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Jacksonville mayor correction: Georgia-Florida rivalry location not guaranteed past 2023

Kirby Smart explained why Georgia giving up its designated home game with Florida leads to missed opportunities. The game is guaranteed to be played in Jacksonville through 2023, with the schools having the option to extend the contract through 2025. UGA has not signed off on the option at the time of this publicaiton on Oct. 27. (Curtis Compton/AJC)
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The University of Georgia has not agreed to the option which would extend the current contract past 2023 and through 2025, a UGA spokesman confirmed to DawgNation.

The confusion started late Tuesday night when Curry posted on his Twitter account that the game would remain in Jacksonville through 2025 after the Jacksonville City Council had voted to approve and sign a contract.

The contract signed, however, was one finalizing the memorandum of understanding reached in 2019 which extended the game through 2023. Part of that MOU was the schools having the option to extend through 2025.

The 2019 agreement was reached with former athletic director Greg McGarity at the helm. Josh Brooks has since taken control of the athletic department and worked closely with Coach Kirby Smart to bolster the football program’s championship quest.

RELATED: 3 things, why Josh Brooks is good fit for Georgia athletics, Kirby Smart

The No. 1-ranked Bulldogs (7-0. 5-0 SEC) play the Gators (4-3, 2-3) at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Fla.

Smart shared his thoughts on the rivalry game being played away from campus earlier this week, explaining that UGA misses out by not playing its designated home game with Florida in Athens every other year.

“All I ever say is that the home atmosphere we have is incredible, and the ability to bring recruits in is big,” said Smart, who played in the rivalry game in Jacksonville as a Georgia football player himself.

“I stand by the fact that we miss opportunities and everyone else in the country doesn’t.”

Twelve of the 14 SEC schools play eight league homes games in their respective states every two years, but Florida plays nine and Georgia plays seven with the game in Jacksonville.

Athens is approximately 340 miles from Jacksonville, while Gainesville sits about 70 miles from the stadium.

Florida administrators have made it clear they would like the game to remain in Jacksonville every year.

But even if Georgia were to move its designated home game to Athens, the Gators could continue to play their designated home game with the Bulldogs in Jacksonville every other year.

Georgia has played its designed home game with Florida in Jacksonville almost annually since 1933. There was a two-game hiatus in 1994 and 1995, when the stadium formerly known as the “Gator Bowl” was undergoing renovations.

Smart recently clarified why giving recruits tickets to the game in Jacksonville — or any neutral site — does not equate to a campus visit.

“There’s being able to recruit, and then there’s being able to get tickets - two different things,” Smart said. “People will argue if you can get tickets that’s recruiting. That’s not recruiting to me just because you hand somebody a ticket because you don’t see them.

“We had some recruits at the Georgia-Clemson game (in Charlotte, N.C.), but we had no contact with them. So, that’s not really recruiting. That’s an invitation to watch us, which they can do on TV.”

Recruiting weekends on campus are more involved. Prospects and their families tour campus, meet professors and spend time with coaches and other familes.

Smart pointed out the timing of the Georgia-Florida game, in late October, comes at a pivotal time on the recruiting calendar.

“It’s certainly valuable when kids decide before the early signing day in December and they’re enrolling in January,” Smart said. “Those are the most critical weekends you have to have kids on campus.

There are other elements of Georgia’s future football schedules which would factor into the school’s decision the option to extend the Jacksonville contract.

Starting in 2023, the Bulldogs will travel to play at Oklahoma as they begin a series of home-and-home series with high-profile programs.

The added home-and-home series, which include UCLA (2025-2026), Florida State (2027-2028) and Texas (2028-2029), serve to limit the number of home games at Sanford Stadium in the future.

The Bulldogs also play Georgia Tech in an annual home-and-home series.

The option to extend the rivalry in Jacksonville must be exercised by May 15, 2022. If the option is exercised, it will pay the two schools an additional $1.5 million.

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