Georgia’s Kirby Smart tackles Jacksonville question

Credit: AJC file photo

Credit: AJC file photo

ATHENS – Might as well go ahead and get it out of the way.

It won’t eliminate the question from being asked again next week, but Georgia coach Kirby Smart seemed almost relieved and definitely was prepared when asked during his first bye-week interview opportunity Tuesday to elaborate on his feelings about the Florida game being played in Jacksonville each year.

Smart has been on record saying that he’d prefer it be a traditional home-and-home series simply because that would allow UGA to host recruits on campus every other year. Smart was asked to expound on those feelings after Tuesday’s practice, the first in preparation for the Oct. 29 game against the Gators (4-3, 1-3 SEC)

“There’s really quality benefits to both,” Smart said. “… I enjoy the pageantry of going down there and playing. I enjoyed playing there as a player, I enjoy tradition. I enjoy all those things. When it comes down to it, there’s a very, very basic element of everything. It comes back to, number one, money; and number two, recruiting and getting good players. I firmly believe that we’ll be able to sign better players by having it as a home-and-home because we’ll have more opportunities to get them to campus. But, I also think there’s a financial factor that factors into that, with having the game there, and being able to make more money for the university, possibly, there. So, you have to weigh both those and make really good decisions.”

It’s the financial implications that create the real paradox for Smart. After receiving a new contract earlier this summer that will pay him $112.5 million over the next 10 years, he is one of the highest-paid coaches in college football. He also employs one of the highest-paid staffs in the game.

Meanwhile, with its arrangement with the city of Jacksonville, UGA makes about $2 million a year more than it would playing the game at home every other year. That adds up significantly over time.

“I promise you, I have not thought about that one second since the start of the season,” Smart said. “And I’m not going to think about it for one second, because I got to worry about coaching our team. And I’m not fighting the fight in the public forum. I’m not fighting the fight for anything. I’m worried about our team and us playing well and how we block and tackle and what plays we call and how we play special teams. That’s just not a priority for me, where that game is right now.”

The game has been played in Jacksonville since 1933. The Bulldogs are 47-42-1 against Florida there. Georgia leads the overall series 54-44-2 and won four of the last in the five in the 118-year old series.

The No. 1-ranked Bulldogs (7-0. 4-0) are expected to win again this year. Las Vegas sports books posted them as 17-point favorites earlier this week.

How long the game will remain in Jacksonville is a never-ending question. The teams’ current agreement with the city is set to expire in 2023 with an option to extend two more years. Meanwhile, the SEC is preparing for another round of expansion that will add Oklahoma and Texas by 2025 and there is ongoing discussion of adopting a nine-game conference schedule.

For decades, the schools operated on a series of four-year contracts with Jacksonville. So, it comes up for discussion every two years, at least.

“I get it,” Smart said. “You want to make a story, you need a story, everybody wants to talk about it. It’s really not a big debate for me. It’s been made really big by the media.”


Smart revealed that defensive tackle Jalen Carter (knee), wide receiver A.D. Mitchell (ankle) and running back Kendall Milton (groin) did not practice Tuesday. Carter remained in the training room while the others conditioned on the side. However, starting inside linebacker Smael Mondon (ankle) did participate in drills and “looks very promising” for Florida, Smart said.

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