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Kirby Smart Wants to See Georgia vs. Florida Played on Campuses, Not at Neutral Site

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVJuly 20, 2022

James Gilbert/Getty Images

Georgia football coach Kirby Smart wants to see the annual rivalry game against Florida played on the campuses of the two schools rather than a neutral field.

"I just can't get a Florida coach to agree with me about [moving the game]," Smart said Wednesday on SEC Network at SEC media days.

The battle of SEC East foes started in 1915 and has been mostly played at a neutral site in Jacksonville, Florida, since 1933. There was a brief switch to a home-and-home format, with the 1994 game played in Gainesville, Florida, and the 1995 game in Athens, Georgia, but it returned to Jacksonville the next year and every season since.

The teams are scheduled to play at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville on Oct. 29, and the Jacksonville City Council approved an extension to keep the contest there through at least 2023.

Despite the consistency of the location, Smart argues its a disadvantage for both teams because NCAA rules prevent hosting recruits at neutral sites:

"I'm competing against [coaches] all across the SEC, who host recruits at their biggest games. When Auburn plays at Alabama, guess where the recruits are? When LSU and Alabama play, that's where the biggest recruits want to go. It's an opportunity for us to bring these kids, who fly in from all over the country - what game do they want to come see Georgia play? They'd like to see Georgia play Florida, but they can't do that.
"It's very important. Recruiting is very important."

Smart has been at Georgia since 2016 and has a 4-2 record against the Gators, including wins in four of the last five years.

He was still clearly unable to convince former Florida coaches Dan Mullen or Jim McElwain to make changes to the biggest rivalry on the schedule. The pleas will continue to Billy Napier, but the new Gators coach needs time to make his decision.

"I want to experience the game first," Napier said Wednesday. "I'd like to see that game in Jacksonville, experience that game, before I have an opinion on it. There's a lot of credibility to both [arguments]. The home-and-home obviously would be fantastic, but there's also some tradition there. There's a rivalry there. Time will tell."

It's not uncommon for rivalry games to take place at neutral stadiums. The Red River Showdown between Texas and Oklahoma is always played at the Cotton Bowl, while the Army-Navy game rotates to different neutral locations.

Smart still wants to see a change, which would add another high-profile home game every other year.

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