Smart has recruiting issues in Georgia-Florida site debate

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As the home team in Saturday’s neutral-site game against Florida, No. 1 Georgia can leave tickets at the door for rookies.

For Georgia coach Kirby Smart, that’s not enough to make up for his reigning national championship side’s inability to welcome rookies as they would in a real home game.

The annual rivalry game in Jacksonville, Fla., is only under contract until 2023. Smart’s recruiting issues are a big factor in talks about the future of the series.

Officials in Georgia and Florida released a joint statement on Monday in which they said a number of factors would be taken into account as schools consider whether to keep play at the neutral site or move to venues. origin.

The statement said the rivalry game “is an important tradition.”

“Typically, the two schools enter into conversations regarding future games in the series as the last game under contract approaches,” the statement said. “We plan to follow this schedule. When these discussions take place, we will consider a multitude of factors, including tradition, finances, future programming models of the SEC with the addition of Texas and Oklahoma, and what is best for the both schools’ football programs overall.

Aside from home games in 1994 and 1995, the game called “The World’s Greatest Outdoor Cocktail Party” has been played in Jacksonville since 1933. Georgia (7-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) will look to protect its top ranking on Saturday against Florida (4-3, 1-3).

NCAA rules prohibit schools from hosting recruits at neutral sites. Clearly, Smart doesn’t think leaving tickets at the door makes up for the inability to have contact with rookies.

“We are allowed to use tickets, but we cannot host them,” Smart said Monday. ” We can not do anything. So I never understood — I never understand — what would we do with them? We cannot see them legally. We can’t talk to them, we can’t house them. Visit with them.

“We can say, ‘There’s a ticket at the door. Enjoy the game.’ That’s really all we can do. We are going to do it. We will ask children to go to the game.

Smart also addressed the future of the rivalry last week when he said money and the tradition of neutral site play also needed to be considered.

“I like the pageantry of going out there and playing,” Smart said. “I enjoyed playing there as a player. I appreciate the tradition. I appreciate all those things.

“At the end of the day there’s a very, very basic element of everything that comes back, number one money and number two recruiting and getting good players. I strongly believe we’ll be in able to recruit better players by having it as our home base as we will have more opportunities to bring them to campus.

Smart acknowledged the fact that playing the game in Jacksonville makes college more money.

“You have to weigh both and make really good decisions,” he said.

Georgia and Florida will consider a two-year option to keep the game in Jacksonville until 2025.

The payout for each Jacksonville team is approximately $2.9 million for each school in 2022 and 2023, which includes a $1.25 million guarantee and gate revenue split. Georgia also receives $350,000 each year for its charter flight, buses and accommodation, while Florida receives $60,000, with no flight required.

The guaranteed money for each school would be increased to $1.5 million in 2024 and 2025. With gate revenue included, each school’s payment under the option would increase to over $3 million.

Each school generates about $3 million to sell a game on their campus, minus about $500,000 in expenses.

Florida freshman coach Billy Napier said he would like to personally experience the game in Jacksonville before offering his thoughts on the future of the series.

“So that environment, that experience for a player, can have a significant impact on a player’s decision,” Napier said. “So, I mean, I completely understand what Kirby is saying. Every two years he misses what he knows to be a fantastic venue and game day experience.

Napier said there are “pros and cons here” for each Jacksonville team.

Georgia senior safety Christopher Smith said his favorite part of the annual game is “when you walk into the stadium, you see the crowd split 50-50.”

Even so, Smith said, “I personally would like the game to be home and away” with occasional games played in Jacksonville.

Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson said the neutral site adds to the rivalry.

“It’s pretty cool to be in Jacksonville to see the stadium split 50/50,” Richardson said. “But I feel like if it were to be put in the universities, in the schools, I feel like you could give one team an edge over the other. It’s just food for thought.

AP Sports Writer Mark Long contributed to this report.

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