Dawgs' Game Likely to Stay in Jax until 2016

ATHENS – One of the offseason's most controversial topics for debate took another step toward being settled Wednesday.

Georgia's athletics association board of directors approved a recommendation by athletics director Damon Evans to continue negotiations to keep the annual game between the Bulldogs and Florida Gators in Jacksonville, Fla.

The current contract for the game runs through next season, sparking debate that the venue could be changed – either moving it to Atlanta on a permanent basis or alternating between the two cities.

Georgia coach Mark Richt said during the offseason that he felt Florida had a distinct advantage by playing closer to its campus, but after the board's decision Wednesday, he was taking a more political stance.

"My only focus on that game or any game is just trying to win it, and not really being too concerned about where it's being played," Richt said. "So any question that you ask me about the game, that will be my answer. Refer to answer No. 1."

While negotiations with the city of Jacksonville remain ongoing, Evans endorsed the status quo during a quarterly meeting with the athletics association's board of directors Wednesday, saying that the current venue offers significant benefits for both the school and the fanbase.

"An extraordinary amount of study has been done on the various options available and a great deal of input has been gathered," Evans said. "After all the fact-gathering and evaluation of those factors, I'm convinced that moving forward with discussions on extending the contract in Jacksonville is the appropriate way to go."

In May, Richt told fans at a Bulldog Club meeting that he thought the current set-up was inequitable for Georgia, which has lost 15 of the past 18 matchups with Florida – 16 of which occurred in Jacksonville.

"When people ask me the question, ‘Do you really think (Jacksonville) is a neutral site?', I say, ‘No, it's not neutral,'" Richt said at the meeting, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "When you play in the state of Florida every year - we fly, they drive; it's hotter for us, it's cooler for them. It's played in a stadium that (used to be called) the Gator Bowl. But what the heck? If nothing else, we'll make Jacksonville pay more to keep it there. . . . I wouldn't feel bad having a ‘neutral site' game in Georgia – in the Georgia Dome."

Richt has since backed off those statements and refused to comment further about the issue.

Meanwhile, Evans said he thought continuing to play the game in Jacksonville would provide significant recognition for Georgia, assist in recruiting and provide a boost to the economy in the southern part of the state.

Richt said he has not had recent conversations with Evans about the issue.

"Not any time in recent times," Richt said. "There's been discussions over the years but I'm really more concerned about trying to win the game than where it's being played."

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