Georgia Stakes Claim To Title Of College Football Capital
By Eric Russell
Deep in the heart of Texas, there is enough college football tradition and history for colleges and universities to have academic departments dedicated to the subject. Out west, Cal, Stanford, UCLA and USC make California the cream of the crop when it comes to football out in Pac-12 land. Sure, Alabama only has two major programs, but the ferocity and fervor with which the fans follow the programs is something to behold.
If the NCAA and fans were pressed to declare a college football capital, those three states would likely be in the discussion when it came time to decide on a locale to be known as the preeminent state of football. However, they wouldn't come close to being bestowed with the title according to Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl president and CEO Gary Stokan.
Instead the prestigious title would be given to Georgia and the city of Atlanta to be more specific. At the ACC Kickoff, Stokan said having the Peach Bowl in the rotation to host national semifinals for the College Football Playoffs in a few years and plans to bid on the 2018 national championship game is strengthening the city's choke hold on the distinction as the college football capital.
"I've always had the vision to make Atlanta the college football capital of the world," Stokan said. "I went out to go get the College Football Hall of Fame and move it to Atlanta. We created the kickoff games. There's nobody that will have the College Football Hall of Fame. There is nobody that will have the SEC Championship game other than Atlanta."
He went on to add that even the cities with the ability to match some of the events of Atlanta won't be able to stand toe-to-toe with the city overall.
"There will be other cities that have College Football Playoff games. There will be other cities that have kickoff games. But, to have all of them — nobody has that full cadre of events," he said.
There is some legitimacy to his claim as well. The College Football Hall of Fame has moved to Atlanta because they couldn't attract fans in South Bend, Indiana. The 94,000 square foot attraction could've chosen several destinations, but it landed in ACC/SEC country. Stokan also pointed to Atlanta's consistent appearance as one of the top markets when viewership numbers are released. Three of the top 15 most viewed regular season games in 2013 featured Georgia.The Bulldogs' game with South Carolina got just over seven million viewers, the LSU matchup got 7.3 million and the ACC/SEC showdown with Clemson drew 8 million viewers.
Plus, Stokan noted Atlanta's strong reputation when it comes to recruiting. Georgia is behind only Texas, Florida and California when it comes to number of recruits
"Per capita, (Georgia) is the number one recruiting base in the country," Stokan said. "Overall we're number four... When you look at the growth of the game, with Georgia State coming on line, Kennesaw State starting their team, Paine college started last year ... you know the growth of the game is in Georgia. So whether it's event, whether it's viewership, whether it's number of players going to the NFL, whether it's recruiting, nobody, when you put the whole scale together, can match what Atlanta and Georgia do with college football."