Why Florida-Georgia rivalry may be played at campus sites in 2025-26 … and perhaps longer

By OnlyGators.com Staff
May 11, 2023
Why Florida-Georgia rivalry may be played at campus sites in 2025-26 … and perhaps longer

Image Credit: Kelsi Bevington / UAA

One of the greatest annual spectacles in college football is the rivalry between the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs. With both teams and their fans traveling nearly equidistantly to Jacksonville, Florida, for the game, the city’s largest stadium is split 50-50 down the middle creating a unique, raucous atmosphere nearly unmatched elsewhere in the sport.

And all of that is seemingly about to change … at least for a couple seasons … but perhaps longer.

Stadium renovations being made at TIAA Bank Field may not only push the Jacksonville Jaguars — the building’s primary tenant — out of the facility for two entire football seasons, they may also force the Florida-Georgia game to relocate across both the 2025 and 2026 campaigns.

Appearing on 1010XL in Jacksonville, city Mayor Lenny Curry revealed that a wholesale renovation of the stadium will create these obstacles. While the Jaguars will attempt to play elsewhere around Jacksonville, Curry said, it is his anticipation that the Gators and Bulldogs will take turns hosting their annual rivalry game at their respective stadiums.

The Florida-Georgia game has not been played outside Jacksonville since 1994-95 when UF and UGA, respectively, hosted the game the last time the site was remodeled with the old Gator Bowl Stadium becoming Jacksonville Municipal Stadium when the Jaguars were added by the NFL as an expansion team. (The Gators went 2-0 in those games, winning by a combined 104-31.)

The game presently has a contract with the stadium for 2023 with an option to play it through 2025, the first year of the forthcoming renovations. The teams will each be paid $1.25 million this season and $1.5 million the next two seasons if the option is picked up.

Even if Florida-Georgia is forced to move from the site, there is no guarantee the games would be played on campuses, though that does make the most sense. Another option could be playing at local neutral sites, such as stadiums in Orlando and Atlanta.

Adding a wrinkle to the entire situation has been talk — largely from the Bulldogs’ side — of permanently relinquishing the game’s neutral-site status and moving all contests to campuses going forward. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart sees playing in Jacksonville as a recruiting disadvantage for both programs.

“When it comes down to it, there’s a very, very basic element of everything comes back to — number one, money, and number two, recruiting and getting good players,” Smart said last October. “I firmly believe that we’ll be able to sign better players by having it as a home-and-home because we’ll have more opportunities to get them to campus.”

Smart has been frustrated that Florida head coach Billy Napier — and previously, Dan Mullen — did not agree with him. Neither does Curry, of course, whose city greatly benefits financially from hosting the game, raking in an estimated $20 million to $30 million annually.

“The home-and-home obviously would be fantastic,” Napier said last year, “but there’s also some tradition there. There’s a rivalry there.”

The simplest solution is a rule change allowing the designated home team each year to fully host recruits at the game. Presently, that designated home team can only provide tickets to recruits and nothing more.

The Florida-Georgia game has been played in Jacksonville nearly every season since 1933. Only seven games in series history have been played at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and Sanford Stadium.

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