The University of Kentucky learned Sunday it is headed to Jacksonville, Fla., to play in its first bowl game since the 2010 season. The Wildcats will take on Georgia Tech on Dec. 31 at 11 a.m. in the TaxSlayer Bowl at EverBank Stadium. Here are five questions and answers about the game:
What is a TaxSlayer and how did that come to be the bowl’s name?
TaxSlayer.com is a company based in Evans, Ga., that provides online tax preparation software for Americans who file their taxes electronically. TaxSlayer.com formed a partnership with the Gator Bowl before the 2012 game to become the bowl’s title sponsor. In 2014, the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl shed its traditional name and was renamed the TaxSlayer Bowl as part of a new six-year contract with the sponsor.
Is this a high-level bowl game?
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Each school in the TaxSlayer Bowl received $2.75 million last year, ranking it among the top 10 bowls in payouts after the College Football Playoff and New Year’s Six games. Not a bad tier, considering there are 41 total postseason games. The TaxSlayer Bowl also owns a prominent position on the bowl schedule as one of four games on New Year’s Eve. The TaxSlayer kicks off at 11 a.m. on ESPN, head-to-head with the Citrus Bowl on ABC. The Peach and Fiesta bowls, this year’s national semifinal games, begin at 3 and 7 p.m. the same day and will be on ESPN.
How long has this bowl been around?
The first Gator Bowl was played in 1946 and the game has been played continously ever since. This year’s edition will be the 72nd. It is the sixth-oldest bowl and, in 1955, became the first one to be televised nationally. The game is widely respected in the South and has produced numerous memorable college football moments, none more so than the 1978 game. That was the night legendary Ohio State coach Woody Hayes ended his career with the Buckeyes by punching a Clemson player who intercepted a pass late in the Tigers’ 17-15 victory. Many of college football’s biggest names have played in the bowl, including Heisman Trophy winners George Rogers, Pat Sullivan, Earl Campbell, and John David Crow. The game has also featured Dan Marino, Thurman Thomas, Archie Manning, Larry Csonka and Peyton Manning. A Gator Bowl-record crowd of 84,129 saw Bobby Bowden coach his final career game for Florida State, a 33-21 win over West Virginia, on Jan. 1, 2010. Florida and Clemson, with nine appearances each, have played in the game the most times. Georgia won last season’s TaxSlayer Bowl, 24-17 over Penn State.
What is EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville like?
The home of the TaxSlayer Bowl opened in August 1995 as Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, on the shores of the St. Johns River. It replaced the old Gator Bowl, which was demolished to make way for the new stadium. The venue was renamed for EverBank Financial Corp., in 2010. EverBank Stadium seats 67,246 and is the home of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. Temporary seats can be added behind the south end zone — expanding the capacity to well over 82,000 — for the annual Florida-Georgia game or a Super Bowl. The Jaguars play a home game on Dec. 24 but are on the road the weekend of the bowl game. The stadium’s playing surface is Bermuda grass and is rated among the best fields in the NFL. The stadium underwent a $63 million renovation prior to hosting Super Bowl XXXIX in February 2005. Additional renovations took place in 2014 and this year. The stadium is known for its massive video boards, installed in 2014, which are among the largest in the world. One overlooks each end zone. Each is 60 feet high, spans 362 feet in width and includes 35.5 million LED bulbs. The stadium also includes recently installed cabanas and swimming pools. The west side of the stadium is normally reserved for the SEC school.
What can I do in Jacksonville other than watch football?
The TaxSlayer Bowl hosts numerous events linked to the game during the week, including a coaches’ luncheon, a 5K run, a boat parade and pep rallies. Jacksonville is a city of nearly 850,000 in northeast Florida with ocean beaches, inland waterways, parks, major golf courses, museums, historic neighborhoods, and plenty of dining and nightlife — pretty much something for everyone. The average high temperature in Jacksonville on New Year’s Eve is 68 degrees, with the average low 50. The record high for Dec. 31, set last year, is 84 degrees. The record low, set in 2000, is 21.