by Glenn Tschimpke
The football season is not over. For First Coast football fans who have long since given up hope for a football championship for North Florida this year, they may have overlooked the Jacksonville Dixie Blues.
In their first year in the Women’s American Football League, the girls in blue have parlayed a wildcard playoff berth into consecutive wins over the Indianapolis Vipers and previously undefeated Tampa Bay Force to land a spot in the Women’s World Bowl I.
But don’t expect to see U2 play during halftime of WWB I, which will be played in Balboa Stadium in San Diego Feb. 24. Don’t bother wading through basketball scores and hockey fight highlights on ESPN’s SportsCenter to catch the pregame hype. In fact, the Dixie Blues will be lucky if they make it to the game. The dichotomy between the NFL and the WAFL is as simple as the “haves” and “have-nots.” But such is life for an upstart league. The self-funded team, which operates on a tight budget, has caught itself by surprise with the impending trip to the West Coast. Offensive guard and team spokesperson Jan Spence said the current financial predicament is grim.
“I think we have about $400 in the bank account right now,” said Spence. “We still owe about half the money for our uniforms.”
The Dixie Blues situation caught the attention of City Council member Jerry Holland, who wants to lend a hand.
“I would like very much for the Council to give some support for them,” said Holland. “I’m looking to try to get some financial support from the standpoint only that if they get financial rewards for making the [WWB I] — say ESPN picks it up or something — the City gets reimbursed before it goes back to the players.”
Holland will push an emergency bill through City Hall for a vote before the full Council next Tuesday that would “lend” the Dixie Blues about $20,000 to help cover their expenses for a three-day trip to San Diego.
“I look at how many incentives we give to our male sports and how many things we have poured million dollars into,” he said, hinting that Jacksonville could use a little more gender equity when doling out cash to sports teams.
Holland wants the team to pay the money back if it makes any compensation off the game. But there is no guarantee the Dixie Blues will even break even off the trip.
City Council president Matt Carlucci offered initial support for the yet-to-be written bill.
“Anytime we give City money to ball teams, we always take a pretty close look at it,” said Carlucci, during a meeting with Holland. “But I tell you what, Jerry, if you put something together, I’ll support you on it.”
The $20,000 from the City would still leave the Dixie Blues $10,000 short. Spence said she is actively pursuing private and corporate sponsorships.
“Thirty-thousand dollars would get us there, for sure,” she said. “That includes airfare, transportation, lodging and food.”