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In defense of Jacksonville

Earlier today, I wrote:  

[T]he diaries are a tool for making Dawg Sports a forum for civil exchange rather than just a place for me to publish the minutiae rattling around inside my noggin.  I appreciate J.P. and the other readers who have moved this site in that direction.
It is in that spirit that I would like to thank the reader who offered certain constructive criticisms regarding the most recent poll question, and to offer a response to his remarks.  

First of all, his points are fair ones.  He is quite right that the poll does not incorporate the views of University of Georgia administrators, coaches, or players, just those of fans.  The poll responses are quite unscientific, they involve a very small sample size (which I typically cut off at 100 votes, just to keep the percentages even), and they allow for voters to vote more than once.  I don't pretend that the poll responses represent anything more than that; I just put the poll question up on the site, solicit responses, and report the results.  

If, as the commenter notes, he has had difficulty voting, I regret the inconvenience and I will refer any specific problems reported to me to the appropriate people with superior technical savvy, although I believe registering for a user account would eliminate any such difficulties.  I would also note that I always try to invite comments when I post the previous poll results and introduce the new poll question, which seems to serve as sufficient solicitation for reader remarks, which are always welcome.  

With respect to the substance of the reader's remarks, he is right again:  57 per cent of respondents in the poll voted to keep the Georgia-Florida game in Jacksonville every year . . . but 43 per cent of the ballots cast opposed that position.  

Perhaps I overstated the case when I wrote that "[t]he vox populi of Bulldog Nation ha[d] been heard loud and clear here at Dawg Sports and the results were doggone decisive," but I felt the characterization was fair, for three reasons.  

First of all, six possible responses were provided.  For one of the six to receive a clear majority seemed fairly decisive.  Secondly, while granting the small sample size, the gap between first place (57 votes) and second place (14 votes) was rather large.  Finally, my undergraduate degree is in political science and, in a political campaign, a 57 per cent majority generally is considered a landslide.  

I would note, as well, that it was not simply a matter of 57 per cent of respondents favoring Jacksonville and 43 per cent of respondents opposing Jacksonville.  14 per cent of voters favored a home and home series most years "with occasional trips to Jacksonville."  10 per cent preferred "another neutral site," although at least some of these voters liked the idea of alternating between Atlanta and Jacksonville.  Another four per cent wanted to rotate the series between Sanford Stadium and Alltel Stadium.  An additional four per cent expressed no opinion as to the site of the game, indicating only that they agreed with Il Duce that the game should go by a different nickname.  

At the end of the day, then, only 11 per cent expressed the view that the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party should never be played by the St. John's River, while between 75 and 85 per cent took the position that the contest should sometimes be played in the Gateway City, with the great majority of those indicating that the Georgia-Florida showdown should always be played in Jacksonville.  

Once again, these survey results are utterly unscientific, so they should be taken with more than a grain of salt, but they offer some perspective on what, admittedly, is a divisive issue within Bulldog Nation.  I understand and respect the views of Mark Richt and our anonymous commenter; I certainly do not think either of them "is a complete nincompoop" and I agree that polls upon the subject generally show "that slightly more than half the fans prefer to keep the game only at the Gator Bowl [sic.], 45 minutes from their campus and 9 hours from ours."  

While I appreciate the arguments in favor of moving the game, I respectfully disagree with them.  The travel distance seems to me to be a chimera; based upon the mileage chart provided in the Georgia football media guide, the travel distances from Athens are as follows:  284 miles to Nashville, 300 miles to Jacksonville, 386 miles to Lexington, 398 miles to Oxford, 353 miles to Starkville, and 734 miles to Fayetteville.  

When playing road games against Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Mississippi State, or Vanderbilt, the Bulldogs travel nearly as far or farther as they do when facing Florida in Jacksonville . . . and those games all involve going into hostile environments instead of neutral sites in which the ticket allocations are divided evenly between both fan bases.  

Despite those disadvantages, the 'Dawgs are 3-0 against the Razorbacks in Fayetteville, 22-6 against the Wildcats in Lexington, 8-5 against the Rebels in Oxford, 4-1 against the Bulldogs in Starkville, and 21-11-2 against the Commodores in Nashville.  Why doesn't distance detract from Georgia's ability to win away from home against those conference opponents?  

In the abstract, it makes sense to claim that a Sunshine State site for the Georgia-Florida game works to the detriment of the 'Dawgs . . . just as, in theory, it makes sense to suppose that, if two objects of different weights are dropped from the same height, the heavier of the two will strike earth first.  In each case, however, the facts tell a very different tale that refutes the hypothesis.  

Georgia's all-time record against Florida in Jacksonville is 39-34-1.  The Bulldogs' all-time record against the Gators south of the state line is 41-35-1.  In the 35 seasons from 1971 to 2005, the Red and Black were 17-17 against the Orange and Blue in contests played in the Sunshine State.

If playing far from Sanford Stadium is such a disadvantage for the 'Dawgs, why is Georgia at .500 or better against the Gators in their home state by every historical measure?  Would a neutral site in the Peach State better serve the Bulldogs?  If so, why is it that Georgia's all-time record against Florida in games played elsewhere in the Empire State of the South other than in Athens is 1-1-1 . . . the same .500 record the Red and Black have posted in our neighboring state over the course of the last 35 years and upon which we have improved overall?  

In 1994, Florida beat Georgia by a 52-14 margin in Gainesville.  In 1995, Florida beat Georgia by a 52-17 margin in Athens.  In 1996, Florida beat Georgia by a 47-7 margin in Jacksonville.  Since mediocre Bulldog squads performed about equally as badly against outstanding Gator teams, irrespective of whether the games took place at home, on the road, or at a neutral site, perhaps the critical factors aren't climate, travel, and location . . . they're coaching, game planning, and execution.  

Furthermore, while Jacksonville is a long drive from the Classic City, it isn't a long drive from the homes of many Bulldog fans in South Georgia and in North Florida.  One of the reasons Tennessee has scheduled home and home series against Pac-10 teams on a regular basis is that these games help the Volunteers with their West Coast recruiting, enabling the Big Orange to sign high school players from California.  

By the same token, Georgia's willingness to keep the Cocktail Party on Duval Street serves to keep the entire fan base (which is not concentrated exclusively in metropolitan Atlanta and in Athens) happy and also bolsters the Red and Black's recruiting efforts in the fecund fields south of Macon.  

While the players' opinions certainly are relevant, I question whether many of them would object to traveling from the Classic City to the Gateway City and I doubt that the humidity would be much of a factor for conditioned athletes who spent August in the sweltering heat of Clarke County.  

This is especially so for the many Bulldogs who hail from South Georgia and from Florida, such as Ocilla's Justin Anderson, Pembroke Pines's Geno Atkins, Fort Lauderdale's Donavon Baldwin, Saint Augustine's Shaun Chapas, Folkston's Marquis Elmore, Jacksonville's Bryan Evans, Bainbridge's Darryl Gamble, Hawkinsville's Charles Johnson, Daytona Beach's Kelin Johnson, Miami's Kevin Perez, and Daytona Beach's Tony Wilson.  

In closing, I would like to thank the commenter to whom I have responded above for his contributions to the ongoing discussion here at Dawg Sports and his constructive criticisms.  I try to foster an open exchange, but his points regarding the poll questions are fair ones.  Regarding the current poll question, I have tried to include every rival (including Tennessee) that I think might be given consideration, as well as a "none of the above" option, and I will solicit additional comments afterwards.  

Go 'Dawgs!

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