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.