Memo to Jeremy Foley: Save the Miami Rivalry, Make Florida-Georgia Home and Home

With the SEC announcing to stick with an 8 game schedule, there's hope for the future of the Florida-Miami rivalry

With the SEC announcing to stick with an 8 game schedule, there’s hope for the future of the Florida-Miami rivalry

I’m prefacing this entire article with this statement: I love Jeremy Foley as Florida’s athletic director. 99% of the things he does for the University of Florida have a positive net worth. He’s hired Billy Donovan, Kevin O’Sullivan, countless other coaches who have won big in minor sports, had a hand in hiring Urban Meyer, extended Steve Spurrier, and has ordered several beautiful renovations to Florida’s athletic facilities. Other than a couple of bad football hires, the only real mistake he’s ever made in the 22 years he’s spent as Florida’s AD is the one I’m about to yell at him for.

With the recent news that Florida has extended its annual series with Florida State through 2018, I can’t help but feel saddened that that’s the only in state rivalry the Gator brass seems to care enough about to continue. Ever since September 7, the images of Jeff Driskel, Matt Jones and Trey Burton combining for five turnovers against Miami last year have raced through my head, followed by a question for Jeremy Foley:

This isn’t the first time I’ve raised that question, either. Anybody remember this? A lot has happened in the three years since I wrote that for the original incarnation of this website. I’m 20 years old now, the SEC has expanded to 14 teams, and Florida football is in a major state of flux. But the message behind it remains the same. I love the Miami rivalry. It used to be among the biggest rivalries in all of college football, with as many landmark moments as any other rivalry. The Florida Flop. Late, pointless field goals with no purpose other than to run up the score. A big comeback by a Gator-turned-Cane, capped off with- what else?- the Gator Chomp. Florida handing Miami its only loss (in gigantic fashion, too) of a season that ended with the Canes at #1 in all the polls.

And contrary to what Foley and Miami AD Blake James say, there’s a way to see it again, but Foley has to listen to me.

I’m well aware of the “financial concerns” excuse that Jeremy Foley has been tossing out ever since he made the deal to play Miami in 2008 and 2013 and people asked him why the two schools don’t play more. I know all about the $500,000 out of the athletic budget Florida lost by playing at Miami, and thus playing six, and not seven home games in 2013. I also know that Florida lost more than that by paying Georgia Southern to come and beat them in Gainesville. The recruiting implications, the national exposure and the added strength of schedule that come with merely playing the Canes (not to mention, um, beating them) will more than make up for the lost $500K in other ways. I’ve heard you out, Jeremy, and I’ve taken all that into account. So now it’s your turn to listen to me.

Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 5.38.37 PMMake Florida-Georgia a home and home series (you know, like every other SEC East team does), and then add Miami as an annual opponent.

Think about that. Everybody- from Jeremy Foley, to Florida fans, to Georgia, Miami and FSU fans- gets what they want. Foley gets seven home games, Florida plays Miami every year, Georgia fans can stop whining about the location, and FSU fans can claim to be “official” state champions in years which they beat Florida and Miami since the “official” trophy (the Florida Cup) can only be handed out in years that Florida and Miami play each other.

Basically, Florida loses a home game every other year by playing Georgia in Jacksonville. Conversely, they would gain a home game every other year by playing Georgia in home-and-home style. They could then use the date that would be an extra home game to play at Miami. So essentially, Florida’s trading one home date for another. There would be still be seven games played in the Swamp per year.

The Gators are the only one of UGA’s annual opponents to not play on their home field one year, and on Georgia’s the other year, which is what an annual home-and-home is; i.e. all their other annual opponents get one home game against Georgia every two years. While Duval County is admittedly more Gator country than Bulldog country, it’s not the Swamp, and UF doesn’t own EverBank Field, which means that they don’t make home game type money that Tennessee and South Carolina make every two years by hosting the Dawgs. Each school gets half the tickets, and Georgia fans think nothing of making the 5 and a half hour, 310 mile drive from Athens to watch the Dawgs play their biggest SEC rival. It’s an inconvenience, sure, but they do make the annual migration down to EverBank to ensure that the stands have almost as much red as they do blue.

EverBank Field hosts 84K, is two and a half hours from Gainesville and five and a half from Athens. Not ideal for either school

EverBank Field hosts 84K, is two and a half hours from Gainesville and five and a half from Athens. Not ideal for either school

It’s died down a little bit over the last three years, since Georgia finally remembered how to beat Florida, but before 2011, there were a lot of Bulldog fans clamoring for the game to be moved to the schools’ campuses, because the overflow fans (the non-students) in EverBank are more Gators than Bulldogs (and, you know, Florida’s 18-3 record against Georgia from 1990-2010). And it’s true; Florida fans do generally outnumber Georgia fans at the game once called the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, if by a few percentage points. When that proposal was shot down enough times, Georgia tried to at least move the game to Atlanta once in awhile (which is a supremely bad idea because Atlanta has far more Gator fans than Jacksonville has Bulldog fans, and I say that having spent more than a month in both cities) and that never materialized, either.

From a financial standpoint- Foley’s biggest concern, remember- I don’t quite understand why not. Assuming Florida’s football team is better on a yearly basis than they were in 2013, the University will easily make more money hosting one game every two years than they would playing two games in Jacksonville in two years. EverBank Field can only hold 84,000 fans, and let’s suppose that number gets split right down the middle. Florida can sell 42,000 tickets one year, and 42,000 the next year, which puts them right back at 84,000. Florida’s home field, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, can hold up to 91K fans, and Georgia’s backyard, Sanford Stadium, can squeeze in 93K. Subtract the tickets reserved for the visiting team, but then add it right back the following year when the game is played in the other team’s stadium. That wells exceeds 84,000 tickets sold, for both teams.

Florida-Georgia is known for being one of the game's most intense rivalries. Playing it on campus would get more people to watch it

Florida-Georgia is known for being one of the game’s most intense rivalries. Playing it on campus would get more people to watch it

And then there’s the added impact the home campus environment has that Jacksonville, try as it might, simply cannot match. Sure, it’s a different experience from all other college football games played on a school’s campus, and one that lots of fans put on their bucket lists, but that doesn’t mean it’s better. I’m well aware of the weekend long event in Duval County, and I’m not wholly impressed; I’ve seen buildups to important Tennessee, LSU and FSU games in Gainesville that far outshine that of what’s essentially a weekend long tailgate in the Gateway City. Can you imagine how insane the campus would be before hosting a Georgia game- especially for the first several times, since it would be uncharted territory, something new for Gator fans who have never seen this before (or were very young the last time it happened in 1994), but still afterwards?

Now let’s go back to the Florida-Miami topic for a second. Like I said earlier, the addition of Georgia as a home game every other year, Foley would then have an extra home game to sacrifice in those years, and could use that date to play at Miami- a trip that requires less travel for Florida than every other SEC team. Only Auburn comes close in terms of mileage (324 miles to Miami’s 310), and even if Florida couldn’t bring a particularly large contingent from Gainesville, there are literally hundreds of thousands of Gator fans who live either in Miami or close enough that they’re willing to make the drive from any of the dozens of beach cities in South Florida. You think Jacksonville is “like” a home game for Florida when Florida plays Georgia? Miami would be just as much so, if not even more so because Canes fans are notoriously bad at filling their while Georgia is pretty good. Yes, Georgia fans are better at filling their seats in Jacksonville than Miami fans are in Miami.

The other main issue Jeremy Foley had with putting Miami on the schedule was the fear of a nine game SEC schedule clogging up all the dates he could potentially use to schedule the Canes. Add the FSU game, and there’s 11 of your 12 allotted games right there, leaving one game to schedule the type of cupcakes that Foley can’t live without, and to generate that money he’s been talking about. I did understand (somewhat) that Foley wouldn’t want to only play one team Florida was guaranteed to beat. Believe me, I did.

As it stands now, the only way Florida and Miami will ever play again is if they're both selected for the Peach Bowl or the College Football Playoff

As it stands now, the only way Florida and Miami will ever play again is if they’re both selected for the Peach Bowl or the College Football Playoff

But a few days ago, the SEC announced that it would stick with an eight game conference schedule, which takes that away. That article I just linked from the AJC was a call for the Georgia Bulldogs to ramp up their non conference schedule, but that call applies just as much to Florida. Both teams have fulfilled their obligations of playing a power conference team by playing an in-state rival to finish their regular seasons. But unlike Florida, Georgia isn’t afraid to schedule additional power conference teams: see Boise State, Clemson, Colorado, and Oklahoma State.

Recently, however, we saw an encouraging sign. Foley agreed to have Florida play Michigan in North Texas to kick off the 2017 season. That’s not even close to a home game, the way traveling to Tallahassee, Jacksonville, or even Miami is at least sort of a home game, and as thrilled as I am for this game, Florida’s going to get burned financially for playing it, and from the way he’s carried on about losing money for playing at Miami in 2013, I was stunned when I first heard that news. Thrilled, of course, but stunned. Remember, nobody tied him down and forced him to schedule that game; rather, he did it because he saw an opportunity to put Florida in the national spotlight, boost recruiting, and give the players and coaches a chance to do something special.

Read that last sentence over again.

Can any of you tell me that playing Miami every year would fail to accomplish any of those same things? Can you tell me that making these two moves together as one is going to have any negative financial impact? No, and no. So cut the excuses and let’s play ball.

Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 4.25.47 PMThe important thing to remember is making these two moves simultaneously has absolutely zero effect on the amount of home games Florida hosts per year. Florida would lose a home game every other year by playing Miami in South Florida, but would gain one right back with the addition of Georgia as a home game. Then factor in the aforementioned recruiting implications and national spotlight that come with playing in a rivalry game, let alone winning one. Those are facts, people, as is everything I wrote here minus the part about comparing the experience/intensity of game day for Florida-Georgia on campus as opposed to in Jacksonville, but even those opinions are backed by the undisputed fact that Gainesville is absolutely rocking when the likes of Florida State come to town and Florida’s good.

So please, Jeremy, do the right thing. Put Miami back on the schedule, and show the rest of the world that putting old rivals back on the schedule isn’t the worst thing in the world. Set the precedent so that the Texas-Texas A&M, Nebraska-Oklahoma, Michigan-Notre Dame, Pittsburgh-West Virginia and Kansas-Missouri rivalries may one day follow suit. It’s what’s best for both schools, and the nation as a whole.

I suppose it’s possible that I missed something during my extensive research on the financial end of things. If that’s the case, I encourage you as readers to point them out to me. I’m not claiming to know everything. I’m just a guy who doesn’t want such a great rivalry to end. Especially in this type of fashion:


Comments

Memo to Jeremy Foley: Save the Miami Rivalry, Make Florida-Georgia Home and Home — 38 Comments

  1. Wow. I’ve been waiting for somebody to write this ever since the Gators blew that last game down in SoFla. Actually, since you wrote that 1st version 3 years ago. Please, Foley, don’t be a pussy. There’s nothing to be scared of. Miami has been irrelevant for over a decade now. Put them back on the schedule so we can take over their stadium and proclaim it Ben Hill Griffin South.

    • Hahahaha. Ben Hill Griffin South. I like it. See, THIS is the kind of trash talk we’re robbed of without this rivalry in action.

      Though I’m not sure calling him a “pussy” is going to get the job done, or even make Foley want to consider any of this. I’m trying to get Foley to read this and that wouldn’t help my argument. Note that I didn’t use name calling in my entire article.

  2. I’m a Georgia fan who just found this site today, and I gotta say I like this dude. He’s not afraid to come right out and admit that it’s Florida’s fault that they don’t play Miami anymore. He directly places the blame on his school’s AD for basically being a giant pussy. He’s too reserved to come out and say it, but that was the message I got.

    As for Florida Georgia in campus sites, let’s do it. The same way you expressed disgust over the 2013 game with Miami being your last memory of that series, well 1995 in Athens leaves us with a pretty bitter taste in our mouths about the last time Florida came to Athens. I want to replace that memory with a better one. Playing on each others’ campuses gives us the glorious opportunity to drain the Swamp, something FSU and Tennessee fans always brag about doing in the 90’s and 00’s. Tennessee not so much lately, but you know. And Florida could brag about putting down the Dog litter, or whatever equivalent Gator fans will come up with.

    I’ve never seen your writing before (I mostly hang out at Dawg Sports), but I scrolled through some of your stuff, and liked it. Count me in as a fan from a rival school.

    • Thanks!

      Truth be told, I’m not so adamant about moving the Cocktail Party out of Jacksonville, but I don’t see a reason to keep it there, either, and this is the only other home game that Florida could possibly have unless they drop FSU (which will never happen). Foley wants 7 games in the Swamp. I want to play Miami. This is the only way I see to do both without removing FSU.

  3. Florida is about to face a 9 game SEC schedule, Florida is finally getting some breathing room in regards to SOS at #22. They’ve has a top 5 SOS for years now and already play FSU. There are only 12 games a season, this is just never going to happen. Miami wants it because they play Clemson and FSU, that’s it. They can’t make the playoffs without more meat in their schedule because they aren’t nationally relevant anymore. Do I want them to play? Yes. But it has to be a logical decision and not just an emotional one.

    • They are not about to face a 9 game schedule. Please read the article again carefully. Look for the photo of Chris Leak in the white jersey and orange pants running from a Miami defender in an orange jersey and white pants. Read the adjacent text.

  4. Also, The Cocktail Party makes more sense financially for both UGA and UF, playing in Jax. That won’t be changing until that’s not the case…

    • It’s already not the case. It’s one game every two years each school does not host. EverBank holds 84K, Ben Hill Griffin holds 91K and Sanford holds 93K. More tickets+less travel per two years= more money per school.

  5. Excellent idea. I’d totally be down to play the Canes every year, and while I’m going to miss the camaraderie of Jacksonville, I’d be willing to sacrifice it to play Miami.

  6. I’d love to see Florida play Miami in Tampa. Course, that’s because I live right off Dale Mabry Highway five minutes from RayJay, so it’s kinda selfish. But still. We could beat them, send them home in disgrace and then officially declare Tampa “Gator Country”.

    But the plan you laid out seems, at least on the surface, genius. I haven’t done any real research myself on the subject, so I don’t know if there’s something you missed, but assuming you didn’t, this is absolutely brilliant. It touches all the bases: Foley gets his 7 games, Georgia gets a more desirable location to play Florida, and we can get a nice three way rivalry going and a bulletproof way to declare an “official” state champion (unless the three teams split. Then let the arguments begin. But even then, you at least HAVE arguments).

    I really don’t know why nobody’s proposed this yet. My only guess is that nobody would ever DARE suggest to move the WLOCP away from Jacksonville. But then, you’re not anybody else. And that’s why I really like you, Neil. You write how you feel, and fuck it if it’s bold, or unheard of. This is why I love this site.

  7. Ehh, I’m not so convinced we need to play Miami every year. They need to play us, but we don’t need to play them. We have twice the resources, and prestige that they could ever dream to have. What do we care about giving ourselves the chance of being state champions when we have a chance to win the best conference in the nation? Everybody knows it’s Florida/FSU and then everybody else in terms of prestige in this state. So Miami won the last one. Big deal. Good riddance.

    You may be onto something with making Georgia a home and home, though. Since I no longer live in Jacksonville (Pensacola now), I no longer have the selfish reason to want that game there each year, and thus I don’t see how it makes sense. With seven games in our back pocket we could use that extra date to schedule home and homes with, say, Ohio State, or Southern Cal. Or we could do more neutral site games to start the year like the Chik-Fil-A Kickoff, the Cowboys Classic, Kickoff In The Capital, etc. That 2017 game with Michigan really excites me, and I’d be totally down to play more of them.

    • Miami used to be THE rivalry for Florida. The players all know each other, there’s in state bragging rights, and the two schools battle for recruits more than Florida does with most of their SEC opponents. Playing random teams from other big conferences in a kickoff game or home and home, or whatever, doesn’t compare to playing a team filled with players you’re very familiar with… not to mention with all the history between the schools.

  8. I love the UGA-UF game at Jacksonville. I live in Gainesville but I have family in JAX and spend quite a lot of time there. I guess my position may have a tocuh of selfishness in it but really, Jacksonville doesn’t have a lot going for it, taking that game away would be horrible for the city.

    With that being said.. I want the Miami rivalry back more. If losing the Jacksonville game is the absolute ONLY way to get Miami back I’ll take it.

  9. Canes fan here. I gotta say I’m impressed by this entire article. Finally, a Florida fan who takes responsibility for ending this rivalry. I gotta say that this would make sense. If hosting 7 games is what’s keeping Foley from sitting down with Blake James to discuss renewing this rivalry, well here’s the solution to it. This game deserves to be played out on the field, not just in recruiting or who does better against FSU.

  10. This is PERFECT. You’re my hero Neil. I just moved to Miami and it is BRUTAL. Canes fans never shut up and all I want is to play and beat them. And you’ve laid out the blueprint for how to do it better than anyone else. No other suggestion I’ve seen has been plausible, screw Tampa and Miami. The only way it’s going to happen is if Foley can somehow keep his 7 games in the Swamp per year, and this is the first proposal that’s taken that into account.

    Really, thank you for this.

    • No problem!

      Funny, lots of Gator fans who are against this say that I want Miami back due to emotions, meaning still being pissed off about what happened against them the last time we played. I don’t live anywhere near Miami. I know maybe two Canes fans. That’s not the real reason I want to play them. You must have it much worse.

  11. NO!!! and NO!! There is no rivalry with Miami and we are not going home and home with GA due to money issues. We don’t need Miami on our schedule but they might need us.

    • Miami is a team from a power conference in our state. We constantly fight them for recruits. We could sell recruits on the chance to play Miami, which may persuade some kids from South Florida- who knows? I agree that they may need us more, but it certainly would not hurt Florida to play the Canes every year.

  12. Meh. I miss the Miami game but am very much against moving the Cocktail Party out of Jacksonville.

    How about we alternate between ending the season with FSU for two years, then Miami for two years.

    Frankly, if we are going to play another major OOC game each year I would rather it be with the Pac 12 or Big 12. We play the ACC enough.

    • I will never, EVER sacrifice the Florida State rivalry.

      Like I’ve said. Miami’s a rivalry. It’s an important game. State bragging rights. Big time recruiting implications within our state, which happens to be the best state in the country at producing athletes. Playing Big 12/Pac 12 teams just don’t carry that kind of weight.

      • But it gets Florida’s brand out West, which increases recruiting there. Guys in Dade and Broward already know about the Gators, those in Texas or California may not.

        • Kind of. But when you think about it, that’s a lot of money burned traveling all the way out there.

          The recruiting argument isn’t really valid, though. EVERYBODY knows the Florida Gators. Even kids in Cali. Just the same way kids in Florida know about USC. Plus, Texas A&M is now in the SEC, so they’re even more likely to “know about” the Gators. And besides, with all the talent that’s been stockpiling up in the state of Florida through the years, is it really that important to establish legitimate pipelines out west?

      • Oh, and I would have said the same thing about the Auburn rivalry until 1992, and we played them a lot more than FSU. Playing Miami two years and FSU two years seems like a good way to keep both going.

  13. Screw Miami, give me Auburn. I know your response is “we can’t control sec scheduling” but since you’re operating in a fantasy world in this article (Miami ain’t happening) I thought Id throw my two cents in.

    I’ll be checking in a little more regularly now that this site is more mobile friendly. Is there any way to tell the difference between new/old comments?

    • Fair enough! And welcome!

      If you’re talking about making new comments (that you haven’t seen) a different color than the ones you have already seen, that’s next on my list of “website design work” I have to do. But I have a very, very special surprise (in the “content” category) in the works that’s consuming all the time I’m spending on the site right now. It should be released by the end of the week.

    • Justin, why are you against playing Miami? It’s an in state rivalry. Bragging rights. Players know each other. Florida Cup. Recruiting. All that. It’s gone now, because Foley refuses to travel all 300 miles to play them every other year. All he’s got to do is make Georgia a home and home series. I do love the camaraderie of JAX but it’s worth sacrificing it to get the Canes back in my humble opinion.

      That said, I’m down to play Auburn every year. In Atlanta. For the SEC Championship. I don’t care enough about them to want a yearly rivalry. How many “rivals” do we need, really? Georgia, FSU, Tennessee, LSU, Miami (YES, MIAMI IS A RIVAL), hell even Alabama has been more of a rival over the last 25 years than Auburn. Plus I don’t really see how we’re ever going to play them more than twice every 12 years with the 6-1-1. And while Neil may be living in fantasy land with this article, you have to admit that Miami is more doable than Auburn right now.

      • Why are you so against Miami? The Canes used to be THE in state rivalry for us. Time to go back to that. We could play for the Florida Cup every year. That would bring so much excitement to Florida football. We’d be essentially playing for two different championships in one year, the SEC and the state of Florida. If we lose out on the SEC then at least we’d have that to look forward to, something to fight for that would result in a championship.

        • Dude… see this is what gives Florida a rep for having a pussy fan base. This is why I hate Florida. They think they’re too good to play us. Why do you not want to play us, GatorJustin? Why? Are you scared? You think we might beat you every year even when we’re not supposed to? Like we did last year? Why “screw Miami” when that’s TOTALLY in your school’s control while playing Auburn is solely up to the SEC office?

          • I agree with Justin that I’d rather play Auburn than Miami. But Miami is a million times more possible than Auburn. As people have said that’s not in our control.

            But here’s a thought. Why don’t we just drop permanent cross division opponents? Then we’ll draw Auburn more often. I don’t think any of us would particularly miss the LSU rivalry. Traditionally, they sit behind Georgia, Tennessee, FSU, Auburn and Miami for the title of rival.

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