Loren Smith on keeping the Georgia-Florida game in Jacksonville
Published 5:42 pm Tuesday, November 1, 2022
It is interesting to see the reaction taking place in the city of
Jacksonville regarding the playing of the Georgia-Florida game each
October. It is easy to understand why Florida doesn’t want the game to go
home and home as they are worried what might happen. It feels like a
home game to the Florida constituency.
And why not? Everybody but a small pocket of Bulldog fans wears orange and blue on game day or voices their support for Florida.
The cops, the bus drivers, school teachers, bankers, lawyers,
corporate executives, the butchers, the bakers, and the candlestick makers
all lean in the Gators’ direction. Play the game annually in Atlanta and you
will have the opposite effect. All of the above would favor the Red & Black.
There are two points that I have always underscored. One is that it is
NOT a neutral site game. The other is that the city of Jacksonville, with all
its latent efforts to lavish Georgia with extra money and warm praise, gave
UGA the back of its hand for years.
Working in concert with Jacksonville officials, the Gators took the
lion’s share of tickets. More significantly, they took the lion’s share of the
good tickets. Their argument was that most of the tickets were being sold
by Florida, but Joel Eaves, who became Bulldog athletic director by the
1964 season, informed one and all that if it were a neutral site game,
Georgia should be given half the tickets in the stadium and for sure, half of
the good tickets.
Initially, Georgia had difficulty in selling all its allotment and Florida
fans ordered tickets from the UGA Athletic Association. This was before
the Dooley factor kicked it.
When Vince started winning this game, that is what MADE the rivalry.
Jacksonville should never forget what Vince did for the game. There was
another issue with the city. Georgia couldn’t get a motel operator to book
rooms on UGA terms, namely that the team would be allowed to book
rooms for only one night.
That was a big-time issue with the Bulldog hierarchy. Only a threat to
move the game brought favorable results. A significant factor that should
not be overlooked is that playing the game in Jacksonville every year makes it a challenge for Georgia to manage an attractive home schedule
for the month of October, the greatest month of the year for college football.
We are past the slights that Jacksonville was guilty of in the past.
They now are bending over backwards to make it attractive for Georgia to
continue playing the game at TIAA Bank Field. One could not find fault
with the effort being made by Jacksonville officials today.
Greg McGarity, former Georgia athletic director, also served in a
high-level administrative role at Florida, supports keeping the game in the
city where he is now running the Tax Slayer Gator Bowl. He points out a
home and home arrangement would be great in those years when your
team hosts the game—but playing on the road in alternate years would
result in a $2.5 million dollar shortfall.
While this has been a favorite venue of mine for a variety of reasons
for a number of years, I want what is best for the University of Georgia. My
position is that wherever Georgia’s enterprising head coach wants to play
the game is what I think is best for Georgia. If Kirby says home and home,
that is where my sentiment lies. If he is okay with keeping the game in
Jacksonville. That is ok with me.