Kyle Gets Contrary: Why Mark Richt is Wrong About Moving the Georgia-Florida Game

I trust it goes without saying that I am a huge Mark Richt fan. I believe he is, and history will bear him out to be, the best head football coach my alma mater has ever had. However, this does not make him perfect, and there are certain subjects about which I respectfully disagree with Coach Richt. Inasmuch as I intend to address one such subject, it is time to introduce the latest installment of the popular series of postings in which I get contrary.

Senator Blutarsky thought Coach Richt was kidding, and I hope he’s right, but this is what Coach Richt said:

I don’t know what’s going to happen. But when people ask me the question, "Do you really think [Jacksonville] is a neutral site?", I say, "No, it’s not neutral." When you play in the state of Florida every year –- we fly, they drive; it’s hotter for us, it’s cooler for them. It’s played in a stadium that [used to be called] the Gator Bowl. But what the heck? If nothing else, we’ll make Jacksonville pay more to keep it there. . . . I wouldn’t feel bad having a "neutral site" game in Georgia – in the Georgia Dome.

In Coach Richt’s defense, he was speaking to the Columbus Bulldog Club, so it’s entirely possible he was cutting up with the home folks. I know quite well from my professional life as a lawyer that reading a transcript is by no means the same thing as hearing the words as they are spoken. Vocal inflections, facial expressions, and hand gestures are missing, and these form an integral part of human communication. If Coach Richt was joking, and he may have been, then it’s the fault of those of us who read his remarks but did not hear them for failing to get the joke.

However, since none of the other answers quoted in Tim Tucker’s article sounded like they were said in jest, and since the question whether to keep the Florida game in Jacksonville is a divisive one in Bulldog Nation, and since Coach Richt is on record as wanting to move the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party from the Gateway City, I am operating from the understanding that the remarks were intended sincerely and that, therefore, C&F is right when he writes:

With all due respect to Mark Richt, this has got to be the lamest reason for moving the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party Cocktail Party Cocktail Party away from Jacksonville that C&F has ever heard. For one thing, it's factually untrue -- the temperature in Jacksonville is precisely the same for both teams. Funny how that works. Second, the game is played in late October or early November. It's not usually snowing in Jacksonville that time of the year, but it's usually not blazing hot, either. Is it relatively cooler for Florida players than Georgia players? Perhaps. But -- let's be serious.

While I left a comment in response, the point deserves amplification, so I wanted to iterate what I wrote there and add an extra note or two, as well:

1. It’s not played in a stadium that used to be called the Gator Bowl. The last Georgia-Florida game to be played in the Gator Bowl was in 1993. I know; I was there, sitting in the miserable drizzle while the rain ran down the grooves of the old metal bleachers and seeped up through the seat of my pants until I was drenched from the bottom up rather than from the top down. The old Gator Bowl was built in the late 1940s and replaced Fairfield Stadium. While the 1994 demolition did not take down the old venue in its entirety, the west upper deck added in the early 1980s is the only part of the Gator Bowl that remains in the new N.F.L. arena called Jacksonville Municipal Stadium (nee Alltel Stadium).

For what it’s worth, Cale Conley’s War Between the States reports that Georgia played Florida in the stadium known as the Gator Bowl from 1948 to 1993, a span during which the Bulldogs went 23-22-1 against the Saurians. The Red and Black have gone 3-10 against the Orange and Blue in Jacksonville since the Gator Bowl was demolished. Maybe, just maybe, having the name "Gator Bowl" on the building didn’t have much to do with which team won.

2. The fact that we fly and they drive undercuts one of the most frequently-asserted arguments against keeping the game in Jacksonville. When we discussed the Cocktail Party in a recent installment in this series, Year2 made these reasonable points against the canard that distance is significant:

A) Both teams spend the night before in a hotel
B) 17-21 years olds aren’t affected in the least by a 6 hour bus ride
C) There are plenty of Georgia fans in Jacksonville (and it’s close to all the South Georgia Bulldogs)
D) The stadium is split right down the middle 50/50
E) The stadium is all of 30 miles from Georgia soil

It’s as close to a true neutral site as there is in college football. The only "advantage" Florida has is that its team bus ride is shorter.

To those arguments, I responded:

All good points, but I’m not even sure about the bus ride

Don’t the ’Dawgs fly from Athens to Jacksonville?

I’m pretty sure they do, and, if they don’t, we need to quit complaining about the venue and start asking why one of the most profitable athletic departments in America doesn’t pony up for a charter flight.

Coach Richt has answered my question: Georgia flies and Florida rides. The argument that our team has a longer bus trip to take is false. One of the central tenets of the anti-Jacksonville position has been refuted by the testimony of the most highly-placed proponent of moving the game.

3. It isn’t cooler for the Gators, not even relatively. It gets plenty hot and humid in the Classic City, so I’m not buying that Bulldogs who didn’t wilt on the day of an early afternoon kickoff in Athens in late August are going to wilt on the day of a mid-afternoon kickoff in Jacksonville in early November.

Even if we assume (falsely) that North Georgians can’t take the heat, though, that shouldn’t affect such Red and Black players as these:

  • Bryan Evans (Jacksonville, Fla.)

  • Aaron Murray (Tampa, Fla.)

  • Bacarri Rambo (Donalsonville, Ga.)

  • John Knox (Statesboro, Ga.)

  • Vance Cuff (Moultrie, Ga.)

  • Israel Troupe (Tifton, Ga.)

  • Carlton Thomas (Frostproof, Fla.)

  • Kalvin Daniels (Eastman, Ga.)

  • Nick Williams (Bainbridge, Ga.)

  • Justin Houston (Statesboro, Ga.)

  • Shaun Chapas (St. Augustine, Fla.)

  • Darryl Gamble (Bainbridge, Ga.)

  • Jeremy Longo (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

  • Tanner Strickland (Nashville, Ga.)

  • Geno Atkins (Pembroke Pines, Fla.)

  • Blair Walsh (Boca Raton, Fla.)

  • Kevin Perez (Miami, Fla.)

  • Justin Anderson (Ocilla, Ga.)

  • Michael Moore (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

  • DeAngelo Tyson (Statesboro, Ga.)

  • Jeff Owens (Sunrise, Fla.)

Once again, it may be the case that Senator Blutarsky is right and Coach Richt was just kidding. However, even if he was, his words will be taken seriously by an element of the Georgia fan base which I believe to be devoted and well-meaning, but with whom I must respectfully and vehemently disagree. I believe there are arguments for moving the Georgia-Florida game from Jacksonville which, while still falling short of sufficiency, nevertheless are better than these. Coach Richt is a great coach and a good man who is right about many, many things, but, if he intended these points to be taken seriously, he is, in this instance, quite wrong.

Go ‘Dawgs!

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