The Heartbreak of Jacksonville: The "Neutral" Site for UGA-UF Football

Mike FranklinContributor ISeptember 25, 2009

ATHENS, GA - SEPTEMBER 12:  UGA VII, mascot of the Georgia Bulldogs, against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Sanford Stadium on September 12, 2009 in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

It’s all about which shoe is on which foot.

Florida has pretty much dominated Georgia for the last decade or so. Even lately, the Dawgs have just not been able to shake an old curse that began way back when, with the first name "Steve."

Oh yes, that Ol' Ball Coach cast a hex on the Bulldogs and though he has not had a lot of success at renewing the curse at South Carolina, it is still a very active, very potent part of the environment down in Jacksonville.

And let’s make no mistake about this part of the equation: the game IS played in a stadium formerly known as the Gator Bowl, which IS indeed in the state of Florida.

The notion of this being some kind of hallowed, neutral ground where everyone is on a level playing surface is just hogwash, thank you.

Now, this is where the shoe and the foot come into play because almost to a person, Gator fans didn’t want to see the annual contest moved to their respective teams’ home fields. Over on the other foot, however, many (if not most) Georgia fans wanted to see the Jacksonville contract ended, burned to bitty ashes, and then buried as deeply as possible in a sealed, lead-lined coffin.

If the won-loss ratio had been weighted to the side of the Red and Black, you can bet your favorite bleacher cushion that the Gator folks would have been chomping at the bit to drag the Dawgs down into their swamp every other year. It would have been they who rallied their school not to renew Jacksonville.

But…the shoe wasn’t on their foot. It was on ours.

So, understanding all of this, you’d think that Georgia's Athletic Director Damon Evans would have simply responded by NOT renewing, right? I mean, these are his people!  The Bulldog Nation that buys the tickets and caravans to every away stadium on any given Saturday to watch their beloved Bulldogs in action, are also the people who either directly or indirectly sign this guy’s check.

Oh well.

The ball is no longer at midfield. It is, quite honestly, down in the red zone and possession belongs to Bigtime Sports Media Inc. One example would be the SEC and the recently signed contract with ESPN for broadcast rights. That little inking has already resulted in a nearly total loss of televised, daytime games for fans of conference teams across the southeast.

Anyway, the annual UGA vs. UF throwdown at the Gator Bowl means more big money in high places. It is a hugely popular spectacle that brings in desperately needed revenues to Jacksonville…a city that can’t even fill the stadium of their own NFL franchise short of handing out free tickets to the homeless.

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It’s also big bucks to CBS Sports, which televises the contest coast to coast. And finally, lest we even need to guess, it is big time dollars for both universities.

So, Georgia fans be damned, the Jacksonville contract was renewed and cash flowed freely.

There is an argument, and I think a valid one, that football—the college game—has been lost to the power brokers of the various sports networks.

Closer to home, petty tyrannies such as the Adams/Evans hegemony at UGA, make any change for the better that doesn’t include a dollar sign, followed by eight or nine figures, as unlikely as seeing a Florida-Georgia game at Sanford Stadium in our lifetimes.

This cup would not pass and the shoe does not fit but, we will drink from both…and we will like it.


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