By BUDDY MARTIN
In these days of trying to adjudicate neutral site games, there is a real
danger of college football stepping on its own toes and doing the very
opposite of what it needs to do: Not broadening appeal of the big games
and adding value to schedules. So what is CFB and going to do?
Scott Stricklin is on it. Kudos to the UF and Stricklin for helping temporarily
preserve Jacksonville as the Georgia-Florida home site for two more years
in a lengthened contract. And at same time, beefing the schedule by adding
Power 5 opponents.
All the while, Stricklin and UF were adding futures series with Utah, Miami,
Colorado, and Texas. Then he took to Twitter and sent out invites to other
Power 5s to contact him about scheduling the Gators.
All good, all impressive. But that’s not the story today. This story is about a
game that is expected to be a spectacular setting for a spectacular game in
a spectacular rivalry. Seems it’s been on the “questionable” list lately.
In effort to gain some kind of advantages in recruiting or more leverage or
money, some administrators seem too willing to throw this classic rivalries
over the side in the name of progress. Sure, as my late friend Beano Cook
would have said, “Go ahead! Ditch the Mona Lisa.”
That’s a bit over the top – Beano was great at being over the top – but you
get the point. Don’t take something that’s good and true and successful and
trash it. All for the sake of a few kids that might take be able to take an
official recruiting visit to some school. Half of them will wind up in the
transfer portal anyway.
Sometimes a so-call neutral site can seemingly provide an edge to one
school, as the River City seemingly did for the Bulldogs. But Steve Spurrier
took back a competitive edge from once-dominant Georgia, beating the
Bulldogs 11 out of 12 after being told playing them in Jacksonville and then
having to play Auburn would mean no chance at the SEC. Let the record
show that the HBC won it six times.
First off, I know Lenny Curry is the real mayor of Jacksonville, but he’s
been upstaged by the Ambassador of Florida Football. Spurrier helped
build Curry’s city on the Rock & Roll of Florida-Georgia football as the Atilla The Hun for the Bulldogs. In his time as Gator coach, the HBC beat the
Bulldogs like they were the Washington Generals.
Now he’s back as a diplomat-cheerleader, wiser and more appreciative
“I have a new appreciation for Jacksonville,” Spurrier told me this week on
my live streaming show.
Last spring Spurrier was coaching the Orlando Apollos and they had to
move out of Orlando for insurance reasons. The team stayed in the
Lexington suites, “a very nice hotel right on the river in downtown
Jacksonville and Jerri and I enjoyed the view from the seventh floor.
“Jacksonville is a beautiful city, especially at night when all those
Prudential and Wells Fargo buildings are lit up and the bridges and all the
lights and St. John's River rolling through there. It really, really is a
beautiful city. So I got a better appreciation for how really nice a place it
Earlier this year when folks were already conceding the Georgia game to
the mighty Bulldogs, Spurrier cautioned us to hang on and see what Dan
Mullen had under the hood. He conceded nothing – just like he didn’t as
coach when Georgia loved to brag about its superior recruits under Ray
Goff. He has always liked the way Dan Mullen and his staff brought this
team along. He is particularly a fan of the fourth-quarter comebacks.
“This is a good coaching staff and the strength coach, the conditioning
coach, Nick Savage,” Spurrier said. “You know, we have won the fourth
quarters. Our points in the fourth quarter compared to our past is
unbelievable. Mullen has been here when we are behind going into the
fourth quarter six games that we’ve won. So it's never over till it's over.
And that's a really good sign. When the fourth quarter rolls around, we
seem to put it all together.”
So the HBC is glad to see that the Florida-Georgia game is safe in
Jacksonville for a while. And he scoffs at the idea that Georgia wanted to
move the game to a home-and-home because it would help recruiting.
“I don't know how much recruiting has got to do with it, but if you’re look
for something to complain about, I guess you could,” Spurrier said.
“Georgia's having no trouble recruiting over the last four years – they’ve
been between one and three in the nation just about every year. So I
don't know how viable that is.”
I get the home-and-home argument, but when something as indigenous as
Oklahoma-Texas in Dallas and Florida-Georgia in Jacksonville and Army-
Navy in Philadelphia have found a home, continue to grow the organic
roots there and someday it will bear fruit. So leave it there.