Florida, Georgia extend contract to play annual game in Jacksonville through 2025 season

By OnlyGators.com Staff
May 24, 2023
Florida, Georgia extend contract to play annual game in Jacksonville through 2025 season

Image Credit: GatorsFB on Twitter

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 while all of that may change — at least temporarily — in the future, the sides have agreed to pick up the option in their existing contract, extending their agreement with the city and TIAA Bank Field two additional games through the 2025 season.

The five-year contract signed in 2019 included a two-year option with the teams both being paid $1.5 million for each additional game. While that has now been solidified, the status of the Florida-Georgia game in 2026 and beyond remains up in the air.

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.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry revealed on 1010XL earlier this month that a wholesale renovation of the stadium could force the Gators and Bulldogs to play elsewhere in both 2025 and 2026. (Seemingly, that will not be an issue for 2025 with the contract extended, but it may still be for 2026 and perhaps now 2027.)

While the Jaguars will attempt to play elsewhere around Jacksonville, Curry said, the expectation was that UF and UGA would take turns hosting the annual rivalry game at their respective stadiums. It is unknown what would happen if there is only a one-year gap in Jacksonville’s availability, though venues in Orlando and Atlanta would both make sense as temporary neutral-site measure.

The Florida-Georgia game has not been played outside Jacksonville since 1994-95 when UF and UGA, in those respective years, hosted the showdown. That was 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.

Adding a wrinkle to the future of the Florida-Georgia game has been talk — largely from the Bulldogs’ side — of permanently relinquishing the 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.”

The Dawgs further hinted at this in their statement alongside Wednesday’s announcement: “We look forward to discussions that I’m sure will continue over the next couple years exploring all the options for 2026 and beyond,” said Georgia athletic director Josh Brooks.

Smart has been frustrated that Florida administration, head coach Billy Napier — and previously, Dan Mullen — do 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.

The Bulldogs leads the series 54-44-2 all-time with consecutive wins and victories in five of the last six meetings. The Gators still hold a 22-11 edge over the Dawgs since 1990.

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