The Atlantic Coast Conference's 11 faculty representatives yesterday voted unanimously to award the 2005 and 2006 conference football championship games to Jacksonville, Fla.
The opportunity to stage the game, which is expected to generate more than $6 million for the ACC, was a prime reason why the conference decided to expand to 12 teams, the minimum required to hold a football championship game. Miami and Virginia Tech join the league this fall, and Boston College in 2005-06.
The ACC will split into two six-team divisions in 2005, with the division winners meeting Dec. 3, 2005, in Jacksonville, which also will have a two-year option for 2007 and 2008.
ACC Commissioner John Swofford said Jacksonville, one of seven cities to bid for the game, "emerged as the clear winner" and called the city a "hotbed of college football." League and bowl sources said throughout the process that Jacksonville was the favorite because of its warm-weather climate and the seating capacity of Alltel Stadium -- 82,000, including 10,000 club-level seats that drive up ticket prices.
"We have always had a special spot in our hearts for college football, as any Gator Bowl or Florida-Georgia participant can tell you," said Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton, who said the game could have a $50 million impact on the city's economy.
In addition to the Florida-Georgia game, Jacksonville annually hosts the Gator Bowl, which matches the No. 2 ACC team against a Big East Conference team, and this year will host the Super Bowl.
"There is a certain level of disappointment," Tom Mickle, Florida Citrus Sports' executive director who coordinated Orlando's bid, said of the decision. "Orlando is the best place for it in my mind, no question."
Mickle felt that Orlando was an underdog because it did not bid to host the game on a permanent basis and because it could not make up potentially $1.25 million in lost ticket revenue from having a smaller stadium. Mickle, though, is optimistic that Orlando will be selected to host the Miami-Florida game in 2008.
The title game announcement was good news for the Atlanta-based Peach Bowl, which currently has the third choice among ACC teams for its bowl game behind the Bowl Championship Series and the Gator Bowl.
Gary Stokan, Peach Bowl president, said he will continue discussions with the ACC about switching the slots of the Peach and Gator. By switching, the conference would avoid the scenario in which the team that loses the title game in Jacksonville plays its bowl game in the same city less than a month later.
"I think there are a lot of cities that would have wrapped its arms around the title game," Stokan said. "Jacksonville makes sense for a lot of reasons."