Is Lee Corso right? Should Florida-Georgia break up the Cocktail Party and play home-and-home?
In the SEC East, there’s one big traditional rivalry that is annually held at a neutral site, and that’s when Florida and Georgia meet in Jacksonville for the the game still affectionately known to fans as The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
ESPN College GameDay host Lee Corso wants the Cocktail Party to leave Jacksonville. Following the lead of Alabama-Auburn, which used to be played in Birmingham, Corso believes Florida-Georgia/Georgia-Florida should be played in The Swamp and Between the Hedges.
I reached out to Saturday Down South’s Georgia writer, Ryan Black, to get his thoughts on whether the game should stay in Jacksonville or go to a home-and-home format.
Andrew Olson: As a Florida alumnus who celebrated his 21st birthday at The Landing, I really can’t imagine Jacksonville not being a part of this rivalry. I have so many memories set to the backdrop of the 50-50 split stadium.
Seeing one whole side of the stadium jumping up and down while the other is shaking their heads or standing in stunned silence is part of what makes this game so special. And those split end zones – from a fan experience, there’s really nothing quite like being in the end zone, especially when it’s a back-and-forth contest.
I have to wonder if we would have an iconic moment like the 2007 celebration in Gainesville or Athens. At home, it seems over the top. On the road, you probably don’t do that on somebody else’s turf in the first quarter. I think that’s a Jacksonville moment.
All that said, I do think the fans willing to travel are missing out on a unique gameday experience on both campuses. I was in Atlanta a few years ago to see a couple Braves games and decided to head over to Athens one day just to see what the campus and downtown were like. I could get on board with playing home-and-home for two years per decade. It’s kind of odd that the fans of the two division powers know little about each other’s campuses, stadiums and gameday traditions.
Ryan Black: I can’t disagree with you at all regarding Jacksonville being synonymous with this rivalry. As you know, the game has been held there every year since 1933, aside from 1994 and 1995, when it returned to the on-campus stadiums while Jacksonville Municipal Stadium (now EverBank Field) was rebuilt.
And the Cocktail Party certainly doesn’t have sole claim to the 50/50 divided stadium concept. The Red River Rivalry between Texas and Oklahoma has split ticket sales 50/50 — along the 50-yard line, no less — at Cotton Bowl Stadium for as long as I can remember.
But you bring up a great point I had never thought about: How would certain moments in the history of the Florida/Georgia rivalry have been different if they had been played on-campus? Georgia’s celebration in 2007, which you cited, was a perfect example.
No question it would have looked a bit tacky to do that at Sanford Stadium and disrespectful at Ben Hill Griffin. But in Jacksonville, it seems a bit more defensible. (I know people’s take on it depends upon where their allegiances lie.)
And I’m glad you brought this up about the campuses. I’ve been fortunate to cover Georgia and Auburn. So I’ve visited 12 of the 14 schools in the SEC — though I’ve been to Nashville multiple times for SEC basketball, that was at Bridgestone Arena for the SEC Tournament.
I’ve never covered anything on Vanderbilt’s campus. The only other one missing? Florida.
I’ve stopped in Gainesville when traveling on Interstate 75 a few times, but other than that, I know nothing about the city. I’d know far more if I had to cover a game there. And I’m sure the same goes for Georgia’s fans — and Florida’s fan base familiarity with Athens.
So should they ever consider moving it? Or at least rotate it to the on-campus stadiums? I’m not sure. One thing I’ve always been on board with is that if it does rotate out of Jacksonville, and you want to keep the campuses out of it, simply let Atlanta host the game in those years. That way, it’s still a neutral site. And it means each state has its own non-campus venue for the rivalry.
AO: I understand Atlanta, and I love the city. It makes sense that the game be played in the Peach State at some point. There’s obviously a large alumni base for the schools. For the Cocktail Party aspect, the bars in Buckhead would do just fine, but I feel like there’s Atlanta overkill in college football and the SEC.
We regularly see SEC schools, including Georgia, featured in the Chick-Fil-A kickoff games. Then there’s the SEC Championship Game. And there’s often an SEC team playing in Atlanta for the Peach Bowl. Maybe if Atlanta weren’t already overbooked, I’d be in favor of having the game there once in a while.
It’s purely personal preference, but I want the Cocktail Party to avoid becoming The World’s Largest Outdoor Traffic Jam.
RB: Though I love covering games in Atlanta — and would enjoy getting to see the press box in the new stadium — you bring up a great point about the potential for oversaturation, especially for SEC teams.
Again, the only reason I picked out Atlanta is it’s the lone city in Georgia that actually has a stadium capable of hosting this game at a “neutral site.” But the final issue you brought up can’t be overlooked, either: Atlanta traffic is abysmal. It would be even worse with the number of fans who would descend on the city for this rivalry.
And here’s another element that works in favor of the “keep it in Jacksonville” camp: I knew plenty of people at UGA who enjoyed the game being there for the sole fact they had friends or family who had houses on Saint Simons, Sea, or Jekyll islands.
Some just stayed there the whole time and watched the game from home. Others used it as a base of operations before/after the game. That area wouldn’t be pleased if the game moved out of Jacksonville — for any amount of time — simply due to the economic impact it has each year.
Then there’s this: I don’t think Georgia students mind the game not being in Athens. After all, UGA gives students Friday off the day before the game as part of fall break. Move it to Athens, and that day off will surely disappear.
AO: Thanks, but no thanks, for the suggestion, Mr. Corso. Florida-Georgia belongs in Jacksonville, with maybe a rare trip to each campus.