Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said Wednesday that renovations to the Jaguars’ TIAA Bank Field could move the annual Florida-Georgia game out of the city for two years.
In an interview with 1010-AM WJXL, Curry said the “best-case scenario” involves two years without games. The project would include adding a roof and reducing capacity.
Curry said renovations might happen during 2025-26. But Gators athletic director Scott Stricklin told The Athletic that Florida was under the impression it would take place in 2026-27.
Regardless of the timing, here are three thoughts on the news:
Discussing the future of Florida-Georgia is an SEC offseason tradition
The game comes up regularly at the conference’s spring meetings in Destin. Coincidentally, it always seems to become a discussion point as the Bulldogs and Gators discuss renewing their contract with Jacksonville. The current deal runs through this season, but the teams have an option to extend it through 2025.
The game’s future is brought up so often, in fact, that Florida and Georgia issued a joint statement before last season’s game, calling it an “important tradition” and noting conversations about future games start “as the last contracted game nears.”
“When those discussions take place,” the teams said then, “we will consider a multitude of factors, including tradition, finances, future SEC scheduling models with the addition of Texas and Oklahoma, and what is best for both schools’ football programs overall.”
Remember what Georgia football coach Kirby Smart says
Georgia coach Kirby Smart has repeatedly suggested the site hurts recruiting. Alabama and Auburn don’t play the Iron Bowl in Birmingham. Florida and Georgia, then, are at a disadvantage because their marquee conference game is off campus, so prospects can’t see the home stadium at its best.
Smart has also acknowledged that money matters, too. Both programs come out ahead financially by playing in Jacksonville. But never underestimate the value of recruiting to a coach.
Let’s say renovations force the game to become a two-year home-and-home series, like in 1994-95 when TIAA Bank Field was being built. If Florida and Georgia both experience great home environments, will those games (and any gains in recruiting or season ticket sales) show both programs what they’ve been missing?
Though we know how Georgia feels about this subject, Florida is trickier to read. Coach Billy Napier said during his first season that he wanted to experience the game first before forming thoughts about its future location. UF also has a new president, Ben Sasse, who hasn’t yet weighed in on this pressing issue.
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Stricklin said in a statement Thursday that “Jacksonville has been a great host city for this storied rivalry and the game is scheduled to be played there this year with an option to extend two more years.” That’s not a ringing endorsement of an off-campus future.
I’m skeptical about Florida Gators playing Georgia at another neutral site
The Athletic threw out the possibility of a game in Tampa, Orlando, Atlanta or Miami when Jacksonville is unavailable. The idea of keeping the game at a neutral site makes some sense and cents, especially if one is in Florida and the other in Georgia.
But major programs — including the Bulldogs and Gators — have been veering away from neutral sites. Florida and Miami met in Orlando in 2019 but have a home-and-home series set for 2024-25. Georgia will open the 2025 season against Clemson in Atlanta, but its other big upcoming non-conference series are on campus (including one with Florida State in 2027-28). Would both programs want this game to be one that bucks the nationwide trend?
There are practical issues, too. Tampa has shied away from regular-season games. The stadiums at Tampa, Miami and Atlanta all have multiple tenants in the fall, too, which adds a layer of complexity to a complicated issue that will give us something to talk about this offseason.
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