The Florida-Georgia game isn't going anywhere. The Gators and Bulldogs will continue to meet in Jacksonville through the 2021 season, thanks to a new five-year contract signed by the schools with the City of Jacksonville on Wednesday.
First Coast News reports that a term sheet obtained in January and likely used as a framework for the new deal, which covers the 2017 through 2021 seasons, called for Jacksonville to pay each school $250,000 annually, with both receiving $125,000 in 2016 — both figures significantly more than the $50,000 each school has been receiving from the city to defray expenses under the agreement that ends in December. That term sheet also included a $60,000 payment for team travel stipends, and $350,000 to cover Georgia's air travel.
Stephanie Brown of WOKV-FM in Jacksonville reported Wednesday that the agreement includes $250,000 payments to Florida and Georgia.
And yet negotiations to keep the game in Jacksonville persisted beyond a January 31 deadline, and the city got a shorter term than the 10-year agreement it originally sought.
All that points to the incredible leverage both Florida and Georgia enjoy in Jacksonville, which touted the more than $35 million the game made for the city in 2015 by the presence of "nearly 140,000 tourists": Jacksonville needs the Gators and Bulldogs far more than the schools need Jacksonville, especially given that the city is really not furnishing anything the schools don't have.
That has traditionally led to favorable terms for both schools, especially Florida. A 2011 review of Florida's athletic department financials by Kristi Dosh shows the Gators making just under $1.9 million from the Georgia game, only about half a million less than their average for seven home games that season.
And those numbers have only gone up: First Coast News reports that Florida "makes $3.4 million annually from the game." While Georgia likely nets slightly less from the game, with travel expenses factored in, it's likely its revenues are similar.
Essentially, Florida and Georgia have made a neutral-site game into a cash cow either on par with a home game or minimally different from one — and they have a willing partner that is clearly keenly interested in continuing the agreement for the medium term.
While that means fans who would love to see Florida-Georgia games in Gainesville and Athens, myself included, will likely be disappointed for many years to come, it does speak to the financial health of both schools, and their ability to maintain it.