Florida-Georgia rivalry to remain in Jacksonville through 2025 despite long-term questions
Jacksonville, Florida, will remain the host city for the annual football game between Florida and Georgia for an additional two years, the schools announced Wednesday. The extension is to a previous deal reached in 2019 that kept the series in Jacksonville through 2023.
TIAA Bank Field — the game’s host stadium and home of the Jacksonville Jaguars — is planning its first major renovation since opening in 1995, which had put the game’s immediate future in doubt. However, Jaguars president Mark Lamping cleared the air earlier this month in The Florida Times-Union when he said any game-altering renovations would not begin until 2026.
The majority of meetings between the two rivals have been held in Jacksonville since the rivalry series kicked off more than a century ago. The old Gator Bowl Stadium was the host site before TIAA Bank Field was constructed on the same property.
Though fans are set to see the Gators and Bulldogs battle in Jacksonville for at least three more seasons before any site changes occur, there are some questions about the game’s long-term future. At last year’s SEC Media Days, Georgia coach Kirby Smart advocated for the rivalry game to be moved on campus citing recruiting benefits.
“I’m competing against guys all across the SEC who host kids at their biggest game,” Smart told SEC Network during the event in Nashville, Tennessee. “When Auburn plays Alabama, guess where the recruits are. They’re at Auburn. When LSU and Alabama play, guess where the biggest recruits want to go? It’s an opportunity for us to bring these kids who fly in from all over the country. What game do they want to see? They’d like to see Georgia play Florida but they can’t do that.”
Florida coach Billy Napier has taken a different stance. expressing his desire to keep the game in Jacksonville due to the economic implications. With gate fees factored in, Georgia and Florida each brought in more than $4.5 million from the 2022 game. That number would fall to around $1.5 million if the game went to a traditional home-and-home format, according to the Gainesville Sun.
“The underlying issue here is the economics, right,” Napier said. “It’s very beneficial for both teams to play the game there. So, you know, we’ve got some things to work through there, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
Georgia is seeking its third-straight win over Florida and its sixth in the last seven seasons. The winner has gone on to win the SEC East every year dating back to 2015.