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UGA weighs moving Florida game, but where?

ATHENS, Ga. -- From the blogs to the Bulldog Club meetings, the debate rages: Where should the Georgia-Florida football game be played?

Should it remain in Jacksonville, Fla., its traditional home? Or move to the campuses? Or to the Georgia Dome on occasion?

Georgia athletics director Damon Evans, who ultimately must come up with answers, hears the incessant questions. "It really is a hot-button topic," Evans said. "You sit there and say, 'Whatever you do, Damon, maybe you should just do (a contract) for a long period of time so you don't have to deal with it anymore.' "

The current contract with Jacksonville runs through the 2010 game, and Evans says the time is near for deciding what to do after that.

"I'd venture a guess that over the summer we would need to make a decision," he said.

Evans said many factors will be weighed, but one that won't get an overweighting is the Bulldogs' 3-16 record vs. the Gators since 1990.

"I'm willing to listen and look," Evans said, "but at the end of the day, I'm going to try to do what's appropriate for us and not overreact to maybe 'We're losing' or be shortsighted and say, 'No, we don't need to move the game.' I'm going to sit back and listen to the city of Jacksonville and look at the pros and cons of everything involved."

He notes Georgia won in Jacksonville in 2007 and suggests that if the Bulldogs also had won in 2008, the site would not be stirring such debate today. Alas, Florida won 49-10.

"Some people may say Florida is beating us because we're in Jacksonville," Evans said. "I'm not an excuse guy."

The game has been played in Jacksonville for all but two years since 1933, with the schools alternating years as, technically, the "home" team.

The Gators are perfectly happy with the series in Jacksonville, but if not wins and losses, what will drive Georgia's decision on whether to keep its "home" games there?

Said Evans: "You've got to factor in the feelings of your football coach. You've got to factor in the feelings of your constituents. You've got to factor in tradition. You've got to factor in finances. There are so many things, because this game has such a huge impact."

At a recent Bulldog Club meeting in Columbus, Ga., coach Mark Richt spiritedly tackled the topic.

"When people ask me the question, 'Do you really think (Jacksonville) is a neutral site?,' I say, 'No, it's not neutral,' " Richt said. "When you play in the state of Florida every year -- we fly, they drive; it's hotter for us, it's cooler for them."

(Richt was referring to the temperature relative to what the teams practice in before the game.)

"It's played in a stadium that (used to be called) the Gator Bowl," Richt continued. "I wouldn't feel bad having a 'neutral site' game in Georgia -- in the Georgia Dome."

Richt's comments did not surprise Evans.

"I mean, Mark has said that since Day 1," Evans said. "He's entitled to his opinion. His opinion is important. He's our head football coach, and I've got a lot of respect for him."

Thus far, Evans said, Georgia has had only "very minor" discussions with Jacksonville about games beyond 2010 and no negotiations with the Atlanta Sports Council, which wants the game in the Georgia Dome one year out of four.

"We respect the tradition of the game," Sports Council President Gary Stokan said, "and we think (Atlanta) would liven up the tradition, bring a new twist to the rivalry."

Georgia's next step, Evans said, is internal deliberation.

"I'll sit down with our staff, and (UGA President Michael Adams), of course, will be involved because I think he should be (involved) on an issue of that significance," Evans said. "We've got to throw all the stuff on the board and say: What is really the right thing to do here? Not what's best for me, not what's best for any one person, but what's best for the long term for the University of Georgia?"

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