Get used to it because Georgia-Florida game is in Jacksonville for long haul

Georgia football-Jacksonville-Cocktail Party-Lorenzo Carter
Win or lose, Georgia fans continue to flock to Jacksonville by the tens of thousands every year to watch the Georgia-Florida game, won last year by Lorenzo Carter and the Bulldogs.

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I am all for traditions. Having said that, I think the tradition of Georgia versus Florida in Jacksonville (the only reason our home slate of games is below average every other year) is stale. If we are not going to go to a home and home with Florida then we need to consider going Jacksonville-Atlanta every other year. I have always been frustrated by the amount of travel involved in that game for Georgia (fans and players alike) and not Florida. Year after year after year, we make the trek down there and play in the Gator Bowl, of all places, never getting a home game, travel wise in return. Meanwhile, the Gators sleep in their own beds and take an hour bus ride over from Gainesville.

This is insane.

Let’s start a new tradition of playing Florida in one of the greatest football stadiums on the planet Earth, Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga.

 Jeffrey Trapnell

This is Question of the Day blog, Mr. Trapnell, and what you’ve submitted here reads more like a statement. So I’m afraid we’re not going to be able address it.

Kidding, of course. You’ve made it clear how you feel about the situation, and a number of Georgia fans actually share your sentiment. That said, most don’t. More importantly, the respective institutions don’t. So I don’t want to say it will never become a home-and-home series again, or Jacksonville-Atlanta, but I’m going to pull up as close to that line as I can get it and park it there. Let me put it this way: I don’t think I’ll see it in my lifetime and I doubt my UGA alumnus daughter will either.

Switching this matchup to a standard on-campus, regular-season game is something I’ve heard about for years. It seems to become an especially hot topic every time Georgia loses two or three games in a row to the Gators. So, it was bantered about a good bit last year in the wake of the Bulldogs losing three in a row. Then, of course, the Bulldogs went out and won 42-7, and that talk quieted.

Meanwhile, the two schools just inked a five-year contract with the city of Jacksonville that will keep the game there through Oct. 30, 2021. That contract, by the way, happens to be very lucrative for both Georgia and Florida. It pays them $2.75 million each, which goes toward travel, lodging and expenses. In addition, the Bulldogs get $350,000 for charter air travel.

But that’s not the thrust of the financial windfall. The teams also split the gate, or ticket revenue. I don’t have exact figures in front of me but, basically, Georgia makes about $2.3 million for every home game it plays (which it would get every other year in a home-and-home situation). But with their arrangement with Jacksonville, the Bulldogs make $1.8 million every year, or $3.6 million every two years if you want to compare them side by side.

But the financials, though significant, aren’t the chief motivation for either team. The real benefit comes from the standpoint of public relations, marketing and, yes, tradition. The game is a block of granite in the annual college football schedule, always falling on Halloween and always filling the 3:30 p.m. time slot for CBS. It’s one of only two neutral-site, regular-season conference games played in the country, the other being Texas-Oklahoma in the Red River Shootout. Those are two of the best-branded games in sports. It brings the game closer to Georgia’s South Georgia and North Florida fans and makes a huge economic impact on Jacksonville and the Golden Isles of Georgia and Florida. Jacksonville reported a $35 million impact last year.

Mostly, though, it’s the tradition, and for Georgia fans in particular. While it’s primarily a day trip for Gators fans, it’s a week-long fall vacation for many in Dawg Nation. It’s Georgia fans, mostly, who invade the islands of St. Simons and Jekyll and Amelia, and fill up the hotels of greater Jacksonville. And they have fun. That’s a reason they’ve kept coming back every year since 1933.

Competitively, I’ve never bought that it’s any kind of advantage for Florida being a bus ride away as opposed to Georgia being five hours out. Yes, the Gators have won 21 of the last 28 going back to 1990, but that had more to do with Steve Spurrier’s arrival as coach than where the game was located. Case in point, Georgia was 15-4 in the 19 years before that. The Bulldogs lead the overall series 50-43-2 and they lead in Jacksonville 44-41-1. That’s nice and close, as you’d like for a neutral-site game.

And it’s not the Gator Bowl anymore. It’s EverBank Field, and they just added a south end zone seating section and a bunch of other amenities to make it a better venue for this game in particular.

No, it will always be the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, and it’s not going anywhere.

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