Recruits at Florida-Georgia? Multiple reports say rule on neutral-site hosting will change

Garry Smits
Florida Times-Union
Georgia coach Kirby Smart (left) and former Florida coach Dan Mullen shake hands following their 2018 game in Jacksonville.

Perhaps University of Georgia football coach Kirby Smart will finally warm to the annual game against Florida in Jacksonville — now that he can invite a few more guests, if reports are accurate.

On3, a recruiting website, first reported Wednesday that the Bulldogs and Gators will be allowed to host recruits at TIAA Bank Field for the game, beginning this year on Oct. 29 at TIAA Bank Field. Other news outlets reporting the move were athensonline.com and 247Sports. 

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Smart has criticized the game for being played in Jacksonville since he took over at Georgia, since NCAA rules did not allow teams to host recruits at neutral-site games. 

The game has been played annually in Jacksonville since 1933, except for one year during World War II and in 1994 and 1995 when the stadium was being renovated. The games were played at the campus stadiums in Gainesville and Athens. 

"It is not an advantage for anybody," Smart said to SEC Network at SEC Media Days. "If you look at history, whoever has the better players and better team usually wins that game. It is more about me, I am competing against guys all across the SEC who host kids at their biggest game. When Auburn plays Alabama, guess where the recruits are. When LSU and Alabama play, it is where the biggest recruits want to go." 

The reports did not cite NCAA sources on why the rule is being changed or whether it actually was being changed. 

Indeed, Florida officials aren't commenting yet and neither confirmed or denied the reports.

“We are not responding to a sourced report,” a spokesperson told Swamp247.

However, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry was ready to accept the multiple news outlets reporting the change in rules. 

"The City of Jacksonville has always understood that a neutral-site game impacts recruiting for both the Florida and Georgia football teams, and we've been very appreciative of their continued support for this game and its long-standing tradition," he said in a statement.

"We are excited that the schools will now take advantage of the opportunity to include recruits at the always highly-anticipate matchup. We look forward to working with both universities to continue to make this an outstanding experience and to maintain their excitement for this Jacksonville-based game. The coaching staffs and athletic departments at both schools are great partners and we deeply appreciate all they do." 

Contact Garry Smits at gsmits@gannett.com