Florida football: Gators-Bulldogs keep rivalry in Jacksonville, which is great

The Florida football rivalry game with Georgia will stay in Jacksonville, at least until 2023, as both schools agreed to an extension.

The City of Jacksonville, Florida football and Georgia have agreed to keep the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in the city through 2023.

The parties can extend that agreement to 2025 if they choose.

But, regardless, the game will remain in Jacksonville for the next four years, and potentially beyond that.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry made the announcement on his Twitter account on Friday morning.

It’s been a hotly-debated topic for some time as Georgia fans feel it gives an unfair advantage to Florida and fans on both sides have suggested making this a traditional home-and-home to benefit the campus sites.

But, this is a heated rivalry that has been off-site all but two seasons since 1933 — the game was played in Gainesville in 1994 and in Athens in 1995 (remember, Florida football hanging 50 between the hedges?) while the Gator Bowl was being renovated ahead of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

That’s 96 games between these teams — 97 if you are a Georgia fan — and it has stood the test of time being at a neutral site.

Both teams benefit from the rivalry game financially — apparently even more after next Saturday’s game — and both fan bases benefit from both the location and no restrictions on tickets. It means you can pack as many fans into TIAA Bank Field as it will handle — 67,164 at last count.

There is a special atmosphere around the Cocktail Party every year that wouldn’t be matched with a campus game.

Heck, even Steve Spurrier thinks the game should stay in Jacksonville.

If you think about it, having the game in Jacksonville is fairer to both teams as the away team doesn’t have to worry about a limited fan base showing up.

As for the distance — its 71 miles from Gainesville to Jacksonville and 360 miles from Athens to Jacksonville — there is a disparity, but since when has distance been considered an issue for a college football fan?

How many are willing to drive or fly to the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona? If you’re willing to make that trek, you should be more than willing to go less of a distance for a huge rivalry game, right?

The bottom line here is that having this game in Jacksonville is a good thing for the rivalry. After all, you don’t hear Oklahoma or Texas complaining about their annual game at the Cotton Bowl, do you?

Next: Who knew scheduling football games was this hard?

No. 7 Florida football will take on No. 10 Georgia next Saturday in Jacksonville.