JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has been grumbling about the Florida-Georgia game in Jacksonville for years. He followed this up during Southeast Conference Media Days this week, when Smart renewed his calls for the annual rivalry game to be held on university campuses instead.
Legendary former Gators quarterback and SEC Network analyst Tim Tebow was the one who asked Smart a poignant question on set Wednesday, asking him why he no longer wants to continue the River City tradition despite its electric environment.
Clever: “Why is this one of the best environments? I think how many times have you played in Athens, Tim?”
Clever: “How many times have we played in Gainesville?”
Clever: “I think it’s special. I think it’s special.”
Tebow: “But you have a lot of home and away games, but only one where the ratio is 50 to 50.”
Clever: “Not. We will be playing in Oregon this year in [Mercedes-Benz Stadium]”.
Tebow: “I know. Pockets will be stuffed with this, but this one is literally split in the middle – orange and blue, red and black.”
Smart’s argument for wanting to end one of college football’s only neutral-ground rivalries (the other notable game among Power Five teams is the Red River rivalry between Oklahoma and Texas at the Texas State Fair): this is a lack of recruiting. .
“As for me, I compete with guys from all over the SEC who are hosting kids in their biggest game ever,” said Smart, who is entering his seventh season leading the Bulldogs. “When Auburn plays in Alabama, guess where the recruits are? They are in Auburn. When LSU and Alabama play, guess where the biggest recruits want to go? For us, this is an opportunity to bring these children who fly in from all over the country. What game do they want to see? They would like Georgia to play Florida, but they can’t do that.”
But Georgia didn’t suffer in the recruiting arena. Since Smart returned to his alma mater in 2016, Georgia has hosted five top recruiting courses every year, except for his first (which was still in the top 10). And the championship-winning coach was rewarded with a contract extension through the 2031 season, a 10-year deal worth more than $110 million, announced Thursday.
Florida freshman head coach Billy Napier, who spoke at the SEC Media Days in Atlanta after Smart, was asked what he thought about whether the game should be rescheduled, but he said he couldn’t gauge that yet.
“I want to experience the game first, right? I would love to see this game in Jacksonville, experience it before I have an opinion. Both are credible, right? Home-and-home would obviously be fantastic. But there is also a tradition there. There’s a rivalry there,” Napier said. “Time will tell. I agree, it’s above my salary. But I’m looking forward to taking part in the game.”
A day later, Jacksonville Mayor Curry was asked about Smart’s desire to change the match at TIAA Bank Field to a home-to-home series between Athens and Gainesville.
“We do this, it seems, every year or two, and I understand, look, everyone has a job. Coaches of this level are incredibly focused on recruiting. And now I hear their argument. But we think it’s important that the competitive game stays in Jacksonville. That’s why, after I was elected in 2015, with no contract extension prior to being sworn in, I called both athletic directors and we started working on an extension. We did it. We’ve since received another extension, this game is locked in Jacksonville until 2023,” Curry said on Thursday when presenting his budget proposal.
“And I hope there will be a lot of candidates on the ballot for the upcoming elections, I would like to express to all of them the importance of relationships with sports directors at universities and do everything possible to keep this football. the game is here. We did it, we negotiated with them, and I think it’s important that it stays here.”
Last year, the Jacksonville City Council voted unanimously to approve a contract that would keep the Florida-Georgia game, which generates millions of dollars in economic impact each year, in the city until at least 2023. The University Athletic Association and the University of Georgia Athletic Association offer two-year extensions for the 2024 and 2025 games.
Also referred to as “the world’s largest outdoor cocktail party” or “paddle war”, the game has been played in Jacksonville since 1933, with the exception of 1994 and 1995, when the contest was held on campuses in Florida and Georgia. accordingly, as the stadium in downtown Jacksonville was being built due to the Jaguars entering the NFL as an expansion team.
This isn’t the first time Smart has hinted that the show isn’t tied to Jacksonville, which is about an hour and a half from Gainesville and nearly six from Athens. In the fall of 2018, he complained about a neutral site.
“Yes, it costs you a recruiting holiday. You won’t have anyone, they don’t have anyone,” Smart told Georgia-based website 247Sports, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “So our version of the LSU-Alabama game is being played in Jacksonville, and we have no prospects. So it doesn’t help recruitment, it doesn’t help at all.”
And at the spring 2019 SEC meetings in Destin, Smart said that the possibility of moving the game to a home-and-home series is always open to discussion.
“Nothing is discussed,” Smart said at the time. “Nothing has been decided either.
A few months later, he evaded discussion of the series in July 2019 during SEC Media Days, which became known as the unofficial start of the college football season.
“I look at this from 10,000 feet and say, what is best for our program? And it’s that simple,” Smart said earlier. “And we will make that decision as a group and we will follow it.”
According to ESPN, under NCAA rules, recruits are not allowed to attend games at a neutral venue.
Do you think the game between Florida and Georgia should be left in Jacksonville or played on college campuses? Let us know in the comments below.
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