Kirby Smart wants to move Georgia and Florida out of Jacksonville. Money says otherwise

ABC. Always be ‘crootin’, as in hiring. College football motto, It’s a strategy and a warning, a reminder that if you’re not there planning your future, someone else is planning for you.

The coaches have a relationship with recruiting that navigates past “obsessive” and deep into “big problematic”. The legend of Nick Saban complaining that winning the National Championships cost him valuable recruiting time is ridiculous and inconsequential on the brand.

Kirby Smart, the reigning national hero, didn’t go that far, but he also summoned a conscription crusade targeting one of his cherished university traditions: the Georgia and Florida game. (Florida – Georgia if you’re in Gainesville of course.)

Home games work wonders in employment. The festival, the spectacle, on-site bringing in recruits’ every need sells a whole new pool of potential talent when they come to play for Good Country, but teams can’t host recruits at off-campus games like The Game formerly known as the biggest outdoor cocktail party in the scientist. So, for Smart, playing the game in Jacksonville – where it’s been held since 1933 – is pretty much pointless.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart celebrates after beating Florida at TIAA Bank Field in 2021. It seems he prefers to celebrate this game in Athens every two years. (Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA Today Sports)

“I compete all over the Securities and Exchange Commission, who are hosting recruits in their biggest game,” Smart told “SEC Now” earlier this summer during the SEC Media Days. “When Auburn plays in Alabama, guess where the recruits are?, that’s where the biggest recruits want to go. It’s an opportunity for us to bring in these kids, who travel from all over the country – what game do they want to come to watch Georgia play? They want to Seeing Georgia play in Florida, but they can’t do it. It’s very important. Employment is very important. I can’t get the Florida coach to agree with me.”

He wouldn’t make the city of Jacksonville agree with him. “I want to see this history, culture, and tradition continue,” Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry told Yahoo Sports. “This is something special about college football. Fans know how special it is, and they love it every year.”

Georgia-Florida (the host team was named first, and Georgia is the host team this year) is one of the most important games on the city’s social calendar.

“Once this game is over, people start making plans for next year,” says Michael Corrigan, President and CEO of Visit Jacksonville. “Here, the big holidays are Christmas and Thanksgiving and the Florida and Georgia game.”

Florida head coach Billy Napier avoided the question adroitly. “I want to try the game first, right?” He said shortly after Smart dropped his grenades in Jacksonville. “I’d like to see that match in Jacksonville, try that match before I have a say in it.”

Napier admitted that Smart has some points. “Obviously the house and the house would be great,” he said. “But there is also some tradition out there. There is competition there.”

There is also a whole lot of money at stake.

JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 2: Florida Gators fans celebrate the touchdown during the game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Florida Gators on November 2, 2019 at Tia Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Gators fans have a close-up advantage in the annual game against Georgia in Jacksonville. (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The rivalry has a long history and arguments over records

No one is sure of the exact origins of this rivalry. The schools started playing with each other in either 1904 or 1915, depending on who’s doing the saying. Except for an understandable wartime hiatus in 1943, schools have played every year since 1926. Jacksonville has hosted the game every year since 1933 except for two years in the 1990s, when the Gator Bowl was demolished and the current stadium built to expand the then Jacksonville Jaguars.

In the series’ history, games have been played in Athens or Gainesville only seven times. Georgia leads the fencing with either 53 or 54 wins, depending on who counts the totals, versus Florida’s 44 wins and two draws. It’s one of the top games of the year for both schools, not just because of the records or rankings, but because of the college’s unspeakably proud coin.

“Thousands of young people who grew up in northeastern Florida or southeast Georgia see this game and experience the thrill. They say, ‘I want to play in this field someday,'” Corrigan says, then gently forwards Smart’s complaint. measurable.”

The teams alternate naming the local stadiums each year, and the playing field is divided into quarters, with red and blue alternating around the field. Every game is a sale. Given that the stadium is located 344 miles from Sanford Stadium and only 74 miles from The Swamp, the area outside the stadium tends to be more pro-Florida.

Financial Benefits of Jacksonville, Gators and Bulldog

Die-hard fans start descending on Jacksonville early in the week leading up to the game, creating an entire community from scratch in what is known as ‘RV City’.

“This is very special,” says Carey. “This is an experience everyone should try. Fans from both teams set up, sit down, have cocktails, smoke cigars and pick each other up.”

On play day, logistical challenges abound. The city of Jacksonville is spread over an area of ​​more than 840 square miles. The Georgia-Florida game and all direct related activities take place exactly one square mile. Combine that with the fact that Jacksonville has seven different bridges—including a drawbridge—to serve the game, and you’ve got a recipe for chaos.

Corrigan estimates that only about 50 percent of people in any given year know where they’ll find their seats or parking, and that’s assuming they have all of their faculties on them, and it’s never a safe assumption when you’re talking about TGFKATWLOCP. (The now-unused label “cocktail party” came up when Florida Times Union sports writer Bill Castells noticed a drunk fan offering a cop a drink. This was in the 1950s. Your grandparents knew how to party.)

Smart has been wary of the Jacksonville location for years, and before him Mark Richt did the same. Sure, that’s partly because the game is completely out of their control – and if there’s one thing the coaches can’t stand it, it’s not control – but hidden threats to leave always keep Jacksonville on the alert.

“Anytime there are concerns by the head coach, or anyone else in these schools, it’s important that we stay in touch,” Carey says. “We want to let them know how important they are to this city.”

Curry made it his mentoring duties to keep Georgia and Florida happy; He had to mend some severely strained relationships when he took office in 2015.

The result was a highly profitable partnership between the three entities, one that will run through the 2023 game, with options for 2024 and 2025. According to the latest contract between the city and the schools, obtained by Yahoo Sports, the schools will each receive $1.25 million from the city in 2022 and 2023 for playing the game, and $1.5 million in 2024 and 2025 if the option is exercised, plus all ticket proceeds. The city will reimburse each team $60,000 for travel, accommodation, and gym expenses, plus an additional $350,000 to Georgia for air travel costs.

That’s why the idea of ​​moving the game out of Jacksonville — or rather bringing it back to campus — would face fierce opposition from within the sports departments themselves. Unlike the Home and Home series, where a team draws a check to play only every two years, the Georgia-Florida game is a profitable endeavor every season for both schools. Plus, when Jacksonville covers the logistical expenses of running a game, from parking to perks to cleaning, universities don’t have to write that check either.

The city of Jacksonville has its own financial motives for wanting to keep the game. Jacksonville visit numbers indicate that in 2021, Georgia and Florida had a direct economic impact of $21.6 million and a total benefit of $37.6 million when accounting for all weekend spending in and around. Fans bought nearly 33,000 hotel rooms and supported nearly 18,000 jobs. That’s a meager return on an investment in one college football game.

After that, the change will happen in the game, one way or another. Jaguars’ lease with TIAA Bank Stadium expires in 2030, and work is already underway on planned improvements.

“At some point, we’ll have to restart our stadium, and sooner rather than later,” Carey says. “This will completely change the experience of this football game.”

If Smart continues to push that point, he will likely wring more concessions from the city after the current contract expires in 2026. But Jacksonville made it clear: This is a tradition, and she will do everything she can to preserve the tradition in Pete.

“From southeastern Georgia to Gainesville to the Florida State University area, this game is having a huge impact on the entire region,” Corrigan says. “We want to see it continue here for another 30 to 40 years, at least.”

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