At the SEC Spring meetings in Destin on Tuesday Morning, University of Georgia coach Kirby Smart held a press conference, where he addressed several subjects. That included, when someone brought up scheduling and the Florida-Georgia series and addressing the future home of the game besides Jacksonville, where it has been played every year save for one, since the 1930s.
The third-year Georgia coach gave this answer and it raised some eyebrows:
Georgia’s Kirby Smart on future of Georgia-Florida game in Jacksonville & if game could be moved on campus: “It’s always up for discussion. Nothing is off the table. Nothing has been decided"
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) May 28, 2019
First, there’s no indication from anywhere (besides Smart’s off the cuff suggestion) that the Florida-Georgia series will ever move from Jacksonville. And in the short-term, there still a deal with the city and TIAA Bank field for the playing of the next three games there through 2021.
Second, while scheduling has been a big topic amongst SEC officials, coaches and fans, including whether the SEC might eventually go to a ninth conference game like other “Power Five” leagues have done, that still doesn’t play into the Florida-Georgia scenario.
That’s because the Gators and Dawgs are in the same division, the East. So, whether they played the game in Gainesville, Athens or on the moon, it’s still counts, as an SEC East game.
Further, it’s become a tradition rich neutral site regular season game that may only be rivaled by Texas playing Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas every October, and arguably football’s most storied and patriotic rivalry the Army-Navy game, which rotates to a different neutral site every year.
The only two years in the last 60 that it wasn’t played in Jacksonville was 1994-95, while TIAA Bank Field was being renovated for the NFL and the Jaguars debut.
Each season the athletic departments at Florida and Georgia split up 50/50 the amount of tickets allotted for the game and it is sold true those fans as part of their school season ticket package. While an argument can be made that the school would make much more money on a home game in a given year, it balances out the same way when they would be traveling on the road with virtually no tickets the following year.
The game represents millions of tourism revenue in hotel, restaurant, entertainment monies, etc. for that weekend. And, is almost always shown nationally by CBS each year. So, it is a tremendous promotional and tourism opportunity for Jacksonville in hosting the game.
Also, make no mistake, it’s a bigger deal now than what the Gator Bowl New Year’s Day game has become in that regard for attention, attendance and tourism. That’s because the Gator Bowl has been lagging in attendance and television viewership, as its been caught up as the third or fourth best bowl game in the early time slots on January 1st. This while competing with the Outback, Citrus and also a “New Year Six” rotating daytime bowl game on New Year’s Day.
Again, with all of those factors above in play, there’s not really a logical or financial reason why the game would move to campus sites. And you have to believe the city of Jacksonville will do everything to keep the game, as part of their community and in their stadium.
So, you can simply chalk this up to having to have something to talk about in May, and at least for a little while on Tuesday, it made for a juicy sound byte from Smart about the Florida rivalry
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