We return to playing Devil's Advocate by taking a position opposite most of our readership. Previous entries have included John Brantley starting against LSU (we were wrong), Lane Kiffin (we were right in that he is crazy like a fox), Cornelius Ingram will be a better pro than Percy Harvin (Harvin might be NFC Rookie of The Year; CI ripped up his knee in camp), and a college football playoff.
Florida and Georgia are close to signing a new deal to keep the Florida-Georgia game in Jacksonville through 2017. Included in the deal are several perks to sweeten the pot for Georgia, which has been courting the Georgia Dome as a possible alternate site. This is what Georgia is being offered;
The City of Jacksonville will pay for travel for the Georgia football team to fly out of Athens into St. Augustine, Fla. — where the team hotel is located — and fly back from Jacksonville to Athens after the game. That’s worth more than $100,000 per year. Florida is currently picking up half of Georgia’s travel cost.
In addition, Florida and Georgia will get $50,000 more for expenses, 1500 parking spots and more control over marketing and sponsorship revenue. Each team gets the same amount of tickets and CBS will broadcast the game at 3:30pm. Florida's concerns over alcohol sales have also been apparently solved.
Between them, Florida and Georgia received $3.5 million, with Florida getting about $100,000 more because UF runs the game and has higher expenses. The money is generated entirely from ticket revenues.
Last year's game resulted in 11,351 club seats being sold for $70 each and 70,128 seats sold for $40 each.
Both teams could make more money on the game by increasing ticket prices. But the claim is made that Jacksonville already provides more income as the schools would take in between $2.3-$2.8 million for a home game. Playing at a neutral site means $1.6 million each year, rather than $2.8 every other year.
$3.5 million is a big number. But compare this to what Oklahoma and Texas get for their game; five million dollars.
Maybe UF and UGA will jack up the tickets to get to Oklahoma and Texas cash levels, and there are advantages OU-UT has (nicer location, better sponsorship), but isn't UF-UGA as profitable as OU-UT?
Georgia has done a nice job of squeezing some concessions out of Jacksonville, and UF has done a good job of controlling Jacksonville's ability to engage in free enterprise. But they should not sign the new contract to extend the series to 2017. Instead, the Gators and Bulldogs should play a home-and-home series for two seasons before they go back to the bargaining table.
Maybe it is because I'm not Floridian by birth, or because "Run, Lindsay, Run" was before I was born, but Jacksonville holds no special place for me. It's a nice enough, but it is not nicer than Athens or Gainesville. Jacksonville traffic is murderous as most people are entering downtown during rush hour Friday night, while the biggest traffic in Gainesville is lights syncing up. (I've only been to Athens once, but traffic seemed ok.) Leaving Jacksonville on Saturday is about as easy as leaving Dunkirk. Gainesville has post game down to a science. Not to mention, Gainesville-to-Jacksonville has to deal with speed traps on US 301 and Athens-to-Jacksonville is a nearly 7 hour trip.
Jacksonville holds the game as a way to make money, not for SEC tradition or because they like football so much. That's why they cram as many people as possible into the Landings and Water St. turns into Bourbon St. Games in Athens and Gainesville are events, but there is no sense of lawlessness like in Jacksonville. The weekend should be about the football game, not trying to have your own Mardi Gras. (As a Gasparilla attendee, I can appreciate a certain degree of lawlessness, but Florida-Georgia is absurd.) Athens and Gainesville also have enough sense than to not shoehorn people into one entertainment district.
By leaving an unsigned contract on the table, Florida and Georgia can really put the screws to Jacksonville and play a home-and-home. If the teams have to change their usual SEC rules for tickets to keep some form of neturality (like the visitor getting 25% of tickets), do it. The game does not have to be played in Jacksonville and a home-and-home series would prove it. Yes, you have the loss of revenue for a season, but the return trip you make more (assuming the earlier mentioned numbers and increased ticket prices). In addition, the local economies pick up an extra game, every other year. Combine the UF/Gainesville and UGA/Athens cash, and I would think they make more than enough to cover the home-and-home. At the end of two years, UF and UGA show Jacksonville how much their schools and communities made. If Jacksonville can beat it, go to Jax. If not, the Cocktail Party becomes a home-and-home. If that happens, I'd be happy to buy a Georgia fan a beer in Gainesville. After all, I hate your football team, not you. It's about time Georgia gets to visit us in Gainesville.