Jacksonville Mayors and candidates united to support the Georgia-Florida football team
Despite statements from Georgia coach Kirby Smart, the game will continue in Jacksonville If the future mayor is involved in it.
The politics and the government at all levels, from the local to the national level appear as polarized and divided as they’ve ever been.
Social services, crime infrastructure, economics, crime taxation and education, rights of individuals and race relations The debate over nearly every topic is contentious. Every political party believes it’s best placed to deal with problems. Every party blames the other whenever things go wrong.
However, there’s one thing in Jacksonville where both sides are in agreement in keeping the Georgia-Florida football game in Jacksonville and being continuously played from the year 1933 (except during 1995 as well as 1996, which was played located in Gainesville and Athens because of the construction in TIAA Bank Field).
In the race for the office of Mayor of Jacksonville to succeed the time-bound Lenny Curry, preserving the city’s status as a host for the Gators as well as the Bulldogs is a topic on which all five major candidates agree.
The Times-Union obtained statements from City councilwoman LeAnna Cumber Jax Chamber CEO Daniel Davis Former First Coast news anchor Donna Deegan, City Councilman Al Ferraro and Florida State Senator Audrey Gibson. They did not just support the decision to keep this game going in Jacksonville but also did so with enthusiasm.
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“For everyone to realize how crucial this game is to Jacksonville is what makes me feel extremely happy,” Curry said.
Many might argue that it’s a politically suicide to speak out against an event that has an economic value of around $33 million each year according the website of Visit Jacksonville. Deegan declared this in her statement when she stated that “it is an easy decision to continue this event going forward.”
“Of course, I’m for keeping the Florida-Georgia football game located in Jacksonville,” she said. “The game has a long-standing and enjoyable history in this city over the last more than ninety years.”
Davis mentioned the potential revenue to the city as a further reason to be supportive of the game in the event that he was elected as mayor.
“The annual Florida-Georgia football game is a tradition that has been played for years by both our cities and schools,” Davis said in his announcement. “With estimated $700,000 of revenues and a $30 million impact on our regional economy, I am determined to be the champion in ensuring that this Fall game will be played in Jacksonville for the foreseeable future.”
Georgia-Florida and many more
Other candidates suggested that additional events should be brought into the area, including the number of Florida State games that included 2007’s match against Alabama where the capacity record fell and a Navy against. Notre Dame game in the year 2016.
“As Mayor I will strive to ensure that the historic game of the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs continues to be played in our city for the foreseeable future,” Cumber said in her statement. “The economic impact to the city is substantial and I am committed to attracting new events that will contribute to a lively downtown.”
Gibson has said that as the mayor, she will also try to bring in other games such as a possible return of an annual HBCU football game, like the October. fifteen game that pits Bethune-Cookman along with Jackson State.
“The Georgia-Florida game is great and generates revenue, and I’m in support of this game,” she said. “I believe that we also are in a position to take advantage of other possibilities. We had an annual HBCU game. It’s time to start having these conversations between Florida A&M and other schools and not only have Afro-Americans be a part of the game. It’s a uniting thing.”
Gibson explained that a dollar figure isn’t possible to put on the national television exposure for Georgia-Florida.
“It’s a chance that allows Jacksonville the chance to be a star,” she said. “There’s nothing negative about playing this sport.”
Ferraro said that those who don’t are football fans, are aware of the need to keep the game going in Jacksonville.
“Absolutely essential,” he said. “A significant amount of revenue is generated, and a lot of people are drawn to stay. It’s a huge benefit for the city, and I believe that everyone would be aware of the importance of it even if they don’t enjoy football. The economic impact is amazing. I can see it getting larger and more efficient.”
Supporting the Georgia-Florida match does not just cross party lines but also school loyalty. The majority of the candidates for mayor hail from one of Florida or Georgia as well as Gibson and Deegan have degrees from Florida State.
Curry , who is a Florida student, says that it’s another example of the way that the city rallies in support of the game. “It brings people together,” he said.
UGA head coach Kirby Smart in favor of the move in the game
If it’s true that keeping football in Jacksonville is a “no-brainer,” why is it a matter of concern?
There are people outside of those on the First Coast who are advocating for the game to be played on campus stadiums on an annual basis or let neutral cities, like Atlanta, host the game.
Georgia Coach Kirby Smart has been vocal at times about the need to take the game away from Jacksonville mostly due to the fact that in the past, neither team could use it to entertain prospective players, so they could play home games on weekends.
“I’m competing with coaches throughout the SEC who host recruits during their most important matches,” Smart said last summer at the conference’s Media Days. “When Auburn plays at Alabama Guess where the prospective players are? If LSU or Alabama play there, it’s where the most prestigious potential recruits would like to go. It’s a chance to take these youngsters who come to the nation. What game would they like to see Georgia play? They’d love to see Georgia play Florida but they’re not able to play that game.”
Billy Napier, in his first season in the role of Florida coach, stated that he was interested in playing the game without making any decisions.
“I believe the most important issue is that I’d like to go through the game first isn’t it?” Napier said during SEC Media Days. “I’d like to go see the game in Jacksonville and experience that game before I make an opinion on it.”
Napier did not inspire the proponents for keeping it in Jacksonville after he followed that declaration by expressing his willingness to the possibility of moving the game.
“There’s plenty of credibility for both sides,” he said. “The home and home would obviously be wonderful, but there’s certain traditions there, and there’s some rivalries. It’s only time to find out. I’m with you. This is way above my pay grade However, I’m excited for having the chance to play the sport.”
But Napier’s boss did not appear to have a window open, or even a crack in the idea of changing the rules.
“There’s plenty of tradition in the area,” Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin said at the SEC spring meeting in Destin. “The Gators feel very strongly about this. They’ve been there for years. I believe it has been a great help to both schools. I’d love to keep it going.”
However, Atlanta interest groups are too loud. Gary Stokan, president of the Peach Bowl, said to The Athens Banner-Herald last summer that Atlanta is interested in hosting both teams in Mercedes-Benz Stadium and proposed rotating the game between the two stadiums on campus, Atlanta and Jacksonville.
At a news briefing last week Smart has softened up his tone somewhat , but isn’t going to give up on his claim that the Bulldogs are at a disadvantage in recruiting to the Bulldogs.
“When it boils down to it there’s a fundamental element that everything goes back to money, and secondly finding and attracting high-quality athletes,” Smart said. “I am convinced that we’ll be able to recruit better players through having the facility as a home and home because we’ll have more chances for them to go to school.”
However, he then attempted to claim that he’s put the matter out of his head.
“I’m not fighting for any reason,” Smart said. “I’m concerned about the team’s overall performance and how we tackle and block the plays we refer to as and also the way our special team plays. This isn’t a top priority for me. I’m concerned about where the game is currently.”
Curry has said he’s not going to criticize Smart for his position but he’ll note that the university’s presidents, athletic directors , and boosters are firmly behind keeping the sport in Jacksonville.
“Football coaches have a responsibility to perform and who am I to determine what Smart thinks is the advantage?” Curry said. “But I believe that everyone is aware of the necessity to keep the game alive.”
Game will be played in Jacksonville until 2025.
The game is an important one in Jacksonville for those who sign agreements. The city council approved an extension agreement with the Florida University Athletic Association and the University of Georgia Athletic Association in the year 2000, which will keep this game going in Jacksonville until at least 2023. the two schools having an option to play in 2024 and 2025.
Every team receives a guaranteed amount of $1.25 million this year , and 2023, they will split approximately $3.3 millions in tickets sold, which is an overall amount of $2.9 million annually.
In addition the city is required to pay Georgia $350,000 per year to cover travel and expenses, and $60,000 annually for Florida.
A Georgia-Florida match located in Jacksonville for two years, is a way to ensure that each team earns around $3.3 million more than if the game were played in a rotation.
The two schools released an announcement jointly on Monday, which appeared to suggest that alternative options were available:
“The annual football match between our two schools is a major tradition. In the present, both teams are focused on the current seasons.
“Typically both schools start discussions about future games in the series when the final game in the contract is getting closer. We’re anticipating that we’ll follow that schedule. If these discussions occur we will be looking at many elements, such as traditions, finances, the future SEC models for scheduling that include Texas and Oklahoma as well as what’s the best for both school’s football teams overall.”
Lenny Curry rebuilt relationships
The new mayor must make an impressive sales pitch, as Curry claimed he needed to do after being elected in the year 2015, when he made calls to both athletic directors within minutes after the results were announced.
“The relationship was not as good and on the day of my election, I contacted both ADs to build this relationship and to remind them of the importance of it to maintain the momentum here,” Curry said. “There was a break in communication. We started rebuilding from this view. We signed another contract, and we got another one in 2019[in 2019].”
More than the money, Georgia-Florida has become an established tradition that has been going on for nine years. For many Jacksonville citizens, the week of the game signifies the beginning of fall and the beginning of the season of Christmas.
Gibson hopes that the unity that the leadership of Georgia-Florida and the town exhibit about Georgia-Florida may spill over into other regions.
“The city council isn’t the Florida Legislature nor Congress or the Mayor isn’t the governor or President,” the mayor said. “There’s lots of negative stuff happening in our city, however football is a great sport if one day or one weekend brings us all together. We must live together all year round.”
Ferraro acknowledged that there must be more occasions when the city is united.
“People are looking forward to seeing things happen in our city where we can all come together,” He said. “We’re exhausted from the divisions.”
Curry gave some tips to his successor.
“You must not take this game too lightly,” he said. “You need to stay in the know. Be in constant contact with both teams and inform them how much we are grateful for this team and their supporters.”