A couple more thoughts on the should-the-Georgia-Florida-game-stay-in-Jacksonville debate:
First, here’s some more history from Tony Barnhart’s blog post today.
… 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…
Now, I’ll disagree a little with Barnhart with regard to the 1992 loss, in that I think Georgia had the best team in the SEC East that year, but overall, I think his point here is sound.
Then, there’s also this cold, hard set of facts brought to you by your friendly Gator athletic department.
… Florida Associate Athletics Director Greg McGarrity, likely to be involved in the negotiations, told the Sentinel that keeping the game in Jacksonville saves each school almost $2 million every two years and allows more fans to attend the game than any Georgia site could.
Each team makes $3.8 million every two years under the current format in Jacksonville, McGarrity said, yet a typical home-and-home pays about $2 million to the home team. That means every other year, either Florida or Georgia would have to miss out on the money. “Even in conservative dollars, you’re missing $1.5 million over a two-year period,” McGarrity said. “That money can do each institution a lot of good.”
The Atlanta Sports Council is pushing the Bulldogs to fight for a Georgia Dome hosting once every four years. But the biggest stadium in Georgia would muscle out more than 5,000 fans who go to the Jacksonville game every year. Jacksonville Municipal Stadium holds 76,877 fans compared to 71,228 in the Georgia Dome.
“You’ve got (almost) 6,000 people now that have been there forever and you’re telling them, ‘Sorry folks, you won’t be able to go to the Georgia game this year,'” McGarrity said. “Who will be the 6,000 people? Where do you cut back? It’s not like those tickets aren’t tough to get anyway. Both institutions are turning down hundreds of thousands per year.”
Now obviously that last argument doesn’t apply if the series goes home and home – in that case, only about nine or ten thousand Georgia fans will be able to attend the Swamp every other year, although another forty five or fifty thousand of the Dawg faithful would be able to catch a game in Athens than get to now in Jax. But if those figures are true – and I haven’t seen anyone argue differently – there’s no question that playing the game in Jacksonville has some clear pluses to it.
So, let’s sum up a few things about this debate. On the side of those wishing to keep the WLOCP, you’ve got this:
- The results of the series over the past four decades have been driven by talent and coaching.
- Moving games from Jax to Atlanta would mean less fans would be able to see the game.
- Changing the series to a home-and-home would cost the schools money.
On the side of those wanting a move, you’ve got this:
- Money being spent in the local economies of Athens and Gainesville, instead of Jax.
- Greater travel for the Florida team and its fans every other season.
- Speculation that such a move would benefit Georgia’s on-field performance.
Sorry, but I honestly don’t see how the scales balance there.
And I’d like to reiterate one more thing that I touched on in the comments to my previous post on this subject. I’ve been to every game in Jacksonville since 1979 and I attended the ’95 debacle in Athens. I’ve experienced the gamut of emotions leaving those games. I’ve been happy, sometimes deliriously so. I’ve been sad, sometimes almost crushed. I’ve been resigned. I’ve been angry. I’ve been disgusted. I’ve cursed Spurrier. I’ve cursed Goff.
But one thought that’s never crossed my mind as I’ve trudged back to my car after the game is… we’d have won today if this had been played in Athens. And I’ve never heard another Georgia fan say that after a game in all that time, either. Why is that?