ATHENS — Now that the decision has been made to extend the Georgia-Florida football series two more years in the Sunshine State — through 2023 — Kirby Smart said he’s “100 percent on board with it.”
But, Smart pointed out once again, playing the rivalry game does come at a price.
“I’m a team player, and I always said, once the decision is made, it’s made,” Smart said at his Monday press conference “It’s a two-year commitment. We’ll continue to see where it’s going in college football.”
College football introduced a December early signing date in 2017, amplifying the importance of home game recruiting weekends when schools can fly prospects and their families to campus for paid visits.
“I think as you look across the board, you see more and more kids committing on these official visit weekends when they go to a home game, and they’re really important weekends,” Smart said. “We just have one less shot at those. That’s the toughest thing.”
Smart was skeptical that a new proposal in the works, which would allow coaches contact with recruits at neutral site games, would get the required league approval.
“What do you think those other teams are going to do with that?” Smart said. “I’m petitioning right now, if you’re Alabama and you’re Tennessee, are you going to help Florida and Georgia out? I don’t think they’re going to go for that. ”
The City of Jacksonville brings in more than $30 million annually from hosting Georgia and its fans for the game. It leaves the Florida city ample money to negotiate with the UGA and Florida school administrators.
Georgia makes an additional $2.5 million annually (pro-rated) by playing Florida in Jacksonville rather than playing a home-and-home series.
Smart indicated it’s not a matter of him not wanting the game in Jacksonville, so much as that it comes with scheduling challenges and the recruiting disadvantage.
“I loved playing there, (and) it’s one of my best memories ever as a player being able to do that,” Smart said. “I think the landscape of college football is such now that your home and homes are so valuable as you go out and try to find other teams to play. When you play these other teams that we’re playing out in the future, you got a home and home, so you got one less home game.
“The team that’s used a bye to come play you, you’re going to have one less home game, so now, with us every other year it may be two less (home games). So it makes it tougher in that perspective.”
Georgia’s schedule at Sanford Stadium is considerably thin with Florida being in Jacksonville annually. Georgia Tech is the only Power 5 opponent scheduled in Sanford Stadium other until UCLA comes to Athens in 2026.
UGA athletic director Greg McGarity told DawgNation last weekend Georgia will consider buying out a Group of 5 opponent to help strengthen the Athens portion of the schedule if the right opportunity presents itself.