Sports in Jacksonville facts for kids
Jacksonville is home to a number of professional sports teams, and the city has a long history of athletics. The Jacksonville Jaguars of the National Football League (NFL) compete at the major league level. Additionally, the PGA Tour is headquartered in the suburb of Ponte Vedra Beach, where it hosts The Players Championship every year.
In addition, Jacksonville has a number of minor league and semiprofessional sports teams. These include the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp baseball team, the Jacksonville Icemen ice hockey team, the Jacksonville Sharks indoor football team, the Jacksonville Axemen rugby league team, and the Jacksonville Giants basketball team.
Jacksonville is also home to two universities, Jacksonville University and the University of North Florida, which compete in NCAA Division I. Several college sporting events are also held in Jacksonville annually.
The city has long supported college football. Florida's first college football game was held in Jacksonville in 1901, between Florida Agricultural College (a predecessor to the University of Florida) and Stetson College (now Stetson University). Jacksonville newspaper The Florida Times-Union recorded the state college championships and awarded the Championship Cup in the early years. The annual Florida–Georgia game between the University of Georgia Bulldogs and the University of Florida Gators has been played in the city nearly every year since 1933.
Jacksonville's football bowl game, the Gator Bowl, began in 1946. The Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs have played their annual football game, informally known as "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party", in Jacksonville every year since 1933, save a two-year hiatus caused by the razing of the Gator Bowl Stadium and construction of the EverBank Field. The Florida State Seminoles have also held individual regular season games there, and in 1964 Georgia Tech and Navy played a regular season game there. The latter game was notable because 1963 Heisman Trophy winner and NFL Hall of Famer Roger Staubach played quarterback for Navy. Georgia Tech won the game 17-0. On September 2, 1989 Florida State played Southern Miss in the regular season opener at the Gator Bowl. Southern Miss quarterback and future NFL Hall of Famer Brett Favre led his team to a 30-26 upset of the heavily favored Seminoles.
Jacksonville was the host city for the Atlantic Coast Conference football championship games through 2007. In March 2006, Jacksonville was a host site for the first round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament. The games were held at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. The eventual national champion Florida Gators emerged from the Jacksonville regional.
The University of North Florida's sports teams are known as the Ospreys. From 1993–2005 the Ospreys competed in NCAA Division II. In 2005 they began the transition to Division I, which was completed for the 2009 academic year. They are currently members of the ASUN Conference. UNF's varsity sports are, in men's sports, baseball, basketball, cross country, soccer, track and field, tennis, and golf; and in women's sports, basketball, cross country, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, and volleyball. Women's golf was added in 2012.
Jacksonville University's sports teams are known as the Dolphins. The JU men's basketball team became notable in the early 1970s, when they made the NCAA Championship game with future American Basketball Association star Artis Gilmore. Like UNF they are members of the ASUN Conference, a non-football league until the 2022–23 school year, for most sports; JU fielded a football team in the Division I FCS Pioneer Football League until shutting down the football program after the 2019 season. JU's varsity sports are, in men's sports, baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, lacrosse, rowing, soccer, and tennis; and in women's sports, basketball, cross country, golf, lacrosse, rowing, soccer, softball, tennis, track & field, and volleyball.
The Edward Waters Tigers, representing the historically black Edward Waters University, currently compete in the NCAA Division II Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, a conference consisting mostly of historically black institutions. EWU started a transition from the NAIA in 2021.
Sports in Jacksonville Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.