Kirby Smart: Florida-Georgia game not bound to Jacksonville

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Gator cheerleaders watch The Navy's Blue Angles fly over before the annual game between Florida and Georgia at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. [Alan Youngblood/Gainesville Sun]

By Garry Smits, GateHouse Florida

JACKSONVILLE — University of Georgia football coach Kirby Smart made cryptic remarks on Tuesday about the future of the Bulldogs’ annual game in Jacksonville against the University of Florida.

Smart said “nothing is off the table” in regards to keeping the game at TIAA Bank Field or moving it to another neutral site or rotating it as a home-and-home series.

However, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry knows what’s on his table: keeping the game in town, where it has been on a continuous basis since 1933.

Curry said the city is in communication with the two schools on a contract extension to go beyond the current deal, which expires after the 2021 game.

“Jacksonville is proud to host this game,” Curry said in a statement. “The [Curry] administration is in active discussions with both schools to keep this long-standing tradition in Jacksonville where it belongs.”

Smart was asked about the future of the game at the SEC spring meetings in Destin, specifically about the dynamic of keeping a mid-season neutral-site game with both schools scheduling home-and-home intersectional games for the future.

Georgia will play twice each against Florida State, Clemson and Texas between 2027 and 2030 and Florida will face Colorado in 2028 and 2029 and Texas in 2030 and 2031.

Smart has pointed out in the past that a neutral-site game takes away one recruiting weekend, when high school prospects visit the campus.

“Yeah, absolutely it costs you a recruiting weekend,” Smart said last year about having only six homes games. “You don’t get to have anybody, they don’t get to have anybody. So our version of the LSU-Alabama game is held in Jacksonville and we don’t have prospects. So it’s not conducive to recruiting, absolutely it’s not. It’s just the way it’s been done here before.

“It’s just not great for recruiting because you lose a home game every other year and that just comes with it. But it certainly helps to have more home games.”

Smart also said of the Florida-Georgia game, “nothing has been decided.” But the game is under contract in Jacksonville for two more years.

With the exception of games played in Athens and Gainesville in 1994 and 1995, when the stadium was being renovated, Jacksonville has hosted the game for the past 86 years. Under the current terms of the contract, each team is paid $250,000 per year and split the gate.

Both teams get $60,000 toward travel expenses and Georgia gets $350,000 for a charter plane.

Georgia leads the series 50-43-2 and won 36-17 last year. The Gators are 21-7 against the Bulldogs since 1990.

This year’s game will be Nov. 2 starting at 3:30 p.m. and it will again be televised on CBS.

55 COMMENTS

    • Im sick and tired of these school reps , whomever they may be running this flag up the pole every few years. Id like to see the *hole who decides to end the longest rivalry tradition in NCAA football! See what happens to their legacy!!!!I really think its meant to pump Jax for more money! Its definitely neutral territory as Jax is loaded with gator, dawg, and FSU fans(and alot of johnny come lately, bama fans)!

      • BINGO! You are 100% correct Daz. This is about leverage at the negotiating table. Literally one day after Smart’s comments, it is revealed that Jacksonville has been in negotiations with UF/UGA for an extension of the series. This discussion always comes up only when the contract is up for renewal.

    • Kirby Smart can pound sand. The game has been in Jax since long before he was born and it will be there long after he’s gone. He can do his recruiting in the off season. Smart’s just another whiny Dog coach who knows the Gators are on the rise and doesn’t care about college football tradition.

  1. I’d say do a better job at recruiting during the home games you have…. I am sure (I don’t know the rules) there are a lot of prospects there for unofficial visits I am a fan of the Swamp. I am also a huge fan of the WLOCP. While they aren’t Texas class we are playing USF three times in the next coming years.
    The teams make soo much money from the gate it would not make good financial sense to move to home and home. There are a lot of sympathizers (UGA) in north Florida that we don’t always claim. While the distance from Athens is an issue and they could play in Atlanta they would not get the same financial offering and if memory serves me the teams are taking home 4+million each every year. Maybe that money isn’t important anymore. Of course if you go by the above stat since 1990 it has been a long road home after we beat them. BUT I know quite a few Gators that come up from Miami and they drive further than those in Athens. People assume that everyone lives in the town the team is from. That isn’t the case. Now the students yes, but I have talked with a lot of UGA fans and many enjoy the road trip.

  2. There is no other game like this in college football. Many times this game has decided conference champions, then when the SEC split into divisions, the East championship, and also on the national level in rank. The way fans are situated in the stadium is unique and very cool visually. If you can’t recruit off of bragging rights, well then you can’t recruit.

    You can try and rename it. You can ask the game commentators and news people to please not refer to it as The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (WLOCP). You can go to whatever lengths you choose to try and change it. Fact is, you can’t. It is one of the greatest spectacles in all of college sports. The stadium holds 84,000 people, but parking lots, underpasses, grassy lots, nooks, crannies and every feasible spot to pitch a tent holds thousands more. Reports estimate that more than 150,000 people show up to the event just to party. Hey Kirby! It’s not Smart to piss off 150,000 people who are surrounding you, most of whom are tanked to the gills and have been waiting 364 days for the game!

    • Wasn’t it SOS who said at the beginning of his coaching tenure at Fla that the Gators take a bus while that other team has to fly, that they play the game in the “Gator” Bowl in the state of Florida? No wonder every Georgia coach who comes down the pike wants to take the game out of Jax.

  3. While I strongly believe the game should stay in Jacksonville, for many reasons, taken on its own terms, that other coach is correct. It does take away a home game from either team, which does end up have an effect on recruiting. The Bulldog coach seems willing to slay any sacred cow whatsoever if it means improving recruiting. Let me be clear: I STRONGLY BELIEVE THE GAME SHOULD STAY IN JACKSONVILLE. But my point is that the this guy is so concerned with recruiting, that he is willing to do whatever it takes to get an edge. It actually reminds me of the sort of commitment to recruiting shown by Urban Meyer. It is obvious that for whatever reason Mullen and CO are behind that other school in recruiting. Not in the little battles, but in the arms race to have the best athletes over all. My point is that I just wish that Mullen had more commitment to recruiting and maybe we would actually have better players than the team up North at some point. I respect that other coach’s zeal for recruiting, even though I disagree with moving the game. I just wish I saw the same kind of zeal from the Gators every now and again in recruiting so we would get better players and beat them silly.

    • I know that will not be a popular opinion and I may very well stand corrected. Please do respond. I just am tired of them stock piling talent and wish we could take them down in this area too. I want to win. I’m concerned that not being honest about this problem is naive. We don’t have time for that if we really want to win. We must beat them in this area too….or at least be their equal.

      • It’s been a long time since we’ve strung together back to back good seasons that would convince recruits this team is ready to compete on a yearly basis. They want to compete now and not 3 years down the line. If Mullen can improve on last season, then they’ll start winning the battles to keep the top talent home.

        • Exactly right the cart doesn’t come before the horse. I feel they are building things the right way. Not going to happen over night. While we beat UGA several years in a row leading up to the recent collapse they were not ping ponging up and down with bad choices for coaches. That hurt us more than anything in recruiting. Have a year equal to or better than last year they will show they have built it and they will come. A gambling man would say we are on target for good things. You can bet the up or down the other variable is how long? Young guys are perishable in they have a time per NCAA and where they want to be and who they think will get them there. Were I a young 15-17 year old two years ago I would have been looking elsewhere. After Mullen’s hire I would have made us an option, after last season a stronger option, if they back up last season…. They will show they can walk the walk and talk the talk and the recruits will look at us as a top choice. One thing when was the last time UGA won a NC? They go close and got spanked.

          • UGA’s one, and only, national championship was 1980-81 with Herschel Walker and Buck Belue’s miracle 89-yARD TD pass to Lindsey Scott with 20 seconds remaining to give UGA a 26-21 win. Gators rallied from down 20-7 at half.

          • cattick that was my point they haven’t had the NC in 38 years. I was a young man back then. Could walk with ease, it didn’t hurt to get up most days unless I had done something I regretted the night before. They have out recruited us (subjective) but that doesn’t make a team. I think we will be just fine.

        • Ive been around since the 60’s and the dawgs have always been able to draw recruits easier than UF and I never understood that. When i read an article that quoted Mullen at MSU, about teams that have boosters that pay alot to recruits families to get them to sign and Mullen saying how he wouldnt go that route, he has integrity and how hard it is to compete against that, and how ubiquitous it is; I think I finally found the answer and I believe it applies to FSU as well(another team that through the years out recruited us with ease)!

          • Do you really think UGA pays players and their families? FSU too? I would not put it past them…but if so that is a BIG deal and they should go down hard for that. I just don’t like reverting to that as an out for UF’s lack of recruiting. Maybe that really is the case, but do we have evidence of that other than we can’t imagine any other way UGA and FSU would out recruit us?

          • Brian — No, I do not think UGA pays players and their families. What certain boosters may do, however, without the knowledge of either the coaches or university administration, is entirely another matter. That falls far short of an accusation without evidence……but since it has been exposed before in various programs over the years, it would be foolish to say it can’t/isn’t happening again.

            More to the point tho, I would hasten to say that just because UGA has more 5*s that we are doing poorly in recruiting.

        • I hope so, Joe. I just hope it happens for Mullen before his time runs out. I know, I know…he is just getting started. But things are fickle and a few 8–4 seasons won’t do Mullen any good. Somehow he has to start winning those big recruiting battles and, dare I say it, sometimes you have to do that before you show it on the field. Meyer certainly did. I think the UGA coach did it too. So did the Zooker too, but of course he was never successful on the field. I grow weary of the show it on the field argument as an excuse. I think a 10 win season and stomping Michigan is enough promise to convince the 5*’s that Mullen is not playing around. But it hasn’t worked just yet. What will make them come around? Another 10 win season? Another one after that?

          • Although you may be weary of hearing it, Brain — and I don’t mean that sarcastically — I don’t think one 10 win season and stomping Michigan in the Peach Bowl is enough to remedy the woes of our program over the previous 7 years. IMO, and IMOO, I think serial progression over the next three years, resulting in an SEC title and/or a Play-Off bid, will do that.

          • Brian, the comparisons you’re making aren’t equal comparisons. Zook took over a very healthy program left behind by Spurrier. It didn’t really take much to convince recruits to want to play here. Meyer didn’t take over as healthy of a program, but with his success at Utah, he was easily the hottest coaching candidate on the market that a lot of players wanted to play for, and being the coach at Florida made recruiting that much easier. Muschamp had recruiting success off the back of the momentum Meyer created. Smart took over a program coming off back to back 10 win seasons and already had relationships with basically every top recruit in the country after being at Bama for 9 years. The Gator program has been down so long most of these kids were too young to remember the glory years. Unfortunately it just isn’t as desirable of a program that can recruit itself like it used. Like I said before, recruits want to compete for championships now, and they just don’t have the confidence that UF is that place right now. I think if Mullen has them in playoff contention most of the season and ends with a 10 win season or better, then you will for sure see the recruiting momentum shift and recruits will start to have more confidence in the program.

          • Joe, and Gator 6, those are all good points. I am just concerned that the uptick in recruiting isn’t happening soon enough. 2020 will be Mullen’s third class (the first one doesn’t count it might be said, but technically it does). I concur: the clincher will be to win or nearly win the SEC AND to make it to the playoff. If we do that in the next two years we really have nothing at all to complain about from a trajectory stand point. I just don’t know if we have the horses to do that, or if we ever will at this rate. We need to recruit better in 2020 for that to happen. I suppose I’m using Mullen’s first three classes to forecast his on the field success. Maybe I should back off that, but I still think the recruiting just is not matching the product of what we want to put on the field. It makes me squeamish.

            Gator-6, I don’t think a 10 win season fixes the program. I do think it ought to be enough to get more 5*s to buy in though. The program is only fixed once we win the SEC again, IMO.

          • Brian — If we continue to get the right 4*s and coach them up properly, to include our S&C program — which we are currently doing in spades — while 5*s sure wouldn’t be turned down under any circumstances I can imagine, we should have no problem winning an SEC and getting into the CFP at the pace we’re at. I’d say by 2021 or 2022 at the latest. The problem isn’t getting quality athletes — it will be maintaining our trajectory until we get there. That’s going to be a lot trickier than most think.

    • You would think after 86 years that both programs would have figured how to recruit effectively with the WLOCP as a tool. Tebow said he was never more anxious before a game than he was in this rivalry, starting when the team bus would get to the crest of the Hart Bridge.

      “This game brings out your nerves, 100 percent,” said Tebow, who played in two national championship games, three SEC championship games and four games each against Tennessee and Florida State, with a combined 12-1 record.

      “I was probably as nervous in this game as I was in any game. For me, it was a little different, growing up here … this meant everything to me. When you’d ride over the Hart Bridge and see all the tailgaters and red and black and orange and blue, it does something to you. It makes you get crazy butterflies. You get all anxious and nervous and you tighten up. Some players respond and love it. Some players don’t.”

      I guess Kirby Smart can’t respond to it. Seems like a big recruiting selling point to me, and maybe one of the pros for Timmy that helped him to choose Florida over Bama.

      The four Gators teams Tebow played on from 2006-09 went 3-1 against Georgia, and won the three games by an average score of 37-10. He broke Herschel Walker’s SEC touchdown record as a senior against the Bulldogs.

      Tebow completed nearly 70 percent of his passes, had a passer rating of 182.2, threw for 554 yards and five touchdowns and ran for seven touchdowns against the Bulldogs. He never had a turnover in a Georgia game.

      This game means more in Jax.

      • I agree 100%. My point in the original post was that the UGA coach is right that by having the game in Jacksonville that you loose a recruiting weekend at home. He isn’t wrong. Now it is an open question if the game in Jax has a negative effect on recruiting; it has an effect yes, but what that might be is another matter. He might be wrong that it hurts recruiting, but he is right that there would be new recruiting opportunities available if the game was switched to home and home. I respect his zeal to try to slay whatever sacred cows exist for the sake of recruiting. I wish UF had the same gumption, i.e., do whatever it takes attitude.

  4. I would just as soon see them play home and home to cut down on travel time. It is just logical to go back to that format. I am not stating that Kirby is right in that it reflects on recruiting, but that it takes away a true home game for each team and they both have to travel while being slated the home team. I say change it and that this tradition needs to be changed. GO GATORS!!!

        • NO – Tobacco is a nasty and deadly habit. I smoked for 15 years and quit right before I enlisted in the Army. That was one of the smartest and best moves I ever made in my life. The men on my Fathers side of the family died at either 49 or 50, and I have surpassed that by years. I also had two heart attacks and double bypass surgery in 2015, but I think it was a combination of smoking, Naproxen, red meat and MRE’s…LOL. I have a healthy heart, but my arteries are clogging. What are you going to do? We didn’t exactly evolve into a well built species now did we? LOL. GO GATORS!!!

          • Brudder, you just said a mouthful! (no pun intended).

            I remember that at III Corps Hq, everyone dipped from the CG on down — who was I to break with that kind of unity? Then I retired and by then it was probably past time to actually do the type of work the Army had actually trained me for, so I actually took an actual GS job over in the hospital……..damned if everyone didn’t dip over there too! (except for a couple of the female doctors, but I think they secretly did too). So the moral of the story? I guess it’s go figure!

            Anyway, I’m still alive even tho I am getting pre-embalmed next week.

  5. On second thought, maybe we should go to home and home. The wlocp is structured as if Georgia were equal to Florida. No way, being a gator us much higher status in this world. Sure they have a good qb and got lucky twice but in the end they are still Georgia, which means can’t handle the pressure.
    Georgia can talk but they would be nuts to screw this thing up, but in the end, they are Georgia, why expect more?

    • Mveal, I’m sure you’re old enough to remember when it was Gator fans that wanted it moved out of Jacksonville. Dooley was beating us regularly and Spurrier came in and said “why would we move it, it’s in FL and called the Gator Bowl?”. We started winning and suddenly Gator fans want to keep it there and GA is talking about moving it 😂😂

      • Sparky pre SOS we were struggling against them and they had a huge lead in overall wins. I seem to remember some that wanted to move but even then the game had been played in jax for decades. Don’t pull on superman’s cape. In short periods of time it has been better for on our the other. I also remember listening to a real old timer telling me the reason it went to a neutral site was there where a lot of fights in the day. Way before my time though. Regardless I still call it THE WORLD’S LARGEST OUTDOOR COCKTAIL PARTY! still go most years and still have a good time. Don’t drink as much now but not afraid either. Been there in cold games been there in got games, a few rainy ones too. Love the tail gate stuff pre game, a little trash talk and watching the dogs leave with tails between their legs is always a good thing.

  6. I don’t remember too much of this but I suppose some did out of anger in losing to a lesser program. Let’s be blunt, any gator coach that doesn’t stay ahead of Georgia regularly ends up moving on. It’s the litmus test of who the right person for the job is.

  7. This happens every few years. The coaches and athletic directors come out and say that they aren’t sure Jacksonville is the right place and that a home/home would be exciting for the players and recruiting. Each time, they sign a new deal that is more lucrative than the one before. This time is no different. Mullen makes a comment, Smart makes a comment and then, boom, it comes out that Jacksonville has reached out to both schools to extend the contract that is up in 2021.

    This is about the money. Recruiting, fans, tradition, players are ALL secondary. This is the way the universities can create leverage at the table and college football is now solely about the money.

    I think a format of Jacksonville-Gainesville-Jacksonville-Athens would be great or maybe something different but, no matter what the outcome, it will be for one reason and one reason only….money!

  8. I too am sick and tired of hearing Georgia whine about the game in Jax. It is one of, if not the best, college football traditions out there. And tradition is being too easily sacrificed, like everything else out there, in the name of money. As for recruiting, ironically one of GA’s biggest recruits is the QB from Jax–Carson Beck–who otherwise seemed a lock to us. So I don’t know about this recruiting argument. This game can be a recruiting asset as well. As for why GA is suddenly out recruiting us since Smart got there, let me offer this: 1. He’s just a good recruiter; 2. We lost some cred with our last two coaches and the program did not win like it did under Meyer;3. Kids like to leave home and see the other side of the pasture sometimes, which–if true for Fla kids–may help us in the long run with the portal when they find out going to Texas or Ohio State or even Ga or Auburn is not as good as coming to UF; 4. The cycle of talent lately has the state of GA on the upswing, especially with an influx of great high school coaching in that state. I have known some Fla coaches who left to coach in GA for much better money; 5. Speaking of money , I know for a fact GA pays players, through boosters, and the coaches know about it.Funny how this has been on the upswing since Richt left. Smart is an Alabama disciple and Bama leads the league on how to pay players and get away with it, and it has a lot to do with gambling. If anyone has been in Birmingham for a while, you know what I’m talking about. And GA has bee doing it for years. A friend of mine’s dad was the bag man for Herschel and there is a reason GA quietly let Fields recently leave. So a lot of this “bad for business /recruiting” BS is just that. These are not new reasons.They have been around since the first Fla/Ga game in Jax. GA didn’t exactly lead the world in recruiting the next year after we put 50 on them in Athens under Spurrier. But Ga likes to play the semantics game every time this thing comes up for renewal. In the end , they look like a bunch of cry babies in the process.

    • Dilly Dilly MKF, I do have one thing to add. When you look at recruits and what they are driving vs where they are from it makes one think there is money from somewhere other than their immediate families. Like my grandparents and parents said can’t have a Cadillac on a Chevette income. Of course they were talking to me about where I was going in the world but it does hold true for the students and their families.

  9. Clearly Kirby Smart is expressing an opening negotiation position in the contract renewal discussions for retaining the game in Jax. I hope it stays there for tradition sake. I really enjoyed going to Athens the one time we played there in my lifetime. The game will continue to thrive no matter where it is played.

    The reality of the neutral site game is that it hurts both teams. Go back to home and away and at least every other year your toughest rival has to play at your home stadium. I’m tired of hearing whiny Bulldogs complaining every year about this game – especially if they lose the year before!

  10. Day 4 of this story being on the top banner; is anyone else besides me tired of reading comments about what Kirby Smart thinks about anything, to include the price of tea in China? Not that they haven’t been interesting posts, but for this I shaved my legs? Oy vey! 🤷‍♂️