TALLAHASSEE – Two of Florida's long-time college football rivals are now coming together in a new contest: To sell lottery tickets.
The Florida Lottery is paying hundreds of thousands of dollars so it can use the logos of the University of Florida and Florida State University on a new $2 scratch-off lottery game aimed squarely at football fans.
The "$50,000 Gridiron Cash" tickets went on sale recently. The game not only features cash prizes, but it will give ticket buyers between now and November a chance to win other prizes, including season tickets and even bowl tickets to games featuring the Gators or Seminoles. The game promises 10 winners of $50,000 and more than $20 million in cash prizes.
It's been routine for years to have the Florida Lottery advertise at football games and do promotional events with state colleges. But paying to use the team logos on scratch-off tickets marks a major step up from past efforts.
Lottery Secretary Cynthia O'Connell – the widow of a former UF president – called the new scratch-off game a way to celebrate the rivalry between the two schools.
"We felt it was a great opportunity for us to showcase the rivalry and do it in entertaining manner," O'Connell said.
O'Connell, who also once served on the UF board, said she personally called the universities before launching the game and insisted that "this is not something I would ever do light-heartedly."
The National Collegiate Athletic Association, the organization that oversees major college sports, has maintained a strong stance against gambling, but a spokeswoman referred questions to the two schools. The NCAA has rules that prohibit student athletes as well as athletic department employees from wagering on sports in which the association conducts championships. Those include even office pools for the NCAA basketball tournament.
FSU President Eric Barron said Friday that he was unaware of the ticket promotion until asked about it by a reporter.
UF President Bernie Machen did not respond to a question emailed to him but a spokesman for the UF athletic department defended the arrangement by noting that it has had a lengthy relationship with the lottery.
"UF and the Lottery have had an agreement in place for 13 or 14 years and as part of that agreement they have the ability to use our logos and marks in promotional materials," said Steve McLain, senior associate athletic director for communications.
The Florida Lottery is not paying the schools directly.
Instead the money is paid to IMG College, a licensing firm that negotiates marketing deals on behalf of colleges. The Florida Lottery is paying nearly $800,000 for the scratch-off game. That includes a $138,000 licensing fee and nearly $500,000 for sponsorships and in-stadium advertising of the game. Another $158,000 is being paid for the prizes being offered including a car as well as bowl game and season tickets.
Lottery officials say that the costs associated with the football scratch-off game are less than other game launches that involve licensed trademarks or logos.
Meagan Dougherty, a spokeswoman for the Florida Lottery, said that the UF/FSU game is expected to generate $30 million in ticket sales. An estimated $5.6 million from the sales will wind up in the state education trust fund that pays for programs such as the Bright Futures college scholarship program and other school-related expenses.
For the last four years the Florida Lottery has done a promotion with several universities across the state that allows people who purchase Florida Lotto tickets to enter a second-chance contest that includes football game tickets and university team merchandise.