s laid back and low key. But in a coaches meeting, I’d be lighting up my assistants and letting them know that anybody that doesn’t come out of that room like his hair’s on fire, ought to be heading straight to the bus, not the field. In football, you’d better be anxious to “hit ‘em in the mouth!” And I mean, first! As the Bear said, “Knock him down, help him back up, and tell him you’ll be right back!”

Go Dawgs!


May 19th, 2009
8:31 am

Money outranks tradition. If someone offers to pay more to move the game out
of Jacksonville it WILL move.

Lane "Shirt-Rippin" Kiffin

May 19th, 2009
8:32 am

Coach O Gave me a Red Bull yesterday. That smart-aleck shook it up before he gave it to me & it sprayed all over my favorite Hawaiian shirt.

I left his smartazz in Johnson City.


May 19th, 2009
8:36 am

TB, you and about 5 to 6 thousand people have those great memories and elite arrangements. The rest of us in the real world, do not have the resources to afford such a lavish mini-vacation….if we did, we wouldn’t be bitchin’ about the game being held in Jacksonville. Winning would sooth a lot of ills. Maybe we do need better players and/or coaching….I could probably argue both sides. I do hate losing that game almost every year.

I guess I’ll just have to be frustrated because I can’t go to J’ville and have a lavish weekend celebration while we lose another game against the hated gators.


May 19th, 2009
8:38 am

*What about consideration for the PLAYERS!!!!
*Additional travel, warmer temps, etc.
*To me Athens/Gainesville makes perfect sense!!!
*Florida was awful during the Vince era

Example assume you live and work in Buckhead, and your offices are moved to Macon, because of the market you cannot sell your home. Imagine that commute and the impact on your life style.

Forget about the FRAT BOY MEMORIES, and give consideration to the players-FOR ONCE!!!

MR, is on the money!!!


May 19th, 2009
8:41 am

I understand tradition and all but at the same time, I just dont understand why UGA would not want this game on campus. We used to play the Iron Bowl at Legion Field and I loved it when AU finally moved the game to campus and even better when BAMA followed suit. Its gives you one more high profile on campus game every other year and brings in a ton of money to your city. Right now all that money stays in Jax. Time for this game to be on campus.


May 19th, 2009
8:44 am

Tony, Nobody cares about your golf game. Perhaps you could drop dead on the course and save us from future columns. I can’t wait for the day when II no longer see your ugly mug when I open the paper. Get lost!


May 19th, 2009
8:44 am

Tebow repairs Hubble telescope!

[...] along the thoughts of The AJC’s Tony Barnhart.Mr. Barnhart believes UGA athletic director Damon Evans is simply posturing when he talks about gauging fan interest in moving the annual Florida-Georgia game from [...]

Gator Mike

May 19th, 2009
8:49 am

Regardless of where the game is played, it will remain one of the nation’s best rivalries because of the deep tradition on both sides. As a Gator, I worry about every game, but the UGA Game aleays bothers me the most. I circle it every year because I know that UGA is always tough. Although the Gators won it all last year, I still consider the win over UGA the most gratifying. The DAWG fans always feel the same when they win. Sorry Vols and Noles, but you do not even register on the scale of concern for me as does the Fl-GA Game. I go to the game every year with a knot in my stomach because I know that UGA is always tough. That may be the edge UF has had over the last 19 plus years because the team and coaches are always looking forward to playing UGA knowing that it will be a tough game. Prior to ‘90, the Dawgs had the upper hand, and we know it; therefore, we are always focused because the tide can easily change in this series. I have a number of DAWGs who are friends, and I never taunt them because I know the past history of this rivalry. That is why we get along except for the last Saturday in October.
Tony is correct.
Go Gators! Beat the DAWGS!


May 19th, 2009
8:49 am

Finally, the truth is spoken. Better players and coaching is what makes this series uneven since 1990, not some sort of mysterious mojo. UGA had it from 1964 to 1989, and UF has had it since. It should also be noted that UGA had 2 horrible coaches over this span, while UF has had only one questionable coach. The reverse was true in 1964-1988. UGA had the better coaching while UF was suffering with mediocre coaching. It comes and goes in cycles. Although he has a losing record against UF thus far, it should also be noted that Coach Richt has a better record than either of his predecessors against UF.

Kid Ray

May 19th, 2009
8:52 am

If you look at Fla run now…it would appear that they have an edge. But if you loko longer and include the Uga run under Dooler, you have a more balanced look. What is the record since 1960?

Gator Nation

May 19th, 2009
8:56 am

Simple Dog,

While I agree with you that it takes financial resources to enjoy the Florida/Georgia game the way Tony is describing it, there is well over a 100,000 Georgia and Florida fans who commit those resources to that week. The weather is usually beautiful, the golf courses and beach’s beckoning, and the tailgaiting a huge mass of partying humanity. There is no other college football experience like it. I hope the game never leaves jacksonville and not because we are currently winning. It is the most important rivalry game for both schools if they want to get to the Dome. Let it stand out as the crown jewel of the season, which it is.

HawkDawg the A-Hole

May 19th, 2009
8:57 am

HawkDawg, I’m lowering myself here, but you’re a fine example of someone who shouldn’t be posting. I think I hear your mama calling you.


May 19th, 2009
8:59 am


That tradtion stuff is fine and dandy, but when is someone in the media going to address the weather difference that the UGA team faces YEAR AFTER YEAR?!! This disadvantage is tremendous, and I can’t seem to figure out why Coach Richt is the only one to mention it. How can it be fair that Florida gets the move to cooler temperatures for the game while the Dawgs have to move to warmer temperatures than those that they practice in?

Tony, I’ve done some research and the avg temps for the month of October (source: Climate-zone.com)
Athens: 62.2
Jax: 69.8
Gville: 70.2

I realize that sometimes the game falls in November, but you get the point. The Gators get almost ONE HALF DEGREE cooler temperatures! So while they practice in an avg temp of 70.2 degrees, they always get the benefit of a cooler gameday. Whereas the Bulldogs have to go down to the hot south and experience almost EIGHT degrees of warmer temps.

How is this fair? How is a team expected to adjust? We need to get this in front of Obama, immediately. He’ll do what’s right. Please, all you Monday morning bloggers out there, spread CMR’s message far and wide, this injustice must end, and end now!

Thank you for listening, and God Bless America.


May 19th, 2009
9:11 am

Weather, location, records…..All crap…..My Dawgs need to to man up like 2007 and bitch slap them.
We wore their butt out that day ( Tebow doesn’t play defense). Open date this year and hopefully a healthy roster will prove different this year….


May 19th, 2009
9:16 am

Enter your comments here


May 19th, 2009
9:17 am

Mark Richt wants the game moved because he chokes in Jacksonville almost every year and figures his coaching will somehow be better in Atlanta. Very funny!!! Losing to the incompetent Ron Zook in 2002, UGA’s only loss?? Choke! But it is somehow due to “playing the game in Jacksonville!” Richt needs to come up with more motivational penalties this year to get his team to play better like he did 2 years ago, when Tebow was hurt. Come on Mark, get creative!!!


May 19th, 2009
9:19 am

Mr. Barnhart this may be your best work. Those who complain about the money going to Florida aren’t considerting the South Ga businesses who budget their entire weekend around this game. Also, as Dorsey Hill said, it’s the annual celebration of the repeal of prohibition. What fun loving Dawg could want to discontinue that?!


May 19th, 2009
9:27 am

Underdog is correct. CMR has had some good teams but is snake bit in Jax. If his solution to change the series is to move it out of Jax maybe it is time for CMR to move out of Athens.


May 19th, 2009
9:27 am

I had some real estate in Ponte Vedra and was trying to get an investor from Oregon to come in with me. One of the selling points I pulled up was the game every year. This guy kept correcting me by saying no one buys a piece of property in this case a condo for one weekend a year. Of course there is Sawgrass and the beach, but basically he was calling me out on the game thing. I will now copy this blog and send it to him to educate. Thank you so much.


May 19th, 2009
9:29 am

I prefer to stay in Jax…we do make some money from the tax base along the coast line…if we go home at home…then we lose that year…the dome is just not an option for me…if they change then I will probably look to another away game such as Kentucky or Vanderbilt, just to get away and make a long week. I am sure that Jax will step up to the plate…

Bull Gator

May 19th, 2009
9:32 am

This article is why TB is respected across the SEC. It’s refreshing to hear a Dawg fan admit that having the game played in Jax in no way creates an advantage for the Gators. Granted, UGA has weather and travel issues to deal with that the Gators do not, but once it’s game time the stadium is split right down the middle. Keep the game in Jax.


May 19th, 2009
9:34 am

The next expansion of Sanford stadium will probably change the arrangement.
Haa anyone bothered to ask how the UGA students feel about this?


May 19th, 2009
9:35 am

Wow. Some pretty stong comments on here today (wishing Tony dead??).

Anyway, as an undergrad in 94 and 95, I am sorry to say I witnessed both beatdowns at the hands of Spurrier and those Gator teams in Gainesville and in Athens. In fact, I lived in downtown Athens at the time (near Clayton St/College Ave) and thoroughly enjoyed yelling out my window at all the jean-short-clad Gator fans trolling around downtown. It was fun to have this game on campus for a change…

However, I have been going to Jax for this game for a very long time, and just cannot imagine it being played anywhere else on an annual basis. Unlike Tony, I do not enjoy the 5 star treatment, but believe me when I tell you I have a tremendous time when I go down each year, and for the record, I don’t see any competitive advantage gained by UF due to the location. If we are truly getting down to comparing the relative temperature, humidity, etc. of Athens, Jax, and Gainesville, then I think we are in bad shape.

I can see both sides, but for my money, I would prefer it stay in Jax.


May 19th, 2009
9:36 am

Oh great! Keep in JAX so Tony can play put-put with his aging frat bros. Great argument.


May 19th, 2009
9:39 am

I too have many great stories from Jax. In fact my first as a 15y/o boy was in 1980. The fact is the state of GA is Giving the state of FL millions of dollars every two years that would be spent in GA. In this day and age it’s time for a new tradition. Atlanta one year and Jax the next. Split the tickets just like now. Let’s face it, We need the money.


May 19th, 2009
9:41 am

Why in the hell can’t M. Richt and the Ga fans who want to move the game focus on one simple fact.

We bring 40,000 of our best friends to the stadium just like FL, the game lasts 3 1/2 hrs. the field size has not changed, we still hold the overall edge in the series, they renamed it Altell Stadium.

What is the problem with the site folks. I didn’t hear a damn thing about it after 07, only Gator jokes for a solid yr.

It’s embarassing to read about MR an D. Evans talking about moving the game.


May 19th, 2009
9:43 am

The next expansion of Sanford stadium may change things.
What do the students think?


May 19th, 2009
9:44 am

georgia coachs, players are constantly exposed to the last 19 years record against fl by the media mostly. You can’t win but 1 a year, but the constant badgering by the media ( that’s part of their job i know) doesn’t help. The way i see it we have split the last 2 years games. Last year was their game this year is ours. Nothing is wrong with the location or recruiting . GO DAWGS


May 19th, 2009
9:45 am

Great article that goes to the heart of the matter. I am sick to death of the “I’ll take my ball and go home” crowd”!


May 19th, 2009
9:50 am

UGASlobberknocker, while I agree that I would like to see more prestigous home games scheduled, I wouldn’t be so quick to knock Georgia Southern. I know I’m biased in this, but for an on paper gimme win, UGA vs GSU game typicaly brings in more people to Athens then any major SEC home games. Auburn may be the exception. I would actually like to see GSU scheduled every year to have a somewhat lesser in state rival game. I think there’s a lot of potential in that game. Since GSU is Div 1-AA this probably will not happen. So Southern hurry up and get some $ backing and make the jump to Div 1-A.


May 19th, 2009
9:51 am

Tony is spot-on about the game location. Changing the venue won’t change the outcome of the game. See Meyer’s record in the Dome.

Both sets of fans love the Jacksonville venue and that is why the stadium is full and there are still 20K+ outside partying and watching on satellite TV’s.

You cannot have the tailgating experience in parking garages in Atlanta, which is why a lot of us stay away from events that are held there, not to mention our need for Kevlar vests.


May 19th, 2009
9:59 am

I attended high school in Jax. Fl. and graduated from UGA in the 80s. I have a lot of Ga. Fla. stories that I wont ever tell. The game is rich with tradition and should stay where it is. I lived the years that UGA dominated Fla. and those days will return if Coach Richt can instill the mental toughness and self confidence Coach Dooley instilled in his players. Coach Richt is the finest coach in the country and I would not trade him for any other. Confidence to beat Fla starts with the head coach and the fact he thinks Fla has an advantage in Jax. tells me he doesnt have have confidence in himself, his staff, or his players to beat Fla. Therein lies the problem. The Bulldogs have the talent and the coaching to dominate Fla., they just lack the confidence. The Bdogs must learn they can beat Fla anywhere, anytime.


May 19th, 2009
10:01 am

Auburn fans never liked traveling to Birmingham for the supposed “neutral site” games. Alabama played the majority of their home games on the same field back in my day. The switch to alternating sites came down to money. In my opinion, the game got better when it switched to the Auburn & Tuscaloosa campuses.

It’s all about the money in the end. I think that the citizens of Athens, Gainesville and Atlanta might like a shot at the huge revenues the city of Jacksonville gets out of this weekend each year.

Personally, I like the idea of a 4-way rotation between Athens, Jacksonville, Atlanta and Gainesville.


May 19th, 2009
10:08 am

Amen. Leave it alone.


May 19th, 2009
10:09 am

How do the students feel about keeping the game in Jax?

I have a few younger friends that just graduated and they love it. Even if they do not get in the game many go down to the landing and beach.