Bernie Battles Booze Biz @ Florida/Georgia

University of Florida President Bernie Machen has taken his crusade against excessive student drinking to the Northeast. The Florida Times-Union reports Machen met with Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton last week to follow up on a letter he sent the city regarding alcohol availability at and around the annual football game.

Among Machen's requests were a 50 percent reduction in the number of places beer can be sold outside the stadium and a ban on the selling of shots at the nearby Landing. Machen also is seeking a dramatic increase in the "Safety Zone" areas which provide medical assistance, first aid, water and other services to students attending the game. Last year 333 students were helped at those "zones".

While Machen's goals --- curbing underage and excessive drinking --- are laudable, it's hard to imagine how the city can place restrictions on existing business in the Landing and elsewhere. However the temporary selling permits could easily be curtailed, though it would be at some cost to the city. There's no indication if UF is willing to accept a lower payout in exchange for the change it has requested.

The two longtime football rivals will meet Oct. 31 in Jacksonville. It is the next-to-last game contracted to be played in the city.

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The future of the game is also generating differing comments from the two camps, as evidenced by this excerpt from an article in Saturday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

While University of Florida president Bernie Machen apparently is ready to extend the contract to play the Georgia-Florida football game in Jacksonville, Georgia is not at that point, UGA athletics director Damon Evans said Tuesday. Machen was quoted by the St. Petersburg Times as saying at Florida's athletics board meeting Monday that he will meet soon with officials in Jacksonville and expects the game to remain there on an annual basis.

Machen said he thinks Georgia officials are "leaning the same way we are."

Not so fast, Evans basically replied. "We haven't even sat down to have our internal meetings about that yet," Evans said. "We will do that in July. "We have not made any decision. … It's not a big surprise that they [Florida officials] want to keep the game there. I guess they were able to come to their decision a lot faster. I just want to look at it hard, and that's what we're going to do."

Evans said "nothing has changed" on Georgia's stance since his earlier comments that the school is open to all options —- keeping the game in Jacksonville, moving it to the campuses or playing it occasionally in Atlanta —- after the current contract expires with the 2010 game. Machen was quoted as saying he wants to resolve security issues with Jacksonville but "hopefully we will be able to sign an extension before the end of the summer."

There have been dozens of debates on this site and others as well as talk radio and just about every forum about where this game belongs. The bottom line is Georgia is in the driver's seat from a decision making standpoint. Florida is committed to keeping the game in Jacksonville with the key reasons being tradition and money. However, Georgia has every right to determine where the game will be played every other year when it's their turn to be the "home" team.

Should Georgia officials decide they want the game in Athens or Atlanta in odd numbered seasons (their home game) then Florida would have to make a decision about where to play in 2012 and beyond.


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