Despite being 14 in the Harris and Coaches' polls, the Gators are No. 12 in the most recent BCS standings. LSU and Oregon at the top creates the delicious possibility of Oregon fans bringing West Coast pot to Bourbon Street and Cajuns introducing them to the wonders that are New Orleans open container laws. (The Ducks don't deserve a city as cool as New Orleans. I'm still hoping they end up in pastel Pasadena.)
Currently, five SEC teams sit in the BCS 25, a result of the cannibalistic SEC (Miss State knocking down Bama, the Black Jerseys crushing Auburn). The Black Jerseys are ninth, with the East leading Vols at 20, and our possible Heroes in Blue at 23.
The first time I was in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium was the 2002 opener against UAB. So my attachment to the stadium is in its current form. Sitting in the east stands, the new luxury suites provide a goal for me; to make enough money in my life time to become a Bull Gator and have tickets in that section. But I'm guessing that if that ever happens, I'll probably be sitting in the east stands, but in the Foley Club, watching Florida play USF for first place in the SEC South division.
I bring this up because the team formerly known as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays are seriously considering a new stadium to replace Tropicana Field which was built in 1990. The Rays would move into the new park in 2012. Meanwhile, the Gators would be celebrating their 82nd year at Florida Field. Why is it that colleges are willing to play in old buildings without modern amenities, while pro teams continually look for new digs?
Part of it has to do with the fact that a pro team, unlike a college team, can get a publicly financed stadium by flirting with another city. Even the Bucs looked at Orlando for a while before we built them the greatest stadium in the NFL. (There are people here who still think it was a stupid move despite Super Bowl XXXVII.) But, I can't imagine the Gators moving to Jacksonville, so I think we're safe.
The Rays can grab a piece of publicly owned land and use their own deep pockets to drive revenue. But UF doesn't have that advantage, unless you can fit a 100,000 seat stadium at Flavet Field or in the orange groves by Hull Road.
The football program brings in buckets of money to UF. And at a time when the university needs more money to remain competitively academically, while the state takes cash away from us, it needs to keep bringing in those buckets. That's why Jeremy Foley needs the blueprint for the south end zone skyboxes on his desk tomorrow. A new stadium may never be in the cards for UF so we can never rely on that revenue stream.
If you add another massive complex on top of the south end zone, you either move big donors into those boxes or add new donors up there. Either way, it offers more opportunities for cash. Even better, you can offer the boxes to academic donors. (Buy a professor? Get a seat! Save CLAS? Get a suite!) The stadium, once dedicated to UF students who died in World War I, is really a giant cash register. And we need to make it ring.