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
Gators announced home and home series with Cal Friday
The Florida Gators continued their philosophy of striking “home-and-home” deals with Power 5 opposition, when they announced on Friday that they will be doing so with the Cal-Berkley Bears out of the Pac-12 coming later in this decade.
The Gators made the announcement through their website and social media mid-day Friday that they will play Cal at home first and then travel to Berkeley the following year:
Coast to coast❗
🐻 at 🐊 2026
🐊 at 🐻 2027#GoGators
— Gators Football (@GatorsFB) February 7, 2020
A.D. Scott Stricklin has broken up the long tradition that Florida would only play two home out of conference games in September and usually, against much lesser competition before entering SEC play. Stricklin has been very outspoken that in the age of the College Football Playoff, strength of schedule is emphasized and the selection committee holds schools responsible for not playing top-notch out of conference opponents, at least some of the time.
With that in mind, the Gators opened the 2019 season in Orlando against the Miami Hurricanes and won a sloppy game. And, they already have other Power 5 schools laid out to play home and away.
As we previously wrote, Florida will be playing the Texas Longhorns first in Gainesville in 2030 and then. return the game the following year in Austin.
Florida had previously announced last year that they will also play the Colorado Buffaloes out of the Pac-12, again with the first game in Gainesville in 2028 and then, returning it to Boulder the following season.
It’s interesting with Friday’s announcement that Stricklin and the football program are working backwards with the schedule. And, they will now play Cal before Colorado in September of 2026, and then will be opening on the Berkeley campus the following season.
Florida and Cal have only met two times, having played first in Gainesville in 1974 as the Gators wo 21 – 17 and then, they also met in Tampa to open the 1980 season with a Florida 41-13 blowout victory.
Second National Signing Day recap for top state schools
National Signing Day 2020 has come and gone, and several in state schools were able to improve their classes heading into spring ball. The University of Florida watched rival Georgia secure the number one overall class, but the Gators were still able to land the best class in the state with the number eight class overall.
The Gators officially signed former five-star receiver Justin Shorter from Penn State, and Florida stayed in the family today as well, Xzavier Henderson officially joined the Gators. He’s the ounger brother of former DB C.J. Henderson.
Dan Mullen also able to dip into the state of Texas inking four-star DE Princely Umanmielen. It wasn’t all great news for the Gators, as they missed out on a few key guys, including losing out on arguably top state safety Avantae Williams to in state rival Miami. Overall it was a good cycle for the Gators both recruiting and in the transfer portal.
The Miami Hurricanes continued an impressive offseason on National Signing Day. The Canes made arguably the biggest move in the state by landing Williams and keeping him Florida. Williams became the highest rated Hurricane in the class and propelled the U to the number 13 spot.
Miami has the second-best class in the ACC behind Clemson. With an impressive offseason in the books, once again excitement will be in the air in Coral Gables. The question is: will they live up to it in year two for Manny Diaz?
Florida State and new coach Mike Norvell have been working hard to get this class rolling last minute. After a good early National Signing Day Norvell looked to keep the momentum going. The Noles took a big hit Wednesday though, with the loss of Venice four star WR, Malachi Wideman, who flipped to Tennessee.
The Noles came back from that by landing a handful of other recruits. They got the number six Juco running back La’Damian Webb, ass well as, Robert Scott, an offensive lineman and Corey Wren, an athlete/running back.
Replacing Cam Akers will be tough for Norvell and building the offensive line is a top priority. The former Memphis coach came in late like he did, yet he finishes with a decent class sitting at 22 on 24/7.
Now the work begins turning around the former powerhouse.