There is nothing quite like this atmosphere. The long, winding St. Johns River nestles up against the banks of Jacksonville, Florida and splashes against the bustling shopping destinations on Jacksonville Landing. Around most of the US the air is becoming a bit crisper. For Southern football fans the last weekend in October is filled with something quite different – anticipation for the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. (Shhhh… we’re not supposed to call it by that name anymore.) It is one of the great, traditional football games fans enjoy. It is also not “technically” a home game. The site of the game, Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, is 342 miles from Athens, Georgia – and only 73 miles from Gainesville, Florida. Neutral site? Georgia fans do not seem to think so. Which begs the question… why does the game get played there?
I am sure that, as the question was coming out of your mouth, you surmised that the answer was money. The teams split tickets right down the middle and both rake in the cash from it. The two teams met for the first time in Jacksonville in 1915, when Georgia put an old fashioned Bulldawg whoopin’ on Florida, winning 37-0. (Interestingly, while Georgia leads the overall series 46-38, they have only won three times since 1989. Sic ‘em? Not lately.) The game has a tradition – and a revenue stream – unlike many other regular season games. But, is it “right” that the game between two schools with such passionate fans play at a “neutral” site?
It sure seems like it is happening more and more. College football games are leaving friendly home field confines and finding a new home at a site where neither team lives. The competing schools split the gate revenue. Bigger schools love it because they will only move a road game against a smaller school (heck, it was a road game and now they are sharing revenue… why not?) or a big game that will bring a crowd (see Oklahoma-Texas and a litany of other examples). A recent example is Ohio State agreeing to move their game against Toledo (you know, the Michigan killers) to Cleveland Browns stadium. Cleveland Browns stadium has hosted a neutral site college football since 2004, and will work to retain a college football event in the coming season (SOME team has to play football there… it certainly will not be the Browns – zing).
In even more recent news, the Rice Owls have agreed to move their home game against the Texas Longhorns in 2010 to a neutral site, Reliant Stadium. As reported by Austin American-Statesman writer Suzanne Halliburton, the decision will help Rice to “nearly double their total revenue” from ALL of their home games (based on a financial projection using 2008 revenue). With that kind of coin on the way, it seems like a good decision for both Texas and Rice… right?
Today’s question is: Should this trend of college football games being moved from home games to neutral sites continue?
Bleacher Fan will argue that games can and should move to bigger venues to rake in the extra money while Loyal Homer will argue that college football is damaged when removing the games from the home stadium becomes an irreversible trend.
The coin is flipped, and Bleacher Fan is set to kick off.