Georgia’s Jacksonville negotiations involve ‘significantly higher’ payout, shorter term contract
ATHENS — Two of The University of Georgia’s final bargaining points with the City of Jacksonville have involved a “significantly higher” annual payout and shorter contract term, a source told DawgNation.
Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart was mum on the issue earlier this week when asked about reports that UGA was close to reaching an agreement with the City of Jacksonville to keep the game out of Athens.
“All I can say is there’s ongoing discussions,” Smart said on Tuesday. “I’ll be dead honest with you, I am focused on our team, making sure our team is trying to improve and get better in every facet of it and that’s my single-minded focus.
“It’s not single-minded focus on Florida. And it’s not single-minded focus on Jacksonville. It’s single-minded focus on us.
Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin told DawgNation in August at the Gators’ season-opening game in Orlando that “we’re in lockstep with Georgia” where keeping the rivalry game in Jacksonville was concerned.
It is expected to cost the Florida city significantly more to host the SEC schools. It would seem the money for a higher payout is available.
A 2015 study showed the city of Jacksonville gets an estimated $35 million impact from the SEC rivalry game being played there.
The University of Georgia gets about $3.2 million more every other year (pro-rated $1.6 annually) to travel 339 miles to a designated “neutral site” stadium that’s 71 miles from Gainesville.
Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart made the case at SEC Media Days and last season that moving the series to a home-and-home would provide an competitive boost.
“Absolutely, it costs you a recruiting weekend, you don’t get to have anybody, they don’t get to have anybody,” Smart said. “So our version of the LSU-Alabama game is held in Jacksonville and we don’t have prospects. So it’s not conducive to recruiting, absolutely it’s not. It’s just the way it’s been done here before.
“It’s just not great for recruiting because you lose a home game every other year and that just comes with it.”
Georgia AD Greg McGarity explained that NCAA rules on neutral site recruiting are so restrictive that neither school bothers with it.
“The only thing you can do at a neutral site, you could provide tickets to prospects, however you cannot entertain them,” McGarity told DawgNation. “All you can do is provide a complimentary ticket. That’s what’s allowable under NCAA rules, so all we could do is leave tickets at will-call.
“We haven’t done that because there’s not a benefit to that. We’d all rather entertain our student-athletes on campus.”
Smart’s tenure as the Georgia head coach has gotten off to a strong start. The Bulldogs won back-to-back SEC East Division titles the past two seasons and narrowly missed winning the national title game following he 2017 season.
The school has responded by pledging to build more than $170 million in facilities and upgrades. A new football building on the horizon that will put UGA on equal footing with other title contenders.
McGarity said the discussions to finalize an extension to the holding the series in Jacksonville beyond 2021 are ongoing.