Florida, Georgia ‘Cocktail Party’ to stay in Jacksonville

Florida

(Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, File)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The “Cocktail Party” will continue in Jacksonville through 2023, probably longer.

Florida, Georgia and the city reached an agreement Friday to continue playing the rivalry game on the banks of the St. Johns River for two more years, with an option for two more.

The key to getting it done: Jacksonville significantly upped its payout to the Southeastern Conference schools.

The current deal pays $250,000 annually to each university, a bargain compared to what other big cities dole out to host neutral-site games. The programs will get $1 million each in 2020 and 2021 and $1.25 million in the final two years of the new deal.

The travel stipend remains unchanged: each school receives $60,000 a year, and Georgia gets an additional $350,000 for air fare.

“This is very special rivalry, and Jacksonville is proud to be home of this long-standing tradition,” said Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, adding that the economic impact from the game topped $30 million in 2018. “It’s an entire week of experiences.”

The schools have an option to extend the agreement two more years, through 2025. The current contract would have expired after 2021.

The two-year extension still needs approval by the city council, but that is considered a formality.

“The Florida-Georgia game is more than a football game,” Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin said. “It is a weeklong celebration of two storied programs meeting on a neutral field that has created generational memories for both fan bases.”

Earlier this year, Georgia coach Kirby Smart said he’d be open to moving the game out of Jacksonville and onto campuses.

The growing number of high-profile, home-and-home series leave the schools with one less home game each year. That loss of revenue will now be made up in the increased Florida-Georgia payouts.

“We look forward to the continuation of one of the greatest college football traditions in the country — a border-states battle between Georgia and Florida,” Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said. “The extension ensures the historical preservation of the game in Jacksonville, which has been part of the national college football landscape since 1933.”

The schools are scheduled to meet in the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” next Saturday in Jacksonville, where it’s been held nearly every year since 1933.

The game wasn’t played in 1943 because of World War II and moved to campuses in 1994-95 because of stadium renovations.

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