Just once I would like to see a decision made in college athletics that is based on something other than money.
I bring this up now because the UGA Athletic Association board is scheduled to hold one of its quarterly meetings Wednesday, and there is a familiar topic on the agenda: Where to play the Georgia-Florida game. The contract with Jacksonville runs through 2010, and given that everybody is making a lot of money — a factor at least as important as “tradition,” despite what you may hear — I suspect that’s where the game will stay.
But it shouldn’t. At least not every year. The Georgia-Florida game should be held every other year on the Georgia or Florida campus.
I know. What a novel idea, right? College football on an actual college campus.
This isn’t about some perceived home-field advantage the Gators have playing the game in Jacksonville. Florida has won most of the time in the past two decades because it has had the better team — not because the Gators can bus to the game. And I certainly don’t see the attraction to holding the game at the Georgia Dome, just for the sake of moving it over the border once in a while.
This is about what college football truly is supposed to be about: the campus atmosphere, the student section, the home-field advantage with a small section or two of visiting fans dwarfed by everybody else in the stadium.
Georgia and Florida have a sweet deal with Jacksonville. The schools make more money there than if the game was moved on campus. But let’s get real here. The SEC has a $2.25 billion contract with ESPN and an $825 million contract with CBS. In short, the conference already is sharing $205 million a year with member institutions before anybody sells a ticket or a sponsorship or begins fundraising.
Seriously, is another estimated $1 million a year to have the game in Jacksonville that big of a deal?
My plan: Keep the game in Jacksonville every other year. Then in alternate seasons, have the game on campus. That would put in once in Athens every four seasons, and once in Gainesville in a similar rotation. Everybody wins. The tradition of Jacksonville is preserved, and so is the real tradition of college football.
But my guess is that the spirit of Gordon Gekko wins out.