Mullen says there are arguments ‘on both sides’ for future of Florida-Georgia

Florida's defense stuffs Georgia running back D'Andre Swift (7) at the goal line during the second half of last year's game at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. [Brad McClenny/Staff photographer]

By Garry Smits, GateHouse Florida

JACKSONVILLE — Coaches keep throwing shade on the future of the Florida-Georgia game in Jacksonville.

Two months after Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart made the most recent of several public complaints that having a neutral site game every year in Jacksonville hurts his recruiting, Gators coach Dan Mullen chimed in on Monday at SEC Media Days with the opinion that “you can make an argument either way” about whether the game should remain in Jacksonville — where it has been for 85 years — or be taken to the respective home stadiums of each school, or to another neutral site such as Atlanta.

“I think you can make arguments on both sides of why it should stay in Jacksonville, why it should leave Jacksonville and be a home-and-home,” he went on, speaking at a Hoover, Ala., hotel. “It think it will be an interesting discussion the next couple of years of when the contract runs up of what the future is going to be for that game.”

The Gators will have two neutral-site games this year, opening on Aug. 24 in Orlando against Miami, then facing Georgia on Nov. 2 at TIAA Bank Field.

The Florida-Georgia game was first played in Jacksonville in 1933 and has been there every year except 1943 (because of World War II) and in 1994 and 1995, when it was played in Gainesville and Athens, Ga., because of renovations to the stadium for the Jaguars entry into the NFL.

The game is estimated to bring $35 million annually in economic impact to the First Coast and the Golden Isles in south Georgia.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has been adamant that the city will do what it takes to keep the game, and conversations with the schools have been ongoing. The current contract expires after the 2021 game.

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

It’s also worth noting that Mullen and Smart are not part of the negotiations. The city deals with the athletic directors, Scott Stricklin of Florida and Greg McGarity of Georgia.

Under the current terms of the contract, the teams are paid $250,000 per year and split the gate, which comes to around $3.3 million each.

Mullen admitted that the history of the game would make it difficult to justify a change in venue. The only other annual neutral-site games in the Football Bowl Subdivision are Texas vs. Oklahoma in Dallas and Army-Navy, usually in Philadelphia.

“Being in a neutral site obviously makes it a very special game, a very unique game you get to coach in,” he said. “There’s not many of those in college football. That’s something special to say that you got to play in this very special, unique game.”

But he also fell back on the loss of one home game as it pertains to fans and recruiting. Each team gets around 40,000 tickets for Florida-Georgia, while a home game makes more than double that amount available.

“You’re taking one of your biggest rivalry games every year, and you’re moving it off campus where you can’t host that in your home stadium for your fans, all of your season ticket-holders, for recruiting,” he said.

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

Garry Smits is a sports writer with the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville.


  1. Going to home and home would cost each team ~16.5 million over ten years at 3.3 million a year which I am guessing goes up with each contract renewal. I don’t think Athens or Gainesville can house as many people as Jacksonville. Again there are about 100K that are tailgating while the game is going on. Where would they go? Maybe if recruiting is an issue and I don’t know the details if the “home” team can treat their recruits in Jacksonville to whatever they do at their real home games that would be acceptable to all.

    • It wouldn’t cost each team anything, as they’d make more than double that every other year if it’s home-and-home. That’s why the numbers were in the article.

      All Jacksonville has to do is up the 250K per year and the game won’t move.

        • Gator65: Story has the figure — “Under the current terms of the contract, the teams are paid $250,000 per year and split the gate, which comes to around $3.3 million each.” That’s like $3.5+ million each per year when the two sums are added up.

          • Doggon’ Arnold, you really do read these things!

            (PSSST…..guys, clean it up…..the commander is monitoring the net!)

          • Thanks again Arnold for your insight. I can see both sides of this argument and I will just stand back since I cannot attend games myself. It just seems logical to me for home and home, but at least we have some great material to discuss until the season kicks off. GO GATORS!!!

        • 65. 6, and Arnold – if I read the article correctly doesn’t it state that we would make double the tickets available for sale if it were a home game? Let us also take into account that if it were a home game that we would receive the entire 6.6 million for the gate because there would be no splitting it. Am I misunderstanding this or do I see it clearly? PS – we wouldn’t have to travel but every other year. GO GATORS!!!

          • Ed I think the real kicker in that is there is virtually zero expense in the neutral games (same as any away game) when you have the game at home while they are getting the entire gate there are huge expenses in the business side that aren’t incurred on neutral territory. 6.6 million would be good but the expenses are likely over a million or more. Law enforcement, security, trash, vendors, facilities, logistics, consumables, electricity, water etc. Now it hasn’t happened in awhile but if FL and GA where on a low and the games were at home and the turn out was low there could be a low turn out and that would be lower revenue. With the deal in Jax it is a guaranteed amount. Hard for business to turn down a guaranteed amount as the tickets are almost always sold out there even if they don’t show. I am not arguing with anyone just think the business end of it is going to keep it the way it is. Would be nice to make it to 100 years and have a 100 year tradition. I agre about the travel but Athens would be a longer run and for me more expensive in time and money. Besides in Jax we can stay at a hotel and walk to the game. If it were in Gainesville I don’t think they can house that many people and there is no room for the number of motorhomes that would invade campus unless they closed school for the week and used all the lots for motorhomes. Of course if it moved maybe many of those guys wouldn’t go. Which would take away from the WLODCP. Something that I have enjoyed on occasion.

          • Both schools pocket $3.5+ million every year playing in Jacksonville. Away team gets no money in the home-and-home. And about 35,000 fans of the road team won’t have access to game tickets as they do now.

        • Gator65 – thanks for your insight as you bring up variables that I never really gave any thought to. There are many pro’s and con’s to this game staying in Jax, same as home and home, but it just seemed logical to me that home is always better than away. Either way I am just happy that I get to watch it at home on my tv in the A/C. Sounds like there may be a country song there somewhere. I am getting ready to watch the Florida – Oklahoma NC game being shown on the SEC channel. It always reminds me of Brad Pitts Father talking to me at O’Hare Airport because I was wearing my GATORS T-shirt. I was still in the Army at the time and was heading home on leave. It was a Saturday and the GATOR game was on, but all of the dang tv’s in the airport were tuned to Notre Dame. After all of the tv’s I passed on the way to my gate the game was on at the bar closest to my destination. I don’t remember who we played that day and I didn’t get to watch the end due to my flight leaving. I will enjoy watching it again…lol. GO GATORS!!!

  2. At 70 years old and even though I haven’t attended in 30 years. With that being said, in these day’s of change and instability leave it where it is. My memories of “The Worlds Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” and the great games I witnessed and the fan’s that attended, PRICELESS! No matter who won it was and is an experience, I’ll never forget and shouldn’t be robbed for future attendee’s. Just an old mans thoughts! GO Gators!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Also the economic boost to the entire low country seaboard must/SHOULD be a consideration. From Saint Augustine to Savannah the coastal small town economies NEED the added revenue this week sends their way.

    It’s a great tradition. It’s one of only a few neutral site games remaining. They are iconic games in iconic locations. The money arguments are about even. Go with the proven success…please.

  4. Georgia is crazy to whine about this game. the gator bowl turf caused tim groves to slip while getting ready to tackle lindsay scott, giving georgia a national championship when they werent the best team in the country. numbers, schnumbers. hedge fund thinking like screwing up the cocktail party eventually screws up everything it touches.

  5. If moving the game to home and home would create the opportunity for a better home schedule (home and home with Miami on a semi-regular basis or home and home with a mid-range Big 10, Big 12, or ACC school) then I’m for it. If, however, it means continuing to schedule 2 FCS teams, a Sun Belt team and FSU non-conference, then forget it.

  6. The money issues can be debated and anyone can make an argument as to whether the current situation or a home and home would be more lucrative. The truth is Jax will pay whatever it has to in order to keep it here. The stadium itself is different than most NFL venues bc of the desire to accommodate the Fla/Ga game. But the problems I fear with college sports is losing its traditions, its pageantry, and its status as a game played by students instead of professionals. It is a sad day when we change 85 years of an awesome college tradition over money, especially when an argument can be made the tradition is still more lucrative financially. Sorry to say, but if it is a home and home, it will become just another big SEC game.
    It won’t be the “Fla/Ga game ” anymore. It will be a cool game with high stakes , but so is Fla/LSU and Fla/Tenn. They ain’t the “Fla/Ga game!