Seth Emerson ($$) is skeptical that Kirby Smart’s public stance on moving the Cocktail Party from its current location is some sort of good cop, bad cop scheme to extort more money out of Jacksonville. Occam’s razor suggests that Smart’s motivation is exactly what he says it is. (“But let’s be clear on why Smart wants the game moved: So he can host recruits at home for his team’s biggest rivalry game.”) That would suggest that Atlanta is as much of a non-starter for Georgia’s coach as leaving the game in Jacksonville is.
But there’s that one pesky thing standing in Kirby Smart’s way.
Whether he will get his way, I remain skeptical. Georgia still makes a lot more money holding the game in Jacksonville because the two schools keep all the ticket revenue, and on an annual basis, that’s fairly similar to what each makes on a home game. If the game were moved to home-and-home, one team each year would be leaving money on the table. (Former athletic director Greg McGarity estimated in 2019 that each school profited by about $3 million during a two-year period for holding it in Jacksonville than if it were on campus sites. So about $15 million per decade is the difference between holding it in Jacksonville versus campus sites.)
So where do things stand? The contract runs through 2023, with the option to extend through 2025, which could happen once the future of SEC scheduling is resolved, probably this fall. In all the debate about that future schedule — nine games versus eight, three permanent opponents versus one — never once did I hear mention that Georgia-Florida could be moving to campus sites, and you’d think that would be something that would come up, given the domino effect it would have on home versus away games every year.
The other thing to watch is whether influential donors in the south Georgia area, particularly the Savannah-Sea Island corridor, have become so happy about winning the ring that they’ve called up Morehead and Brooks and said: “Hey, I know this takes away our most favorite event of the year, the one we build our fall around and an ongoing tradition since 1933, but ah what the hell, give Kirby what he wants. I’ll still write you checks for your $300 million capital campaign.”
Money has been undefeated in Butts-Mehre as long as I can remember. So, yes, I know, Smart is swinging a lot of leverage these days, coming off a national championship, but is that enough to overcome the almighty checkbook? Like Seth, I remain skeptical.