Kirby Smart wants to move Georgia-Florida out of Jacksonville; money says otherwise – Yahoo Sports

Kirby Smart wants to move Georgia-Florida out of Jacksonville;  money says otherwise - Yahoo Sports

ABC. Always be ‘crootin, as in recruiting. The mantra of college football, it’s both a strategy and a warning, a reminder that if you don’t plan for your future, someone else will.

Coaches have a relationship with recruiting that sails right past “obsessive” and deep into “highly problematic.” The legend Nick Saban grumbling that winning national championships cost him valuable recruiting time is an absurd and absurd brand.

Kirby Smart, the reigning national champion, didn’t go that far but he too invoked the holy crusade of recruiting by targeting one of his university’s cherished traditions: the Georgia-Florida Game. (Florida-Georgia if you’re in Gainesville, of course.)

Home games do wonders for recruiting. The show, the show, the on-site attending to all recruits’ needs sells a whole new set of potential talent coming to play for good Old State U. But teams can’t host recruits at off-campus games like The Game. Formerly Known As The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. So, for Smart, playing the game in Jacksonville — where it’s been held since 1933 — is almost pointless.

Oct 30, 2021;  Jacksonville, Florida, USA;  Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart celebrates after defeating the Florida Gators at TIAA Bank Field.  Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart celebrates after defeating Florida at TIAA Bank Field in 2021. Looks like he’d rather celebrate this game in Athens every other year. (Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports)

“I compete throughout the SEC, which hosts recruits at their biggest game,” Smart told “SEC Now” earlier this summer during SEC media days. “When Auburn plays Alabama, guess where the recruits are? When LSU and Alabama play, that’s where the biggest recruits want to go. It’s an opportunity for us to bring in these kids who are flying in from all over the country — what game do they want to come see Georgia play? They would like to see Georgia play Florida, but they can’t do that. It is very important. Recruitment is very important. I just can’t get a Florida coach to agree with me.”

He won’t get the city of Jacksonville to agree with him. “I want to see this history and culture and tradition continue,” Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry told Yahoo Sports. “This is a special thing in college football. The fans know how special it is, and they love it every year.”

Georgia-Florida (the home team is called first, and Georgia is the home team this year) is one of the most significant games on the city’s social calendar.

“As soon as this game ends, people start making plans for next year,” says Michael Corrigan, president and CEO of Visit Jacksonville. “Here, the big holidays are Christmas, Thanksgiving and the Florida-Georgia game.”

Florida head coach Billy Napier deftly sidestepped the question. “I want to experience the game first, right?” he said shortly after Smart lobbed his grenades at Jacksonville. “I’d like to see that game in Jacksonville, experience that game before I have an opinion on it.”

Napier conceded that Smart had some points. “The home-and-home would obviously be fantastic,” he said. “But there is also some tradition there. There’s a rivalry there.”

There is also a lot of money at stake.

JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 02: Florida Gators fans celebrate a touchdown during the game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Florida Gators on November 2, 2019 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Fl.  (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Gators fans have the proximity advantage in the annual matchup against Georgia in Jacksonville. (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Rivalry has a long history and arguments about records

No one is sure of the exact origins of this rivalry. The schools began to play each other in either 1904 or 1915, depending on who is telling the story. With the exception of an understandable wartime hiatus in 1943, the schools have played every year since 1926. Jacksonville has hosted the game every year since 1933 with the exception of two years in the 1990s, when the Gator Bowl was demolished and the current stadium built. . for the then expansion Jacksonville Jaguars.

In the history of the series, the games have been played at either Athens or Gainesville only seven times. Georgia leads the matchup with either 53 or 54 wins, depending on who is counting the totals, versus Florida’s 44 wins and two ties. It’s one of the most important games of the year for both schools, not just because of records or reputations, but because of that indelible college currency of pride.

“Thousands of young men who grow up in Northeast Florida or Southeast Georgia see that game and experience the excitement. They say, ‘I want to play on that field one day,'” Corrigan says, then gently redirects Smart’s complaint. “It’s a huge immeasurable recruiting tool.”

The teams swap home field names each year, and the stadium is divided into quarters, with red and blue alternating around the stadium. Every game is sold out. Considering the stadium is 344 miles from Sanford Stadium and only 74 miles from The Swamp, the area outside the stadium tends to be much more pro-Florida.

Financial benefits for Jacksonville, Gators and Bulldogs

Avid fans begin to descend on Jacksonville early in the week before the game, creating an entire society from scratch in what is known as “RV town”.

“That’s pretty special,” Curry says. “That is an experience that everyone should try. Fans of both teams stand up, sit around, eat cocktails, smoke cigars and pick on each other.”

Logistical challenges abound on game day. The city of Jacksonville covers 840 square miles. The Georgia-Florida game and all immediate related activities take place in exactly 1 square mile. Combine that with the fact that Jacksonville has seven different bridges — including a drawbridge — serving the game, and you have 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 their skills about them, never a safe assumption when you’re talking about TGFKATWLOCP. (That now-disused “cocktail party” moniker came about when Florida Times-Union sportswriter Bill Kastelz observed a drunken fan offering a police officer a drink. That was in the 1950s. Your grandparents knew how to party.)

Smart grumbled about the Jacksonville location for years, and before him, Mark Richt did the same. Sure it’s partly because the game is out of their complete control — and if there’s one thing coaches can’t stand, it’s not being in control — but the constant veiled threats to leave always get Jacksonville’s attention.

“Any time there are concerns from the head coach, or anyone else at these schools, it’s important that we stay in communication,” Curry says. “We want to let them know how important they are to this city.”

Curry made it one of his leading missions to keep Georgia and Florida happy; he had to repair some seriously broken relationships when he entered office in 2015.

The result was a very lucrative partnership between the three entities, one that will continue through the 2023 game, with options for 2024 and 2025. According to the most recent 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 to play the game, and $1.5 million in 2024 and 2025 if the option is exercised, in addition to all ticket revenue. The city will reimburse each team $60,000 for travel, lodging and game-day expenses, along with an additional $350,000 to Georgia for air travel costs.

That’s why the idea of ​​moving the game out of Jacksonville — or, more to the point, returning it to campuses — would meet fierce opposition from within the athletic departments themselves. Unlike a home-and-home series, where a team draws a check just to play every other year, the Georgia-Florida game is a lucrative endeavor every season for both schools. Plus, when Jacksonville covers the logistical expenses of running a game, from parking to concessions to cleanup, the universities don’t have to write that check either.

The city of Jacksonville has its own financial incentives for wanting to preserve the game. Visit Jacksonville’s figures indicate that in 2021, Georgia-Florida had a direct economic impact of $21.6 million and a total benefit of $37.6 million when counting all spending in and around the weekend. Fans purchased nearly 33,000 hotel rooms and supported nearly 18,000 jobs. That’s a nice little return on investment for a single college football game.

Down the line, change will come to the game, one way or another. The Jaguars’ lease with TIAA Bank Stadium expires in 2030, and work is already underway on planned improvements.

“At some point, we’re going to have to redo our stadium, and sooner rather than later,” Curry says. “That will completely change the experience for this football game.”

If Smart continues to push the point, he will likely extract even more concessions from the city after the current contract expires in 2026. But Jacksonville has made it clear: this is tradition, and it will do everything it can to preserve tradition. indoors

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

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