JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (WHNT) — Kirby Smart settled into his chair in the electronic media room at SEC Media Days.
The Georgia Bulldogs head football coach was about to be peppered with questions about future scheduling, recruiting and how the back-to-back national champions planned to pull off the first three-peat in nearly 100 years.
It didn’t take long for a question about the Florida Gators, Georgia’s biggest rival, to come up, and when it did, Smart waited for the question to end before he corrected the reporter.
The reporter asked him about the future location of the Florida-Georgia game and whether or not he supported a home-and-home series with the Gators.
“First off, you misspoke. It’s the Georgia-Florida game, I want to clear that up,” said Smart.
The response garnered some laughter from the other reporters in the room, but for Smart, it wasn’t a laughing matter. But who wouldn’t expect it to come from a coach who is a Bulldog through and through?
Fast forward 24 hours, Florida head coach Billy Napier is in the same seat that Smart was in the day prior.
Immediately, the same reporter asked Napier a similar question regarding the game’s future location while TIA Bank Stadium in Jacksonville is under construction. However, this time mentioned Smart’s comment regarding the name.
“First of all, we got three more games of the Florida-Georgia game, it’s gonna be in Jacksonville for three more years,” said Napier.
To the outside world, it shouldn’t be a big deal – but to the Bulldogs and Gators, the rivalry goes so deep that even whose name goes first when referencing the game matters.
And while many of college football’s biggest rivalries have names, such as the Iron Bowl or the Egg Bowl, to settle this kind of thing, the Florida-Georgia or Georgia-Florida game, depending on who you ask, doesn’t. At least, not anymore.
There was a time when this storied rivalry had a name, The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
It all started in the 1950s when Bill Kastelz, a local sports editor covering the game, claims he saw a drunken fan offer a police officer a drink. After seeing this, along with all the fans openly drinking, Kastelz coined the rivalry game as ‘The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party’ and the name stuck.
“All the other sports writers in the press box asked me why I wrote that, and I said because it was true,” Kastelz told the Florida-Times Union in 2000. “There was drinking all over the place in those days. People would use their binocular cases to put a flask in there and drink very openly, and there was no crackdown.”
The Cocktail Party name continued for over 30 years before its first setback on the road to being removed as the official name. The City of Jacksonville stopped using the name after the 1984 and 1985 games nearly turned into riots.
In 1984, the Gators entered the matchup undefeated in SEC play but had lost six straight to the Bulldogs. The game was highlighted by a 96-yard-touchdown pass from Kerwin Bell to Ricky Nattiel as Florida defeated Georgia 27-0. Following the game, Gators fans stormed the field and ripped out the goalpost.
A year later, a similar stage was set for the game with Florida coming into the game ranked No. 1 for the first time in school history. This time the Bulldogs were looking to play spoiler and upset the Gators 24-3.
Just as Florida fans had the previous year, Georgia fans flooded the field and took the goalposts for themselves this time. According to the Florida-Times Union, this led to over 65 arrests and officials from both schools to discuss moving the game to home campuses.
In 1988, the City of Jacksonville dropped the name and began to crack down on excessive drinking. Despite this, both schools and the media continued to use the name.
For 18 more years, the game held the moniker from both schools and the SEC. However, in 2006, the conference and schools asked CBS to refrain from using the name, according to Sporting News.
Since dropping the name, it has been given several other titles, such as the War for the Oar, the River City Showdown and the Florida-Georgia game for Gators fans or the Georgia-Florida game for Bulldogs fans.
While many have tried, an official name has not stuck and continues to cause a conflict between the two programs about who should be mentioned first.
This year’s game will be played at 2:30 on October 28 on WHNT.