Georgia-Florida rivalry set to move on campuses, but with a catch

Kirby Smart, Georgia Bulldogs. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)
Kirby Smart, Georgia Bulldogs. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) /

The Jacksonville Jaguars will play a big part in the massive college football rivalry between Georgia and Florida going forward.

While it remains to be seen if Georgia will continue to play Florida down in Duval County, there will probably be at least a home-and-home sprinkled in due to the Jacksonville Jaguars‘ stadium renovations.

Jacksonville mayor Lenny Curry spoke with The Florida Times-Union about the upcoming renovations to TIAA Bank Field, the home of the AFC South franchise. Although the Jaguars play at least one game overseas in London annually, Curry revealed that the stadium renovations may keep them from playing at TIAA Bank Field for two years, potentially during the 2025-26 seasons.

"“The goal would be to play somewhere in Jacksonville,” said Curry. “Those discussions are happening, but two years is the goal. … I do know that they are considering certain sites that are local that could accommodate them for at least two years.”"

Curry believes the Jaguars can do what the Los Angeles Chargers did by playing in a soccer stadium before SoFi was constructed. The biggest stadium in Jacksonville outside of TIAA Bank Field is Hodges Stadium at the University of North Florida. While UNF doesn’t have football, the 9,400-seat venue hosts soccer matches and track and field meets. It can be expanded to 12,000.

Another option would be for the Jaguars to play in somewhere like Orlando during these ongoing renovations, although Curry and whoever succeeds him as mayor would almost certainly prefer to keep the team playing in Jacksonville.

Given the huge revenue maker the SEC East rivalry is for the city, this has to be factored in as well.

Jacksonville Jaguars stadium renovations will impact the Georgia-Football rivalry

Look. This is all about the Jaguars, and the bitter SEC East rivals will just have to make do. As long as Trevor Lawrence progresses as a passer, the Jaguars will be in North Florida to stay. Having that massive international contingent is huge for one of the smaller professional media markets in North America. However, the NFL does a fantastic job of making small market teams feel bigger.

You want proof of that? Just look at the AFC. The three best teams in that conference currently are the Buffalo Bills, the Cincinnati Bengals and the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. The other team playing in the divisional round a postseason ago out of that conference was… You guessed it? The Jaguars! Overall, the AFC is in a terrific spot because of its quarterbacks.

As far as what this means for Georgia and Florida, that is a little more complicated. Although the event formerly known as The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party remains one of the best and last remaining neutral-site regular season games, all good things must come to an end. Because Kirby Smart and Billy Napier cannot host recruits at this game, that could be a decisive issue here.

Keep in mind that when Smart was in school, the Dawgs played a home-and-home with the Gators while the Gator Bowl was getting ready for the expansion-era Jaguars in 1995. Though the event could return to North Florida in all its glory, I think it serves both universities to see what it would be like if their arch-rival came to town every other year. Think of the money they can make…

Although The Cocktail Party is unlike anything else out there, college football is a business and I think the SEC/ESPN could make more by having this one be home-and-home. Keep in mind that this game will be leaving CBS here soon once that television partner gets into bed with the Big Ten long-term. Simply put, the stars are aligning to make Georgia-Florida be played on campuses now.

While the nickname is gone and the Jaguars here to stay, Georgia-Florida could be on its way out.

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