Florida Gators football
|Florida Gators football|
|Athletic director||Jeremy Foley|
|Head coach||Will Muschamp
3rd year, 22–15 (.595)
|Home stadium||Ben Hill Griffin Stadium|
|Conference||SEC (1932– )|
|Division||SEC Eastern Division
|All-time record||684–388–40 (.633)|
|Postseason bowl record||20–20 (.500)|
|Claimed national titles||3 (1996, 2006, 2008)|
|Unclaimed national titles||2 (1984, 1985)|
Blue and Orange
|Fight song||"The Orange and Blue"|
|Mascot||Albert and Alberta Gator|
|Marching band||Pride of the Sunshine|
|Rivals||Florida State Seminoles
The Florida Gators football team represents the University of Florida in the sport of American football. The Florida Gators compete in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) of the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) and the Eastern Division of the Southeastern Conference (SEC). They play their home games in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (popularly known as "The Swamp") on the university's Gainesville, Florida campus, and are currently led by head coach Will Muschamp. The Gators have won three national championships and eight SEC titles in the 106-season history of their varsity football program.
- 1 Overview
- 2 History
- 2.1 Early History (1906-1932)
- 2.2 Dutch Stanley era (1933-1935)
- 2.3 Josh Cody era (1936-1939)
- 2.4 Tom Lieb era (1940-1945)
- 2.5 Raymond Wolf era (1946-1949)
- 2.6 Bob Woodruff era (1950-1959)
- 2.7 Ray Graves era (1960-1969)
- 2.8 Doug Dickey era (1970-1978)
- 2.9 Pell and Hall (1979-1989)
- 2.10 Steve Spurrier era (1990-2001)
- 2.11 Ron Zook era (2002-2004)
- 2.12 Urban Meyer era (2005-2010)
- 2.13 Will Muschamp era (2011-present)
- 3 Uniforms
- 4 Rivalries
- 5 National championships
- 6 Conference affiliations
- 7 Yearly records
- 8 All-time record vs. SEC teams
- 9 All-time record vs. in-state rivals
- 10 Bowl games
- 11 Fergie Ferguson Award
- 12 Retired jersey numbers
- 13 University of Florida All-Time Team
- 14 Florida Gator All-Century Team
- 15 University of Florida Gator 100th Anniversary Team
- 16 Florida's All-Time Team
- 17 College Football Hall of Fame members
- 18 Individual award winners
- 19 All-Time SEC Team Gator honorees
- 20 SEC Legends
- 21 Notable alumni
- 22 Recruiting
- 23 Current coaching staff
- 24 Future non-conference opponents
- 25 See also
- 26 References
- 27 Bibliography
- 28 External links
The University of Florida (then known as the "University of the State of Florida") first fielded an official varsity football team in the fall of 1906, when the newly consolidated university moved to its new campus in Gainesville. Since then, the Gators football program has evolved from its very humble origins, and has achieved notable successes. The Gators have played in forty bowl games; won three national championships (1996, 2006, and 2008); and eight Southeastern Conference championships (1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2006, 2008); and produced eighty-two first-team All-Americans, forty-two National Football League (NFL) first-round draft choices, and three Heisman Trophy winners.
Since 1990, the Gators have not only won more games (228) than any other college football team in the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly known as "Division I-A"), but also have the highest winning percentage (77.99%) of any college football team in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
The Gators have played their home games in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field located on the university's campus since 1930. The stadium was first known as Florida Field, but the name was changed in 1989 to honor Ben Hill Griffin, an alumnus of the university and a major benefactor of its Florida Gators sports programs. Since the 1990s, the stadium has also been widely known by its nickname: "the Swamp."
Since 1906, twenty-three different men have served as the head coach of the Florida Gators, including three who were later inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame for their coaching success. The 2011 season was the Gators' first under current head coach Will Muschamp.
The University of Florida was one of the founding members of the Southeastern Conference in December 1932, and it is one of the fourteen current members of the SEC. Since the SEC expanded from ten to twelve universities in 1992, and instituted divisional play in football, the Florida Gators football team has competed in the SEC Eastern Division.
Florida plays an eight-game SEC football schedule. Six of these contests pit the Gators against the other members of the SEC Eastern Division: Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt. The conference schedule is filled out with an annual game against Louisiana State and one additional foe from the SEC Western Division on a rotating basis. (Until 2003, the Gators also played Auburn every season.)
Key conference rivalries include the Florida–Georgia game which is played annually in Jacksonville, Florida (usually around Halloween), the Florida–Tennessee rivalry (usually in mid-September), and the inter-divisional Florida–LSU rivalry with their permanent SEC Western Division foe, LSU (in early to mid-October).
In addition to the conference foes, the Gators face in-state rival Florida State at the end of the regular season. The two teams' emergence as perennial football powers in the 1980s and 1990s helped build the Florida–Florida State rivalry into a game that has often held national title implications. Before 1988, in-state rival Miami was also an annual opponent, but due to expanded conference schedules, the Florida–Miami rivalry has been renewed only three times in the regular season and twice in bowl games since 1988. The remaining dates on Florida's regular season schedule are filled with various non-conference opponents that vary from year to year.
Early History (1906-1932)
The modern University of Florida was created in 1905 when the Florida Legislature enacted the Buckman Act, which abolished all of the State of Florida's existing publicly supported institutions of higher learning and consolidated the academic programs of four of them in the new "University of the State of Florida", a land-grant university for white men.
Two of the new university's predecessor institutions fielded football teams before 1905: the East Florida Seminary in Gainesville, and the Florida Agricultural College (later renamed the University of Florida at Lake City). Both institutions had football teams in the late 1890s and early 1900s, and actually played each other in 1903. On November 22, 1901, Florida Agricultural College and the private Stetson College (now Stetson University) assembled teams for a match in Jacksonville that would be the first known intercollegiate football game played in the state of Florida. This game sparked considerable interest in intercollegiate football in the state, and as a result several other colleges organized teams of their own, including the East Florida Seminary and Florida State College (now Florida State University). Florida State College (FSC) fielded a successful team from 1902 to 1904; after FSC was reorganized by the Buckman Act as the new college for white women in 1905, the Florida State College football team was discontinued. However, of all the players from these earlier teams, only tackle William Gibbs of the 1905 Lake City team made the transition to the new university's team in Gainesville in the fall of 1906.
In 1905, the Florida Legislature passed the Buckman Act, which reorganized the state's entire system of higher education. As a result, the former University of Florida at Lake City (which had been known as "Florida Agricultural College" until 1903) and the East Florida Seminary were merged with two other institutions to create the new University of the State of Florida for white male students. The university operated for one school year (1905–1906) in Lake City, Florida, while the first buildings were constructed on the new campus in Gainesville.
The as-yet un-nicknamed state university football team began varsity play when the new Gainesville campus opened in September 1906. The first football coach was Jack Forsythe, who had previously coached the Florida State College football team before the Buckman Act reorganization. Forsythe led the new Florida team for three winning seasons, including a 6–0 win over the Rollins College Tars in their first game. The official name of the new university was shortened to the "University of Florida" in 1909, and George Pyle became the new head coach of the 1909 Florida football team. Some time during these early years, the Florida sports teams adopted their orange and blue team colors, purportedly representing a combination of the blue and white of the old Florida Agricultural College and the orange and black of the old East Florida Seminary, two of the university's predecessor institutions.
The 1910s saw the team face many of their current rivals and regular opponents for the first time. The newly named Gators met the South Carolina Gamecocks for the first time and played the Gamecocks to a 6–6 tie in 1911. The 1911 Gators went on to defeat The Citadel, Clemson and the College of Charleston, declared themselves to be the "champions of South Carolina," and finished their season 5–0–1—the only undefeated football season in the Gators' history. When the 1912 Gators joined the now-defunct Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (SIAA) in time for the 1912 season, they faced the Auburn Tigers in the teams' first contest; the 1915 Gators played the Georgia Bulldogs for the first time; and the 1916 Gators met the Alabama Crimson Tide in their first game.
The 1922 Gators joined the Southern Conference, following their regional rivals' departure from the SIAA a year earlier. Major James Van Fleet coached the 1923 and 1924 teams to their first taste of national notoriety, finishing 6–1–2 and 6–2–2. The 1923 Gators shocked the heavily favored 1923 Alabama Crimson Tide 16–6 in one of the biggest upsets of the year. The 1924 Gators tied powerhouses Georgia Tech and Texas. Led by new head coach Harold Sebring, the 1925 Gators finished 8–2, and All-Southern back Edgar Jones scored 108 points, setting the team record for most points scored in a season—a record that would stand for another forty-four years. Other Gators greats from this era included Carl "Tootie" Perry, the Gators' center and first All-Southern selection in 1920 and 1921, and halfback Ark Newton and lineman Max "Goldie" Goldstein, who were both among the first Gators to play professional football.
Coach Charlie Bachman led the Gators to greater national recognition. Bachman had attended Notre Dame from 1914 to 1916, where he was an All-American guard for the Fighting Irish football team in 1916, and, in 1918, had also played for the legendary Great Lakes Naval Station football team. Bachman's 1928 and 1929 Gators squads finished 8–1 and 8–2, respectively, and represented the Gators' highest season win totals for thirty-two years. Driven by the "Phantom Four" backfield of Carl Brumbaugh, Rainey Cawthon, Clyde Crabtree and Royce Goodbread, the 1928 Gators led the nation with the most points scored—336 points. The 1928 team also produced the Gators' first-ever first-team All-American, end Dale Van Sickel, who later became Florida's first member of the College Football Hall of Fame, inducted in 1975. The 1928 Gators' sole loss was to the Tennessee Volunteers, 12–13, in the final game of the season. In 1929, the Gators defeated the Oregon Ducks 20–6 before 20,000 fans in the first game at Miami's Madison Square Garden Stadium.
Dutch Stanley era (1933-1935)
The University of Florida joined the new Southeastern Conference (SEC) in December 1932, along with twelve other former member universities from the Southern Conference, including Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Louisiana State, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Sewanee, Tennessee, Tulane and Vanderbilt. University of Florida president John J. Tigert, a former All-Southern halfback on the Vanderbilt football teams of 1901–1903, was instrumental in the organization of the new conference and served four separate terms as the SEC president. Tigert was also responsible for the construction of the Gators' first and only permanent stadium, Florida Field, in 1930.
Gator alumnus Dutch Stanley replaced Bachman as coach in 1933, the first SEC football season. Stanley, who was only 26 years old, had been a stand-out end on the great 1928 Gators team. He brought an all-Gator-alumni coaching staff to the program, and the Gators experienced a brief two-year revival after two consecutive losing seasons under Bachman in 1931 and 1932. Stanley's Gators posted 5–3–1 and 6–3–1 records in 1933 and 1934, but faltered with a 3–7 tally in 1935.
The 1930s and 1940s were generally not kind to the Gators. After posting a six-win season in 1934, Florida did not win more than five games in a season until 1952.
Josh Cody era (1936-1939)
Dutch Stanley resigned under fan pressure following the 1935 season, and was replaced by Josh Cody as head coach. Cody was a former star tackle for Dan McGugin's great Vanderbilt Commodores football teams of 1915, 1916 and 1919, and was the only three-time All-American in the history of Commodores football. Cody had previously coached the Clemson Tigers football team to a 29–11–1 record from 1927 to 1930, but had returned to his alma mater to be the head coach of the Vanderbilt Commodores basketball team and serve as an assistant football coach under the legendary McGugin. Perhaps Cody's finest moment as the Gators' head coach was the team's 7–0 upset of the second-ranked Boston College Eagles in Boston in 1939. In four seasons, however, Cody recorded a 17–24–2 tally. Once again, a coach who showed great promise on paper was not able to lead the Gators from the football wilderness, and Cody left Gainesville to accept an assistant coach position at Temple University.
Tom Lieb era (1940-1945)
Tom Lieb replaced Josh Cody as head coach in 1940. Lieb was a former Notre Dame All-American, and later became Knute Rockne's top assistant at Notre Dame. Notably, he was also a bronze medalist in the discus throw in the 1924 Summer Olympics. Lieb had been the de facto head coach during the Irish's 1929 national championship season, while Rockne spent most of the season recovering from illness. Despite fans' early hopes for Lieb's "Notre Dame system," however, the Gators posted a disappointing 20–26–1 record in five seasons. Lieb's best season was probably his first in 1940, as the Gators celebrated victories over Georgia, Georgia Tech and Miami. The Gators also honored their second first-team All-American, end Fergie Ferguson, in 1941. The World War II years of 1942 to 1945 witnessed the withdrawal of most of the university's able-bodied students, followed by their enlistment in the U.S. military. Florida did not field a team for lack of available players in 1943.
Raymond Wolf era (1946-1949)
Returning war veterans arrived in force on the Gainesville campus in the fall of 1946, and Bear Wolf, the pre-war head coach of North Carolina, replaced Lieb as head coach. Unfortunately, the Gators football program slid even further under Wolf, posting a 13–24–2 record in four seasons. The first season for Wolf was disastrous: the 1946 Gators finished 0–9—the worst football season in Gators history. Wolf's Gators never had a winning season, but there were bright spots. The iconic cheerleader, Mr. Two Bits, attended his first home game during the 1946 season, and began his personal sixty-year tradition of leading Gators fans in the "two bits" cheer at Florida Field. Gators running back Chuck Hunsinger rushed for 2,017 yards in 1948 and 1949. Hunsinger ran for 174 yards and three touchdowns against the Georgia Bulldogs in the Gators' 28–7 victory in November 1949, but Wolf's contract was not renewed after the 1949 season. Gators veterans of Wolf's tenure ironically dubbed it the "Golden Era."
Bob Woodruff era (1950-1959)
The Gators achieved a measure of respectability under coach Bob Woodruff during the 1950s. Woodruff, who came to Florida from Baylor, was an eccentric who was a master of X's and O's and employed unusual methods to train and motivate his players. As a former Tennessee Volunteers football player and a disciple of legendary Volunteers coach Robert Neyland, Woodruff emphasized defense, field position and the kicking game to the exclusion of a more wide-open offensive scheme. The Gators peaked under Woodruff during the 1952 season, when they posted an 8–3 record, received their first official post-season bowl invitation, and defeated the Tulsa Golden Hurricane 14–13 in the Gator Bowl on New Year's Day 1953. The 1952 Gators also produced Florida's third first-team All-American, tackle Charlie LaPradd, one of the two team captains. Woodruff never again equaled the success of his 1952 Gators team, but his ten-year tenure as coach was notable for a 6–4 record against the rival Georgia Bulldogs, four Associated Press final football poll top-twenty rankings, and the fact that only two of his ten Gators teams finished with losing records. Woodruff finished his Gators career with a combined record of 53–42–6.
Ray Graves era (1960-1969)
Florida achieved its first consistent success in the 1960s, when Ray Graves coached the team to three nine-win seasons and a total of seventy victories, a Florida record that stood for twenty-seven years. Graves led his Gators to a series of "firsts," including the Gators' first nine-win season in 1960, and their first Sugar Bowl appearance on New Year's Day 1966 (an 18–20 loss). Graves fielded one of his best teams in 1966, led by Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Steve Spurrier; the 1966 team finished 9–2 and defeated the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the Orange Bowl, the team's first major bowl win. During this same time, Dr. Robert Cade and other University of Florida medical researchers developed the popular sports drink Gatorade and tested it on the Gators football team under the consistently extreme conditions of heat and humidity under which the team played. Gatorade was a success, and the Gators developed a reputation as a "second-half team."
The 1968–69 school year brought a first of another kind, too. Graves signed Leonard George and Willie Jackson, Sr., the Gators' first two African-American scholarship football players, on December 17 and 18, 1968. In era when the NCAA did not permit freshmen to play on college varsity sports teams, Willie Jackson, Sr. would become the first black player (and first black starter) for the Gators football team during the 1970 season. Afterward, the Gators would quickly integrate African-American players into the fabric of the team.
Graves' final season in 1969 is remembered for the group of young stars known as the "Super Sophs," including quarterback John Reaves and All-American wide receiver Carlos Alvarez, fullback Tommy Durrance's single-season scoring record of 110 points, an all-time best record of 9–1–1, and a 14–13 Gator Bowl victory over the SEC champion Tennessee Volunteers. As dramatic evidence of the program-building progress made under Graves, the Gators produced three times the number of first-team All-Americans during the 1960s as they had in all of the previous fifty-four seasons of the team's existence. Ray Graves' career record as the Gators' head coach was 70–31–4.
Doug Dickey era (1970-1978)
Florida alumnus and former Gators quarterback Doug Dickey took over the reins in 1970. Dickey had been the head coach of Tennessee for the preceding six seasons, where he had won the SEC championship twice and led the Volunteers to five straight bowl appearances. Dickey's Gators peaked in 1974, with an 8–4 season and a Sugar Bowl appearance (a 13–10 loss). He was never able to duplicate his prior success at Tennessee, posting a 58–43–2 record over nine seasons with the Gators, and he resigned after a 4–7 season in 1978.
One of the more colorful moments of the Dickey era was a play known as the "Gator Flop." In the final game of the 1971 regular season, the Gators led the rival Miami Hurricanes 45–8 with less than two minutes on the clock. Victory was assured, but Florida's senior quarterback, John Reaves, needed fourteen yards to break Jim Plunkett's NCAA record for career passing yardage and Miami had the ball. Several of Florida's defensive players convinced Dickey that the only way for Reaves to set the mark would be for Miami to score quickly. Dickey refused twice before he acquiesced. So, with the Hurricanes near the Florida endzone, the entire Gator defense except one player fell to the ground, allowing Miami to easily score a touchdown. Florida's offense then got the ball back and Reaves completed a fifteen-yard pass to Carlos Alvarez to break the record. After the final whistle, jubilant Florida players jumped into a large tank behind the Orange Bowl endzone usually used by the Miami Dolphins' mascot, "Flipper", and an angry Miami coach Fran Curci refused to shake hands with Dickey.
Pell and Hall (1979-1989)
Charley Pell was hired as Florida's new head football coach for 1979. Pell came from Clemson University, where he had led the Tigers to a 10-1 record and an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) championship in 1978. In 1982, Clemson's program was put on NCAA probation for rules violations that had begun under Pell's watch. This would prove prophetic. Charley Pell would help build the best teams Florida football history to that point, but at the price of scandal and severe NCAA sanctions.
The 1979 campaign was a 0–10–1 disaster, one of two full winless seasons in Florida football history. However, Pell's Gators improved quickly, posting a then-NCAA-record turn around with an 8–3 season in 1980. He built on that success, leading Florida to 7 wins in 1981, 8 wins in 1982, and 9 wins in 1983.
Prior to the 1990s, Florida's 1984 team was considered by many sports commentators to be the finest in school history. The offense was especially potent behind an offensive line dubbed the "Great Wall of Florida" (Phil Bromley, Lomas Brown, Billy Hinson, Crawford Ker, Scott Trimble and Jeff Zimmerman) that paved the way for John L. Williams and Neal Anderson to run the ball and for freshman quarterback Kerwin Bell to lead the team to its first-ever SEC football championship. At the end of the regular season, several polls ranked the Gators as the best team in the nation.
Pell did not finish that memorable season with the team, however. Due to reports of serious recruiting and other NCAA rule violations committed by Pell and his staff, he resigned in August 1984 effective at the end of the season. But when the university received an official list of 107 alleged major infractions in mid-September, university president Marshall Criser fired Pell, effective immediately. Offensive coordinator Galen Hall, who had just arrived from Oklahoma and was not involved with the rule violations, was named interim head coach beginning with the fourth game of the season. Hall rallied his players after a 1–1–1 start to win eight straight games and a 9–1–1 record. The 1984 team was ineligible for a bowl game because of NCAA probation, and to the shock and dismay of the team and fans, the SEC university presidents voted to retroactively vacate the Gators' SEC championship in the spring of 1985.
Florida posted another 9–1–1 record in 1985, Hall's first full season at the helm, and were briefly ranked No. 1 in the AP poll for the first time in school history. Again, the Gators finished the season atop the SEC standings but were ineligible for both the conference title and a bowl berth because of NCAA probation. Though they never had a losing season, Hall's subsequent teams did not match his early success, mainly due to severe scholarship penalties levied on the program The greatest individual player of Hall's tenure was All-American running back Emmitt Smith, who set numerous school and conference rushing records from 1987 to 1989.
Another NCAA infractions scandal would end Hall's tenure at the University of Florida. In 1989, he admitted to supplementing his assistant coaches' salaries from his own pocket, and was accused of paying child support-related legal expenses for one of his players, a charge that he denied. To lessen potential punishment from the NCAA, Hall was asked to resign by university president Robert A. Bryan five games into the 1989 season, and defensive coordinator Gary Darnell served as the interim head coach for the remainder of the season.
Steve Spurrier era (1990-2001)
Despite intermittent success, the Florida football program had never been considered a consistent national power, having never officially won a conference championship in eighty-three seasons of play. Things changed in 1990: Steve Spurrier left Duke returned to Gainesville as the Gators' Head Ball Coach. In the debut game of Spurrier's Gators, they blew past the Oklahoma State 50–7. In their second game, they came from behind to beat the Alabama Crimson Tide, also under a first-year head coach in Gene Stallings, 17–13 in Tuscaloosa. Since Spurrier's return in 1990, the Gators football team has been the winningest Division I (FBS) program.
In Spurrier's first season, the Gators finished first in the SEC for the third time, but for the third time, they topped their conference during a season in which they were ineligible for the SEC title due to NCAA probation. They won their first official SEC championship in 1991, fifty-nine seasons after joining the SEC as a charter member. The Gators played for the conference championship in the first-ever SEC Championship Game in 1992, but lost 28–21 to the eventual national champion Alabama Crimson Tide. Spurrier's Gators rebounded, however, and won the next four SEC Championship Games (1993–1996), leading Spurrier to quip as the Gators posed for their championship photo that "this is our annual team picture." Spurrier also became the Gators' all-time winningest coach in 1996, surpassing Ray Graves' seventy career wins as Florida coach.
Most of the Gators' offense returned in 1996, and would end up setting dozens of UF's scoring records, as they rolled over most of their opponents to start the season 10–0. The top-ranked Gators faced the second-ranked and also undefeated Florida State Seminoles in Doak Campbell Stadium. Keyed by several blocking errors on offense and special teams, the Gators fell seriously behind in the first quarter, nearly rallying to win, but fell short, and left Tallahassee with a disappointing 24–21 loss. But the pieces fell into place for Florida, as they beat the Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship Game, 45–30, and Texas upset Nebraska in the inaugural Big 12 Championship Game to clear the path for fourth-ranked Florida to become the best available opponent for the Seminoles in the Sugar Bowl. To have a shot at a national title, the Gators needed Ohio State to beat second-ranked Arizona State in the Rose Bowl, which they did on the final play of the game, thus setting up the Sugar Bowl as the national championship game. The Gators seized the opportunity, as Heisman trophy-winning quarterback Danny Wuerffel garnered game MVP honors in a 52–20 rout of the Seminoles.
The following season, the 1997 Gators looked like they would reload for another title, beating highly ranked Tennessee at home in September to regain the top spot in the polls. But the team struggled midway through their schedule, losing to LSU Tigers on the road and the Georgia Bulldogs in Jacksonville, after dominating both teams the previous year. The Gators finished the season in The Swamp, as the tenth-ranked Gators upset their rivals, the top-ranked Florida State Seminoles, in a 32–29 thriller that featured two last-minute lead changes.
Having won five SEC titles in six seasons from 1991 to 1996, the Gators had trouble keeping pace with their amazing run in the conference later in the decade, going three seasons before capturing the title again in 2000. The Gators appeared ready to return to the SEC Championship Game as favorites in 2001, but lost a 34–32 heartbreaker to the Tennessee Volunteers in a game postponed until December 1 due to the attacks of 9/11.
On January 2, 2002, Steve Spurrier stunned the nation by resigning as the head coach of the Gators, and ten days later, perhaps more shockingly, became the head coach of the NFL's Washington Redskins.
Ron Zook era (2002-2004)
Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley initiated a coaching search that focused on Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan and the head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners, Bob Stoops. After being turned down by both, Foley decided on New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator and former Gator assistant coach Ron Zook as Spurrier's replacement.
Zook showed himself to be a strong recruiter, signing the twentieth-ranked class in an abbreviated 2002 search, the second-ranked class in 2003, and the seventh-ranked class in 2004. Although talented, Zook's teams were remembered for their inconsistency, typically dominating their opponents in the first half, then collapsing in the second. They dealt the Georgia Bulldogs their only loss of 2002, and upset the Louisiana State Tigers on their way to the BCS Championship, but went winless against both of the SEC's Mississippi teams, and lost twice to the Miami Hurricanes.
After two consecutive five-loss seasons and an embarrassing upset by the Mississippi State Bulldogs, Zook was fired midway through the 2004 season, but was allowed to finish out the regular season. In Zook's final game, the Gators beat Florida State to give them their first win at Doak Campbell Stadium since 1986. Defensive coordinator Charlie Strong served as the interim head coach for the Peach Bowl against Miami, becoming the first African-American to serve as head coach for a football game at Florida and the second in SEC history.
Urban Meyer era (2005-2010)
Athletic director Jeremy Foley again set out to find a new head coach for the Gators. With the benefit of an extra month to work with, he targeted a much higher profile replacement for Zook—the 2004 Sporting News Coach of the Year, Urban Meyer, the head coach at Utah. After a period of intense competition against Notre Dame for his services, Meyer chose to accept the position at the University of Florida.
Meyer was announced as Florida's new head coach in December 2004. His first season in 2005 was an improvement at 9–3, including an Outback Bowl win against the Iowa Hawkeyes. Although the Gators managed to defeat all three of their biggest rivals (Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida State) for only the fourth time in school history, they missed out on a chance to play in the SEC title game after a late-season upset loss to Spurrier's new team, South Carolina.
In 2006, the Gators completed a 13–1 season during which their sole loss was to the Auburn Tigers 17–27. In their final regular season SEC game, the Gators' managed a slender 17–16 victory when Jarvis Moss blocked a fourth-quarter field goal by the South Carolina. The Gators defeated the Arkansas Razorbacks in the SEC Championship Game, winning their first SEC title since 2000. The Gators played in the 2007 BCS Championship Game on January 8, 2007, and, led by quarterback Chris Leak, beat the No. 1 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, 41–14, for the Gators' second national football championship. The Gators played the nation's toughest schedule in 2006.
Tim Tebow became the full-time starting quarterback for the 2007 season. The Gators started the season 4–0 and were ranked as high as No. 3 in the various media polls. However, a midseason stretch in which the team lost three of four games to conference foes ended any hopes of a repeat national championship.
While the Gators finished with a relatively disappointing 9–4 record and No. 13 final ranking, Tim Tebow's record-setting season earned him many post-season awards, including the Heisman Trophy. Tebow was the first sophomore to receive the Heisman.
The Gators responded in 2008 as an improved team led by linebacker Brandon Spikes and RB/WR Percy Harvin helped to rekindle the championship passion. Florida won their fourth straight game over Tennessee 30–6 and then followed it up with a 31–30 loss to Ole Miss. In an emotional press conference after the game, star quarterback Tim Tebow promised that no team would play harder than Florida the rest of the season. Florida delivered with dominant play on both sides of the ball the rest of the season on their way to a second national championship game berth in three years. Along the way, they beat the defending National Champions LSU Tigers 51–21, achieved revenge on SEC Rivals Georgia, handed former coach Steve Spurrier his worst loss in his career and thumped Florida State University in Doak Campbell Stadium 45–15. Florida earned the second slot in the BCS poll by knocking off a resurgent and then undefeated Alabama 31–20 for the SEC Championship. The Gators won the 2009 BCS National Championship Game on January 8, 2009, over the Oklahoma Sooners and former Gator defensive coordinator Bob Stoops 24–14 and became the first program to win two BCS championships with the same coach (LSU has won two BCS titles, but with different coaches). Shortly after winning the 2008 BCS Title, Tim Tebow and linebacker Brandon Spikes announced that they would return for their senior seasons.
The defending national champion Gators were voted No. 1 in the 2009 preseason Associated Press and Coaches polls. Though they would post the second undefeated regular season in program history, the departures of offensive coordinator Dan Mullen (who became head coach at Mississippi State) and star WR/RB Percy Harvin (who left early for the NFL) decreased offensive production compared to 2008 and made for many more close contests.
One notable event took place during an otherwise typical 41–7 win at Kentucky when Tim Tebow suffered a serious concussion and spent the night in a Lexington hospital. The Gators had a scheduled bye week the following Saturday, and Tebow returned to action two weeks after the injury for Florida's 13–3 win at LSU, the Gators' first win in Baton Rouge since 2003. In other highlights, Florida's 29–19 win over Mullen and Mississippi State ended a four-game losing streak in Starkville and marked the first time since 1998 that the Gators beat all SEC western division opponents in the same regular season. Next, Tebow broke the SEC's career rushing touchdown record held by former Georgia running back Herschel Walker as Florida beat the Bulldogs for the seventeenth time in twenty seasons, 41–17.
Despite much adversity, the Gators were still ranked No. 1 and undefeated when they entered the 2009 SEC Championship Game against No. 2 and also undefeated Alabama. Alabama dominated the contest 32–13 and went on to win the national championship. The Gators ended their season on a high note, defeating the No. 4 Cincinnati Bearcats 51–24 in the Sugar Bowl. In the last game of his college career, Tebow broke the Sugar Bowl record for passing yards (482) and set a BCS bowl record for total offense (533) With the Sugar Bowl victory, the Gators became the only Division I team to have back-to-back thirteen-win seasons.
Meyer's leave of absence
On December 26, 2009, Meyer announced he would resign as head coach of the Florida Gators following their bowl game due to health and family concerns. The following day, however, Meyer stated that he would not resign, but would instead take an indefinite leave of absence. Offensive coordinator Steve Addazio served as the interim coach after the Gators' season ended with a victory in the Sugar Bowl.
Meyer's leave coincided with the important recruiting season. Instead of traveling extensively to visit potential new players as he had in past years, Meyer mainly kept in touch with recruits by phone while traveling with his family. Despite the uncertainty about Meyer's status, the Gators signed the consensus No. 1 recruiting class in the nation in February 2010.
Meyer resumed his coaching duties in time for Florida's spring practice in March 2010. The Gators lost defensive coordinator Charlie Strong to the head coaching job at Louisville after the 2009 season, making it the second consecutive year that Meyer lost one of his coordinators to a head coaching job. The Gators squad struggled in the fall, especially on offense. Their final record of 8–5 was the worst of Meyer's head coaching career and the Gators lost three home games for the third time in 30 years. Accordingly, Florida finished the 2010 season unranked for the first time since 1989.
On December 8, 2010, Meyer once again announced his resignation, citing many of the same concerns of the family and health issues that he had 12 months beforehand His final game was an Outback Bowl victory over Penn State on January 1, 2011. Meyer finished his six-year tenure at Florida with two BCS National Championships, two SEC championships, a bowl record of 5–1 (.8333), and an overall win-loss record of 65–15 (.8125). Shortly after Meyer's resignation, it was announced that offensive coordinator Steve Addazio had been hired as the head football coach at Temple, making it three years in a row the Gators lost a coordinator to a head coaching job.
Will Muschamp era (2011-present)
On December 11, 2010, Florida named Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp as Meyer's replacement as head coach. Muschamp had previously served as the defensive coordinator at LSU under Nick Saban and Auburn under Tommy Tuberville and had been designated as the Longhorns' "head coach-in-waiting" behind Mack Brown. Partly due to Muschamp's lack of previous head coaching experience, Charlie Weis, a four-time Super Bowl champion offensive coordinator and a former head coach at Notre Dame, was brought in as associate head coach/offensive coordinator. However, Weis's offense struggled throughout the season. Combined with an inexperienced defense, the Gators finished with a disappointing 7-6 record, only avoiding the program's first losing season since 1979 with a Gator Bowl victory over Ohio State. Weis left to become the head coach at Kansas in December 2011, making 2011 the fourth consecutive year a Gators coordinator left to accept a head football coaching job.
The 2012 squad was much improved. Behind a defense that had grown into one of nation's best and a ball control offense led by 1000-yard rusher Mike Gillislee, Florida outscored their opponents 115–30 in the fourth quarter while posting a 11–1 regular season record and earning their first top-5 ranking since 2009, reaching as high as No. 3. Their only regular season blemish was a loss to rival Georgia, who defeated the Gators 17–9 with the help of six Florida turnovers. The season ended with an upset loss to Louisville, coached by former Gators assistant coach Charlie Strong, in the Sugar Bowl, but Florida still finished with a top-10 ranking.
The 2013 season was the worst the Gators had experienced since 1979. After a 4-1 start, the Gators were defeated in each of their final seven games, including their first ever defeat at the hands of an FCS team in Georgia Southern. Florida also missed a bowl game for the first time since 1990. After the season, Muschamp fired offensive coordinator Brent Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis and hired Kurt Roper as the new offensive coordinator.
Florida has worn blue jerseys (usually a variation of royal blue) with white pants at home throughout much of the program's history. The exception was a decade-long period beginning with the final home game of the 1979 season, when Florida consistently wore orange home jerseys similar to those worn at Clemson, then-coach Charlie Pell's previous coaching stop. In 1989, interim head coach Gary Darnell brought back blue jerseys (with orange pants) for the season finale against Florida State. This color combo wasn't used again until the Gators played Louisville in the 2013 Sugar Bowl.
Steve Spurrier restored blue jerseys full-time when he returned to coach his alma mater in 1990. Since then, the Gators have worn blue jerseys with white pants at home, with blue pants an option sometimes worn for high profile games. The occasional throwback uniform has also followed this basic pattern. On the road, the team has worn traditional white jerseys with blue, white, or orange pants.
In 2005, Florida wore one of the Nike Revolution football jerseys that was blue and featured an orange left shoulder.
Since Will Muschamp became the head coach in 2011, the Gators have primarily worn white jerseys and white pants on the road. They have worn orange pants for one road game per year under Muschamp.
Since 2010, the Gators have worn orange jerseys (with white pants) for one home game per year.
Florida has worn many different helmet designs throughout the program's history. Helmet color has alternated between orange and white and (occasionally) blue, and logos have included an interlocking "UF", a simple "F", and the number of the player wearing it
Since 1979, the Gators have worn orange helmets with a script "Gators" logo, the only exceptions being three "throwback" games. In 2006, Florida wore 1960s throwback uniforms that included white helmets featuring a simple "F" logo. In 2009, the Gators participated in Nike's Pro Combat uniforms campaign, wearing specially designed all-blue uniforms and white helmets featuring a different "slant F" logo. These uniforms were worn for the last regular season game against Florida State, and the white helmets were worn again the following week in the SEC Championship Game along with white jerseys and pants.
Both the University of Florida and the Florida State College for Women became co-educational in 1947. The newly formed Florida State Seminoles football team began playing small college competition and moved up to the major college ranks in 1955. Almost immediately, Florida State students and supporters began calling for the football teams of Florida's two largest universities to start playing each other annually.
It is an urban legend that Florida's state legislature decreed that Florida and Florida State should meet on the gridiron. While a bill was introduced that would have mandated that the game be played, the bill was rejected in the Florida Senate. Subsequent prodding from Florida governor LeRoy Collins facilitated an agreement between the two schools to begin an annual series in 1958. Due to Florida State's smaller stadium, the first six games were held at Florida Field. The series has alternated between the universities' campuses since 1964, when Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee was expanded. Florida dominated the early series, owning a 16–2–1 record over their in-state rivals after winning in 1976. Though both teams have produced significant winning streaks, the series is almost even over the past four decades, with Florida holding a slim 20–19–1 advantage over the past forty games.
While it has always been an intense rivalry, the games have often held meaningful national championship implications over the past two decades. Since 1990, both teams entered their annual meeting with top-10 rankings on thirteen occasions. The most important of these was the Sugar Bowl rematch at the end of the 1996 season in which Florida avenged their only regular season loss and won their first national championship with a 52–20 win over Florida State.
Previously known as "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party," the official name of the rivalry with Georgia is the "Florida vs. Georgia Football Classic," although it is most commonly called the "Florida–Georgia Game" among Gator fans. Currently, the game is held at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida, usually on the last Saturday in October or the first in November. The designated "home" team alternates from year to year, with ticket distribution split evenly between the two schools.
The teams' first meeting was in Jacksonville in 1915. In the early days of the rivalry, games rotated through neutral site locations in Savannah, Georgia and Tampa, Florida along with Jacksonville and, occasionally, Gainesville and Athens. Since 1933, the contest has been held in Jacksonville every year except 1994 and 1995, when the teams played a pair of home-and-home games at their respective on-campus stadiums.
Georgia dominated the rivalry early, winning the first six meetings and building a 21–5–1 series lead before 1950. However, after the 2012 game, Florida has won 18 out of the last 23 meetings, and holds a 35–26–1 advantage in the series since 1950. The Bulldogs lead the all-time series, 48–40–2.
Starting in 2009, the Okefenokee Oar has been awarded to the winner of the Florida-Georgia game. The long-time rivalry had not previously had a trophy. Georgia currently holds the trophy as the Bulldogs won the 2011, 2012, and 2013 games.
Louisiana State and Florida first met on the football field in 1937, and have been annual opponents since 1971. Since 1992, LSU has been Florida's permanent inter-divisional rival from the SEC Western Division. The winner of the Florida–LSU game went on to win the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) national championship game in the 2006, 2007, and 2008 seasons. With a few exceptions, this rivalry has been known for close games in recent years, with both teams usually coming into the match-up highly ranked. Florida leads the all-time series 31–26–3.
Though both Florida and Tennessee are charter members of the SEC, irregular conference scheduling resulted in the squads meeting infrequently for many years. Tennessee won the first ten contests spread out from 1916 until 1954, when Florida finally beat the Vols. The series took a bizarre turn in 1969, when Florida hired away Tennessee head coach (and former Florida quarterback) Doug Dickey to replace the retiring Ray Graves immediately after their teams met in the Gator Bowl.
But it was not until the 1990s that the contest became a rivalry. In 1992, the SEC expanded to twelve members and split into two divisions. Florida and Tennessee were placed in the SEC Eastern Division and have met on the football field every season since, almost always in mid-September for what is usually the first conference game of the season for one or both teams. The Florida–Tennessee game became an annual occurrence at the same time that both football programs regained championship form. Led by coaches Steve Spurrier and Phil Fulmer and featuring star players such as Danny Wuerffel and Peyton Manning, both teams were always highly ranked coming into the game, regularly giving it conference and national title implications. Florida and Tennessee combined to win two national championships during the 1990s.
Since they became annual opponents, the Gators and Vols have combined to represent the Eastern Division in the SEC Championship Game fifteen times in twenty seasons. Currently, Florida has a nine-game winning streak against Tennessee and leads the all-time series 24–19.
While Alabama and Florida were charter members of the SEC, they have never been annual opponents. Nevertheless, they have had many noteworthy meetings over the years, especially since the SEC Championship Game game was instituted in 1992.
The Gators and Crimson Tide have met seven times for the SEC championship. These meetings have consistently held significant national title implications: on four occasions, the winner of a Florida-Alabama SEC title game has gone on to win a national championship. Stakes were never higher than in 2008 and 2009, when the teams were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 coming into the game in consecutive seasons. The second-ranked team won in both instances (Florida in 2008, Alabama in 2009), with both conference championship winners going on to win the BCS National Championship Game. The Gators hold a 4–3 edge in SEC Championship Games against the Crimson Tide with Alabama leading the series overall 23-14.
Auburn and Florida played annually from 1945 to 2002. In terms of the overall series percentage win-loss record, Auburn is Florida's most evenly matched SEC opponent. Beginning in the 1980s, one of the squads was usually highly ranked coming into the game, consistently giving the contest at least conference title implications.
The series has featured many memorable contests, including several notable upsets. The unranked Gators stunned the 1986 Auburn Tigers 18–17, overcoming a 17–0 fourth-quarter deficit in a game that is still considered one of the most dramatic in Florida Field history. The 2006 Tigers upset the undefeated Gators 27–17 in Jordan-Hare Stadium for what would be Florida's only loss on their way to a BCS National Championship. Auburn also upset previously unbeaten Florida teams in 1993, 1994, 2001, and 2007, although the Gators went on to win SEC championships in 1993 and 1994.
The annual series ended in 2002, when the SEC adjusted football schedules so that each team played one permanent and two rotating opponents from the opposite SEC division every year instead of one rotating and two permanent foes. LSU was designated as Florida's lone annual opponent from the SEC Western Division, so Florida and Auburn now play two regular season games every twelve years. Auburn leads the series 43–38–2.
Florida and Miami played each other for the Seminole War Canoe Trophy. This formerly annual rivalry ended after the 1987 season, when Florida's annual SEC schedule expanded to eight games. The two schools did not play each other again until the 2001 Sugar Bowl. Florida and Miami played a home-and-home series in 2002 and 2003, and met again in the 2004 Chick-Fil-A Bowl. Florida won the first leg of a home-and-home series in 2008, ending a six-game losing streak against the Hurricanes. The last scheduled regular season meeting between the Gators and the Hurricanes was in Miami in 2013 where the Hurricanes won 21-16. Miami holds a 29–26 edge in the all-time series.
The 1996 Gators, 2006 Gators and 2008 Gators were ranked No. 1 in the final AP Poll and Coaches Poll, and were recognized as consensus national champions after winning national championship games following their respective regular seasons. The 1984 Gators finished No. 3 in the final AP Poll and No. 7 in the final UPI Coaches Poll, but were recognized as the national champions by The Sporting News, The New York Times, Billingsley, DeVold, Dunkel, FACT, Matthews, and Jeff Sagarin rankings. The 1984 Brigham Young Cougars were ranked No. 1 in the final AP Poll and UPI Poll Coaches Poll, and were recognized as the consensus national champions. The 1985 Gators were ranked No. 5 in the final AP poll, but were also recognized as the national champions by one other minor selector.
Florida has won a total of eight officially recognized Southeastern Conference (SEC) championships. The Gators won their first SEC football championship with a conference record of 5–0–1 in 1984, but the title was vacated several months after the season by a vote of the SEC university presidents because of major NCAA infractions committed by the Gators coaching staff under Charley Pell. The 1985 and 1990 teams also finished their campaigns atop the conference standings with conference records of 5–1 and 6–1, respectively, but during those seasons Florida was ineligible for the SEC championship due to NCAA probation arising from rules violations committed by previous coaching staffs. Florida won its first officially recognized SEC football championship in 1991.
With the addition of Arkansas and South Carolina as new members of the Southeastern Conference in 1992, the SEC split into Eastern and Western Divisions and created a championship game between the division winners to determine the league football champion. Florida has made ten appearances in the SEC Championship Game, more than any other SEC school, with the most recent in 2009. The Gators have won seven of the ten SEC Championship Games in which they have appeared.