Florida, Georgia seeking alternate neutral sites to play rivalry game in 2026, 2027 seasons

By OnlyGators.com Staff
October 29, 2023
Florida, Georgia seeking alternate neutral sites to play rivalry game in 2026, 2027 seasons

Image Credit: GatorsFB on Twitter

One of the greatest annual spectacles in college football is the rivalry between the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs. With both teams and their fans traveling nearly equidistantly to Jacksonville, Florida, for the game, the city’s largest stadium is split 50-50 down the middle creating a unique, raucous atmosphere nearly unmatched elsewhere in the sport.

We saw that transpire once again Saturday — as it will through the 2025 season at TIAA Bank Field after the programs agreed to extend their contract with each side being paid $1.5 million over each of the next two years.

However, the status of the Florida-Georgia game in 2026 and beyond remains up in the air as renovations being made at TIAA Bank Field are expected to not only push the Jacksonville Jaguars — the building’s primary tenant — out of the facility for two entire football seasons but the Gators and Bulldogs as well.

While the Jags plan to continue playing locally assuming their development project is approved, Florida and Georgia’s athletic departments are both in the process of seeking alternate neutral sites at NFL-ready stadiums, according to the Associated Press.

The idea is that one site would be chosen in each state with Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta being a no-brainer option for 2026 when Georgia is the “home” team. Florida would likely choose either Raymond James Stadium in Tampa or Camping World Stadium in Orlando, though the AP also notes that Hard Rock Stadium in Miami is an option.

The Florida-Georgia game has not been played outside Jacksonville since 1994-95 when UF and UGA, in those respective years, hosted the showdown. That was the last time the site was remodeled with the old Gator Bowl Stadium becoming Jacksonville Municipal Stadium when the Jaguars were added by the NFL as an expansion team. The Gators went 2-0 in those games, winning by a combined 104-31.

Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart not only wants the 2026-27 games played at the teams’ home stadiums, he has restated on multiple occasions a desire to have the neutral site aspect of the rivalry canceled entirely. Smart believes the recruiting benefit of the teams being able to host recruits at home outweighs the significant payouts the sides receive by playing at an NFL stadium.

Gators head coach Billy Napier has not taken a firm stance one way or the other, though he has noted that the pageantry of the game is what makes it unique. While both administrations, historically, have been against moving the game to home stadiums, Florida in particular has been staunchly against such a change.

“The home-and-home obviously would be fantastic,” Napier said last year, “but there’s also some tradition there. There’s a rivalry there.”

The simplest solution is a rule change allowing the designated home team each year to fully host recruits at the game. Presently, that designated home team can only provide tickets to recruits and nothing more.

The Florida-Georgia game has been played in Jacksonville nearly every season since 1933. Only seven games in series history have been played at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and Sanford Stadium.

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