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Will Gator Bowl fall victim to lack of interest and attendance?

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Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no doubt that the College Football Playoff has made the end of bowl season dramatic and gives a finality that they haven’t had, previously. However, the explosion in the last 15 or so years of “participation trophy” type bowl games (you know the ones where at least one or both teams don’t have a winning record) has begun to have a ripple effect.

Many of them are suffering at the turnstiles and almost all of the lesser ones would have already been out of business, if not for ESPN.

Oh, did we mention “The World Wide Leader in Sports?” Yes, ESPN owns many of the bowls outright, and has the television rights to almost all of them, including the CFP. They are largely responsible for the dearth of extra bowl games that virtually no one attends, and a lot of the teams play almost out of obligation to their conference, etc.

And so, while they’ve created “built in” December TV programming, the games are floundering.

And unfortunately, in North Florida, and maybe soon in Central and West Central Florida, their traditional bowl games may succumb to what’s happening.

In Jacksonville, the Gator Bowl, which has been played for 70+ years is in trouble.

As the Florida Times-Union wrote about Saturday, the game has been trending down in the 2010’s, but the last two year’s the game has had just over 40,000 in announced attendance. That means over 30,000 seats are unsold. There were just over 41,000 there on December 30th for Mississippi State’s win (above) over Louisville last year.

The one plus is, ESPN has been paying the schools $3.5 million each to attract top teams for the “Power Five” conferences. The downside, is that money doesn’t last forever on games that aren’t drawing and in the Gator Bowl’s case, get lost in the New Year’s weekend shuffle.

And the Gator Bowl’s conference agreements are about to up in two years, as well. So it’s no easy challenge, to re-negotiate and attract the top conferences and teams. As Jacksonville Sports Council Executive Director, Rick Catlett told the paper,

“What we’re trying to do is figure out a financial model that’s beneficial for the teams and us,” said Catlett. “We’re talking about revenue sharing, so in years we don’t meet our budget, they protect our downside.

“We have to change the model to be more of a partnership. Before, we guaranteed [conferences] a bunch of money and they told us what teams we were getting. It worked for 70 years, but the model changed when the CFP came in.”

Now, the Citrus Bowl in Orlando and the Outback Bowl in Tampa, while having the same declining attendance in recent years, have more solid footing, for now. That’s with getting a higher priority of choice from the SEC, Big Ten, ACC, etc. They are also locked in every year on New Year’s day in the early afternoon.

For Example, the Gator Bowl is being played this year on New Year’s Eve, which is another attendance killer, especially with the locals, for a non playoff semi-final.

For 40 years, the game was a weeknight match-up in Jacksonville and maybe that will end up being something that’s considered to help in the new financial model. As the payout won’t be as much, there won’t be as much strain if the game doesn’t have a ton of fans.

With at least 10, conservatively, of the fleet of bowls in jeopardy of being gone at some point soon, it would be a shame that the tradition rich Gator Bowl becomes one of them.

Still, the warning signs are there.

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New Jersey authorities charge Janoris Jenkins brother in homicide at his home

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Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

It only took a little over 24 hours for authorities in Bergen County, New Jersey to make an arrest in the homicide at the home of New York Giants defensive back Janoris Jenkins. And as it turns out, Jenkins older brother William is being charged aggravated manslaughter in the death of 25-year-old Roosevelt Rene.

Rene, who had been staying at the Jenkins home as a guest and friend of the family, was found by a worker in the basement of the home on Tuesday morning.

The 34 year old older brother, William Jenkins had been taken into custody early Tuesday in New Jersey and was sent to Ontario County, New York on a parole violation. He is in the process of being extradited across the New York/New Jersey state lines to Bergen County to face the manslaughter charge.

On Monday evening the NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported that Rene had been strangled or suffocated to death.

Meanwhile. Janoris Jenkins, who just completed his second season with the Giants after signing as a free agent, is reportedly still in Florida. And, he has yet to comment either himself or through a spokesperson about the death at his home.

Janoris Jenkins was not believed to have been home this weekend as neighbors  reported that he and his girlfriend had gone to Florida two weeks ago after Giants mini-camp at concluded.

The Giants have had no comment other than they are monitoring the situation.

As we wrote on Monday, Jenkins is a former star at Pahokee High School where they won the state championship and was part of the Gators National Championship season of 2008 as a freshman in Gainesville.

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Is there a referee crisis for the NFL?

Florida Football Insiders

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Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Over the course of the past couple of weeks a story has developed that isn’t getting nearly as much attention as it probably should.

Yes, whether or not Bucs QB Jameis Winston is suspended for at least the first three games of the season is a big deal.

Whether or not Quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski are happy or unhappy with the New England Patriots and coach Bill Belichick is also a big deal.

And yes, whether or not players, like Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, can get new contracts or will be holding out come training camp next month is again, a big deal.

However, we haven’t seen nearly as much coverage on something that is also very significant once the game start being played. There are four former NFL referees from a year ago that have all resigned/retired and that’s a big number all at once.

As is laid out here, with the NBC official announcement Thursday that former referee Terry McAulay will be joining NBC Sunday Night Football in the booth, that means three of them will be in the Network TV booth this fall:

There has already been some eyebrow raising at Triplette going to Monday Night Football as a rules expert for ESPN, but they obviously had a need when Gerry Austin agreed to go join former MNF analyst Jon Gruden in a newly created position with the Raiders.

And as for Steratore, who worked Superbowl 52 last year, he will serve not only in the booth with the Jim Nantz and Tony Romo, but will be used as a college basketball rules analyst this winter for CBS’ hoops coverage. He’s shown above dealing with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll being on the field and flagged 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct in their December loss at the Jaguars.

The fourth referee is Ed Hochuli, who is retiring and yet to have a TV role, if there is one for him.

The bigger point is that everyone of these head referees are long time veterans and represent approximately 25-30% of the referees who work weekends in the NFL.

And in the cases of Steratore and McAulay, they are younger than Triplette and Hochuli, and could have conceivably been referees another 10 years or so, had they wanted.

So, why didn’t they want to continue?

Former supervisor of the NFL officials and now Fox TV rules analyst, Mike Pereira, has repeatedly expressed that due to the micromanaging that HD replay reviews have caused, that many of the “rank and file” are disgruntled and discouraged.

And, if several on field officials can follow his lead and end up with a high paying network TV gig, then who can begrudge them?

Still, we at F.F.I. can’t hope but wonder if this kind of turnover with head referees will have some effect with the new ones taking over botching calls or situations come this fall.

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Former Bucs first round pick McCants arrested, again

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The sad tale of former Buccaneers number one pick Keith McCants continues, as early Monday morning he was arrested, yet again, this time in St. Petersburg for drug possession.

McCants, who was taken fourth overall as the Bucs first round pick in 1990, was booked in the Pinellas County jail for felony possession of crack cocaine.

According to jail records, this is the ninth different time that McCants has been arrested on some charge in the Tampa Bay area in the last eight years.

McCants, now 50 years old, never lived up to the billing of being taken in the top five, as he played only three seasons in Tampa Bay,. He battled weight and knee problems and only registered 12 sacks in three seasons. He also played for the Oilers and the Cardinals in subsequent seasons, but was out of the NFL by 1995.

McCants has repeatedly tried to get his life in order, including giving motivational speeches and writing an essay in the Sporting News in 2011 warning younger players about dangers with drugs, etc. and his troubles. 

The former Alabama All American was also featured on the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary “Broke” in 2012, where he detailed how he had lost all of his $4.5 million dollars from his playing career.

McCants was booked at 4:24 a.m. in the Pinellas County Jail Monday morning and bonded out at $2,000  on the felony charge for drug possession, and also for driving with a revoked or suspended license.

One of McCants previous arrests was for driving with a suspended license in January of this year and he was to have stood trial on July 10th on that charge.

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