Dawgs not sold on staying in JAX forever

ATHENS – The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party might be played in Jacksonville each season, but there are mixed feelings in Athens about whether the game should stay in Florida.

Georgia and Florida have a contract through 2006 for the annual game to stay it Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville. The game has been played in Jacksonville virtually forever, but while the Gators have made clear their intentions of staying in Jacksonville for their home game with Georgia, the Bulldog players and their coach have mixed feelings when it comes to the location of the game.

"I'd be all for having a neutral-site game in Georgia every other year," said Georgia Head Coach Mark Richt.

"I'd love to continue the game in Jacksonville to maintain the traditional value of the game, but it would be nice to have a game in Georgia as well. It's a neutral game but it's in their state. It would be nice to have one in our state," Richt said.

The Georgia Dome would be a "neutral site" in Atlanta that could house the rivalry for Georgia's home games, but the problem with the Dome is money. The facility only seats around 71,000 or about 10,000 fewer seats.

That adds up to money and that's something that is a big concern for both the Dawgs and the Gators. Georgia did a study the last time a contract was pending on the game and found out that over a two year span the money was actually better in Jacksonville rather then rotating playing the Gators in Athens and Gainesville.

Moving the game from Jacksonville would not necessarily ensure the Bulldogs' playing seven home games. The only time the two teams met on their campuses, Georgia played Clemson home and away.

"I would keep it the same way," said junior quarterback D.J. Shockley.

"Maybe I would move it around some," said defensive tackle Kedric Golston. "Maybe I'd move it to the Georgia Dome one year or just move it around to different stadiums - just to play in different stadiums each year. There are a lot of economic reasons they play it down there."

"It is usually warmer down there also," said Richt of some of the challenges the Bulldogs face. "We get cooler weather, then we get popped into the 80's when we're used to the 70's or 60's, and the humidity can make a difference. It's more the climate that Florida is used to."

"Maybe it's a little easier for their fans to get to the game," said senior fullback Jeremy Thomas. "We have a lot of Georgia fans that like making the trip. The stadium always seems to be about 50-50."

"A lot of our fans and students love playing down there," said Golston. "The students go down there and a lot of them don't even go to school this week. We already have a three day break with Fall Break. They go down there and go to the beach. They enjoy it. I think as a student it's something you just do. I think everyone will be down there. If I wasn't playing I would be right down there with them."

When asked about playing in Atlanta, Thomas wasn't sure.

"I don't know – would there be as much tailgating in Atlanta? There's not the same sort of space for it. There is really no place – I don't know. I would leave it the way it is. Let's play it down there; I love visiting Florida," said Thomas.

One player, this week's most outspoken – Fred Gibson, wants to scrap Jacksonville all together.

"I would rather play Florida in Gainesville rather than Jacksonville," said the senior wide receiver. "There is something about that stadium (Alltel Stadium). I would rather play them at their home, but I am not the person that makes that decision. I would rather have them with the home field advantage."

"When it comes to Georgia and Florida we could play in a parking lot and I am sure it would still be exciting," said senior linebacker Arnold Harrison.

But Gibson came up with a solution of his own: a solution that made moved the rivalry to Georgia, but kept it close to Florida's campus.

"I would love to play it in Waycross," he said.

"Well… I'd rather play in a parking lot than Waycross," smiled Harrison.

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