I couldn’t be happier that the Florida/Georgia game has been renewed through 2016. I really thought it might be going away after nearly 80 years in Jacksonville.
The drumbeat from the Georgia fans and boosters was loud as they talked about moving the game. Where? There were several options. With big stadiums in both Athens and Gainesville, talk of a home and home, like 93 and 94 when the Gator Bowl was being renovated, was rampant. There was talk that the Georgia Dome was interested in having the game on a rotating basis. Perhaps Jacksonville and Atlanta could host. Or even all four cities on a rotating basis. There was even talk of a home and home series being augmented by the game in Jacksonville every third year.
But instead, it’s just staying here. And that’s good news.
Clearly boosters in South Georgia, including UGA’s second biggest contributor, Sea Island’s Bill Jones, were interested in the game staying in Jacksonville. It’s good for their business. And although they haven’t taken advantage of it in recent years, it’s good for Georgia’s recruiting. Sure, they’ve been getting beat down by the Gators in recent years, but they owned the series in the ’70’s and ’80’s under Vince Dooley.
Moving the game to accommodate ‘Dog fans in middle and north Georgia (particularly Atlanta) was a bad idea. A six-year extension is longer than what the contract has been lately and I hope it doesn’t make the city complacent when it comes to “owning” the game. We don’t “own” the game, but we should.
It should be a much bigger deal than it is.
I’ve talked with Mayor John Peyton about creating a more festival like atmosphere surrounding the game, especially near the stadium. If the stadium holds 84,000 for Fla/Ga, more than 100,000 people show up for the weekend, many without tickets. With that kind of built in audience, why not close Bay Street like they did during the Super Bowl and bring in some vendors, some free concerts and invite people downtown?
It’s a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned.
RV City is open all week and it’s a fun place to go but unless you’re staying there, you’re out of place. Extend that feeling all through downtown. The Landing is out of control that week so why not incorporate it into what fans might want to experience? While I’m no condoning any kind of public drunkenness, relaxing the open container law and getting control over what’s going downtown in a somewhat organized fashion is a better idea than just letting it expand all over the place without a plan.
I even talked with Bill Longenecker on the radio the other day and we hatched a beaches “Flag Football” tournament to include the beaches in Fla/Ga. The ideas are easy. Getting the city to execute some of them seems to be the hard part.
We should be celebrating our heritage as a college football destination instead of making apologies for hosting the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
And by the way, why not do the same thing in the spring around the Gate River Run?