Fan hold a moment of silence for former Georgia Bulldogs head football coach and athletic director Vince Dooley before the NCAA football game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Florida Gators at TIAA Bank Field, Saturday, October 29, 2022, in Jacksonville, Florida. (Jason Getz /

Georgia-Florida game location in flux: Shift in trend among Bulldogs’ fans, new Jacksonville mayor

ATHENS — A decision is pending on the future location of the Georgia-Florida football game with new dynamics in place since the last contract was signed.

UGA administrators and the University of Florida will act as partners in determining whether or not to exercise a two-year option on the contract for the game to be played in Jacksonville at TIAA Bank Stadium in 2024 and 2025.

Gators’ fans are nearly unanimous that they would like Florida to continue to play Georgia in Jacksonville, some 60 miles from the University of Florida campus — and about 340 miles from Athens.

More than 75 percent of those who responded to an online poll indicated they would prefer the Georgia-Florida game be home-and-home moving forward.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart likely has much to do with the shift in opinion.

Smart, a former All-SEC safety who played in the rivalry game himself, debated Florida legend Tim Tebow on live television at last year’s SEC Media Days.

Smart took up for the game day environment UGA fans create at Sanford Stadium and pointed out that if Florida fans wanted a neutral site game one could be had in Atlanta just as easily.

To Smart’s point, Gainesville is actually closer to Atlanta (332 miles) than Athens is to Jacksonville (339), and Athens is further from Atlanta (72 miles) than Gainesville is to Jacksonville (61 miles).

Gary Stokan, President and CEO of the Peach Bowl, has expressed an interest to get Atlanta into the rotation.

Former UGA quarterback and SEC Championship Game MVP D.J. Shockley, who works as a sideline reporter for the Georgia Radio Network, explained why he wouldn’t mind seeing the game go home-and-home.

“For us it was always an away game, it never felt like a neutral site game,” Shockley said during a Sirius XM interview last month. “If we were the (designated) home team at times, we were still going to freakin’ Florida, so guess what? That’s a road game for us.

“As a guy who played there, I would love to have played that game in The Swamp … that woulda been very cool to play there with that environment, with how hostile it is and then to have them come to Athens would be cool as well.”

RELATED: Georgia and Florida players at SEC media days agree, home and home adds more to rivalry

UGA administrators refer to the extra $5 million the City of Jacksonville pays the school to play its heated rival away from campus, explaining how that helps fund Georgia’s football budget.

Smart’s point is that not playing Georgia’s fiercest rival at home every other year takes away what would be the biggest home recruiting weekend at a pivotal time of the recruiting calendar.

“That’s what it’s like, I’m self-sanctioning myself an opportunity to have the best prospect in the country, fly into Atlanta and drive over every other year to see Georgia play Florida,” the Bulldogs’ eighth-year head coach said.

“I don’t know that people understand the value of that, they don’t respect it,” Smart said of the recruiting implications, “especially people in Jacksonville.”

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