Despite news that the annual Georgia-Florida clash looks set to remain in Jacksonville through 2021, prospects for the college football classic staying at the neutral site much past that date might run afoul of the two schools’ future need to bolster their home schedules.
Whether that prospect dismays you or pleases you probably depends in large part on your tolerance for the crowds and high prices that characterize greater Jacksonville (including nearby areas of South Georgia) each year during the week when the Dawgs and Gators meet.
The Jacksonville Business Journal reported this week that a contract renewing the annual Georgia-Florida game is officially on the table for city approval. It’s a lucrative five-year deal, with a total of $2.75 million in incentives for the schools over the life of the contract. Each school will receive a $125,000 “signing bonus” and a $250,000 guaranteed payment each year, a provision that the Journal said didn’t exist under the prior contract.
Both schools are also getting an increase in their travel and lodging stipend, and Jacksonville will cover UGA’s air travel up to $350,000 each year.
Many fans are looking forward to seeing Nick Chubb go against the Gators one more time. (John Kelley / UGA)
While some Georgia fans — and, at one point, former Dawgs coach Mark Richt — have complained over the years about Jacksonville not really being a truly “neutral” site for the game, and a few have even gone as far as suggesting there is some sort of “Jacksonville jinx” for the Dawgs, it should be noted that the past three demoralizing losses were preceded by three wins in a row for Georgia during the Will Muschamp era at UF.
A bigger threat to the Jacksonville neutral-site series was talk a few years ago of the SEC playing nine conference games. If that were to happen, Georgia and Florida would be at a disadvantage in having one less home game in the odd-even rotation of home and away, and one less spot open for a cupcake home game.
The nine-game SEC schedule seems to have been parked on the conference’s back burner, but I’ve heard increasing support from Georgia fans in recent years for moving the Georgia-Florida game out of Jacksonville to make the home schedule more palatable in the alternating years when UGA plays at Auburn and Georgia Tech — either with a home-and-home deal for the Dawgs and Gators or an arrangement that alternated Athens, Gainesville and Jacksonville.
In one sense, that would be a shame, because, if you take the game out of Jacksonville — with the 50/50 split in seating and the surrounding party atmosphere — it no longer would be one of college football’s marquee events. It would be just another important game in the SEC East.
However, there’s also something wrong with Georgia fans not getting to see the team play its biggest rival in Athens. And, if configured correctly, having the Gators play at Sanford every other year could help correct the ridiculous schedule imbalance created by now having Tech and Auburn both be away games during the same year.
Ultimately, I think in order to shore up season ticket sales, the two schools will have to consider putting the Georgia-Florida series either on a home-and-home basis or playing in Jacksonville only every third year.
Jacksonville may offer a nice payday, but if the tough economics facing college football (and ESPN) result in a reduction in TV money and/or more fans choosing to opt out of an annual contribution and season ticket purchase, the financial bottom line could lead the schools to abandon the River City.
What do you think, should Georgia-Florida in Jacksonville be sacrosanct, or should fans in Athens and Gainesville get a chance to see the game some of the time?
DRAFT, SCHMAFT, HERE ARE THE GREATEST NFL DAWGS
With wide receiver/returner Isaiah McKenzie being the only Bulldogs player selected this year, the NFL draft saw UGA’s worst showing since no Dawgs were picked in 1992.
If that has you feeling down, maybe this list of the greatest NFL Dawgs will help:
Fran Tarkenton, a fellow Athenian who played in the NFL for 18 seasons for the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants. He led the Vikings to three Super Bowls in the 1970s, and is one of three Georgia Bulldogs inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Charley Trippi, who played for the old Chicago Cardinals of the NFL from 1947 to 1955, leading the league in all-purpose yards in both 1948 and 1949, and who at various times played halfback, quarterback, defensive back and punter. He’s also in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Terrell Davis, whose seven-season career with the Denver Broncos was cut short by injuries, but who was arguably the NFL’s top back in 1996-98. He was named MVP of Super Bowl 32 and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in February.
Champ Bailey, left, and Hines Ward pose for a picture at Sanford Stadium. (Perry McIntyre Jr./UGA)
Champ Bailey, the iron man, who retired in 2014 after 15 seasons in the NFL with the Redskins and Broncos, during which he was selected to 12 Pro Bowls, the most ever for a cornerback, and seven times was named All-Pro.
Jake Scott, a five-time All-Pro who had his glory days with the Miami Dolphins in their heyday (including their 1972 undefeated season) and also played for the Redskins. The star safety was MVP of Super Bowl 7.
Bill Stanfill, a three-time All-Pro with the Dolphins (also on that 1972 team) and considered by many one of the greatest defensive linemen ever, was known racking up sacks.
Hines Ward, an extremely productive receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers who was MVP of Super Bowl 40 and a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year.
Richard Seymour, one of the NFL’s greatest defensive ends, who played three times on the Super Bowl winner and was named All-Pro five times during his career with the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders.
Guy McIntyre, a dominating offensive lineman who played in three Super Bowls and was a Pro Bowl selection five times in a career that included stints with the San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles.
Len Hauss, who played center for the Redskins from 1964 to 1977, being named All-Pro three times and to the Pro Bowl five times.
And, finally, Herschel Walker, a consensus pick as the greatest college running back ever, but whose pro career always has been underrated since his very productive years with the New Jersey Generals of the USFL aren’t counted by the NFL, where he played for the Dallas Cowboys, Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. If the USFL numbers were counted, his combined rushing numbers for the two pro leagues (13,787 yards) would place him fifth all-time on the career rushing list, and his combined all-purpose yards (25,283 yards) would be the most of all time.
There have been a lot of other great Dawgs who’ve played in the NFL. Who are your favorites?
JUNKYARD MAIL CALL
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