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Why the Georgia-Florida game should be played in Jacksonville every year
For a long time, I didn’t understand why it was so important to play Florida in Jacksonville, Fla. Sure it’s a neutral site game, but the location was much closer to Florida than Georgia. And growing up, victories over the Gators were few and far between. From 1990 to the final year of Mark Richt’s tenure (2015) the Bulldogs were 6-20 against Florida. The 2015 game against Florida remains the single worst sporting event I’ve ever seen in person, as Georgia lost 27-3 with Faton Bauta starting at quarterback.
Surely the Bulldogs would’ve picked up a few more wins over the years if some of those games where in Athens. And a win over the Gators would’ve been just as sweet whether it be in Athens, Ga., Gainesville Fla., or Jacksonville.
So I certainly get why some would like to the series moved to either a home-and-home, or a rotating series where it goes between Athens, Gainesville and Jacksonville. The latter would allow every player to play in each stadium at least once over the course of their career.
At the NFL combine this past weekend, multiple Georgia players spoke to DawgNation’s Mike Griffith and voiced their opinion on how they’d actually like to see the game become a home-and-home.
“I wish the game was at home, a home-and-home,” Georgia wide receiver Mecole Hardman said.“I feel like it would be more personal. We’re coming to y’all’s stadium and we beat y’all, now we own this stadium. We have bragging rights for two years at your stadium.”
Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker, who is a Florida native, echoed Hardman’s sentiment.
“I would love that if it was a home-and-home, and we go beat them in their stadium,” Baker said. “I’d say Florida (is the biggest rival) because I’m from Florida, and I think that’s the biggest rivalry other than Tennessee.”
Georgia also misses out on the possibility to host recruits for the massive weekend as well. If the Georgia-Florida game were in Athens, it would undoubtedly be the biggest home game of the season, and thus draw a ton of recruits.
With the recent news that Georgia and Auburn will forgo tradition and move the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry from its usual November home to October, some have wondered if the same could happen to the Florida game. Georgia had played Auburn in November every year dating back to 1936.
Would Georgia move the Florida game from Jacksonville? The game has been played there every year since 1933 — sans 1994 and ’95 when the city of Jacksonville was rebuilding the stadium. It’s a divisive point among the Georgia fan base.
Personally, I don’t think Georgia or Florida should tinker with the tradition. For starters, both Florida and Georgia have a contract with the city of Jacksonville to play the game in Jacksonville through 2021. The city pays each side $2.75 million every year, in addition to splitting ticket revenue with Florida. We’re still a few years away from this becoming a serious concern.
As for why Georgia should continue to play Florida in Jacksonville — and not Athens every other year — there are a multiple reasons. For one, it’s one of two conference games that are played annually in a neutral site, with the other being Texas-Oklahoma. Second, the game has pretty much always locked in on being a 3:30 kickoff on CBS, making it the game of the day in the SEC. It’s one of the most iconic games in all of college football because of those reasons.
There’s also something special about making the trip down to Jacksonville. It’s something some fans look forward to doing every single year. To take that away — that one road trip you know you and your friends could make every year — seems foolish. So many make plans months in advance to be at the game. People take off work or school to drive down to the coast early and spend a day at one of the many beaches along the coast.
For those arguing for the game to be moved, I’d just ask you to recall what it felt like the first time you saw Georgia win in Jacksonville. Remember what that feeling was like.
2018 was the first time I saw Georgia beat Florida in person. It was the first time I got to see players jump in the stands and celebrate with the throngs of fans who stayed after the game. Everyone was just so incredibly happy in the moment. It wasn’t always an easy season for Georgia in 2018, but the win over Florida was something worth celebrating in the moment and long afterwards. It’s something I won’t soon forget.
Even Kirby Smart got in on the action in the post game locker room. You didn’t see him celebrate any other win this way.
— Georgia Football (@FootballUGA) October 28, 2018
I get why some might want to move the game out of Jacksonville. Hardman and Baker make compelling points about having bragging right over the Gators. But every win over Florida is special, whether it be in Athens, Jacksonville or even on Mars. When Georgia fans have bragging rights over Florida, they’re going to remind them every single day of the year.
The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is a college football staple. Taking the game out of Jacksonville would be like not serving turkey on Thanksgiving. Sure you could have ham or some other tasty meat. And there’s a number of other dishes(games) that make the Thanksgiving meal great. But it’s just not the same without turkey.
And Georgia football just wouldn’t be the same without Florida playing in Jacksonville.
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Dawgs on Twitter
— Mecole Hardman Jr. (@MecoleHardman4) March 5, 2019
— Georgia Football (@FootballUGA) March 6, 2019
Go Dawgs! https://t.co/GYrK4mUIkL
— Coach Kirby Smart (@KirbySmartUGA) March 6, 2019
The SEC makes college baseball history! pic.twitter.com/NJlj2VkaL5
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) March 4, 2019
Good Dawg of the Day
— Erin (@Erinmdw) March 6, 2019