Schools end use of slogan over drinking woes
/ Associated Press
Posted: 3 minutes ago
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Florida and Georgia no longer want to be known for throwing the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
The annual football game in Jacksonville between the Southeastern Conference rivals has been called the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party by fans and the media since the 1950s. But the deaths of two students in the past two years, and an emphasis on responsible alcohol use, has prompted the universities to ask television networks to stop using the moniker.
CBS Sports, ESPN and Jefferson Pilot were contacted by SEC commissioner Mike Slive in January asking them to consider dropping the use of the slogan during the Oct. 28 game.
"We would appreciate any initiatives you might take to avoid using the cocktail party reference. This is a great college football game which highlights a traditional rivalry full of the passion of football in the southeast. Our hope is to keep the focus on the game," Slive wrote in a letter to Mike Aresco, vice president of programming for CBS Sports.
Leslie Anne Wade, vice president of communications for CBS Sports, said Aresco has had informal conversations with Slive about the issue, but said the network has not been contacted by either school. She doesn't believe the network has used the phrase very often, if at all.
"It's not part of the focus of CBS coverage. CBS coverage is about the rivalry and the competitive matchup of these two schools," she said.
ESPN said it might use the phrase in certain contexts.
"We are going to consider being consistent with their request," said Mike Humes, a spokesman for ESPN.
Officials with Jefferson Pilot, which is now called Lincoln Financial Media after a recent merger and sponsors regional television coverage of SEC games, did not return a call seeking comment.
Chuck Toney, a spokesman for Georgia, said university president Michael Adams had contacted the SEC about the issue.
"We don't like the phrase. We don't use the phrase. We would prefer that nobody use the phrase," Toney said Tuesday.
In each of the past two games, Florida students have died.
After last fall's game, Thomas Oliver Brown, 23, was beaten to death in downtown Jacksonville. The year before, 19-year-old UF student David Ferguson died after apparently falling from the top of a parking garage.
Toney and Greg McGarity, UF's senior associated athletic director, said both schools are concerned about alcohol abuse and the slogan is in conflict with the message the universities are trying to send to their students.
"We are not going to be able to prevent that tag from being used, but is our responsibility to do everything we can to educate," McGarity said. "We are aware of the problems in the past and will do everything we can to stop things from happening in the future."
According to The Florida Times-Union newspaper in Jacksonville, its former sports editor Bill Kastelz first used the phrase in a 1950s column, when he wrote about a drunken fan who stumbled up to a uniformed police officer and offered him a drink.