Florida Gators football

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Florida Gators football
2015 Florida Gators football team
Gators football logo.jpg
First season 1906
Athletic director Jeremy Foley
Head coach Jim McElwain
1st year, 10–4 (.714)
Stadium Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Seating capacity 88,548
Field surface Grass
Location Gainesville, Florida
NCAA division NCAA Division I FBS
Conference SEC (1933– )
Division SEC Eastern Division
(1992– )
Past conferences Independent (1906–1911)
Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (1912–1921)
Southern Conference (1922–1932)
All-time record 701–404–40 (.630)
Bowl record 21–21 (.500)
Claimed nat'l titles 3 (1996, 2006, 2008)
Conference titles 8
Division titles 11
Heisman winners 3
Consensus All-Americans 32[note 1]
Current uniform
SEC-Uniform-UF.png
Colors

Orange and Blue

          
Fight song "The Orange and Blue"
Mascot Albert and Alberta
Marching band Pride of the Sunshine
Primary rivals Georgia Bulldogs
FSU Seminoles
Tennessee Volunteers
Website FloridaGators.com

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 Athletic 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. The Gators have won three national championships and eight SEC titles in the 108-season history of their varsity football program.

Contents

Overview[edit]

The University of Florida (then known as the "University of the State of Florida") fielded its first official varsity football team in the fall of 1906, when the newly consolidated institution moved from its temporary location in Lake City to its current campus in Gainesville. The Gators football program has since evolved from its humble beginnings 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 and 2008); and produced eighty-nine first-team All-Americans, forty-six National Football League (NFL) first-round draft choices, and three Heisman Trophy winners.

The Gators have had an on-campus home field since the beginning of the football program. Since 1930, their home field has been Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field. The stadium was known simply as "Florida Field" until 1989, when the name was extended to honor Ben Hill Griffin, an alumnus of the University of Florida and a major benefactor of its sports programs. During the 1990s, football coach Steve Spurrier referred to the stadium as "the Swamp". The nickname quickly became popular and has been widely used to refer to the facility ever since.

Since 1906, twenty-five 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 first head coach was Pee Wee Forsythe in 1906; the 2015 season was the first for the twenty-fifth head coach, Jim McElwain.

In the early years of the program, Florida was a member of Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association and then the Southern Conference. In 1932, the University of Florida was one of the founding members of the Southeastern Conference (SEC), and it is currently one of fourteen member institutions. The Florida Gators football team has competed in the SEC Eastern Division since the league began divisional play in 1992.

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 that 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 (in early to mid-October).

In addition to their conference foes, the Gators have played in-state rival Florida State every year since 1958, usually facing off in the last game 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.

History[edit]

Before the Gators[edit]

1899 FAC team, the first football team from any of UF's predecessors institutions.

The modern University of Florida (UF) 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.[note 2]

The private Stetson College (now Stetson University) in DeLand was the first college to field a football team in the state, playing intramural games as early as 1894.[3] Stetson, West Florida Seminary (later Florida State College, now Florida State University),[4] and Florida Agricultural College (renamed the University of Florida at Lake City in 1903) all had intramural football teams by the late 1890s or early 1900s.[5]

On November 22, 1901, Florida Agricultural College (FAC) and Stetson assembled teams for a match in Jacksonville as part of the State Fair, the first known intercollegiate football game played in Florida.[6] Stetson won 6–0, after a sure FAC score was obstructed by a tree stump.[7] This first game sparked considerable interest for football in the state,[7] and as a result several other colleges organized intercollegiate contests of their own, including the East Florida Seminary (EFS) in Gainesville and Florida State College (FSC) in Tallahassee.[4] The 1902 EFS team split games with Stetson and declared itself a state champion.[8]

The first coach of FAC was James M. Farr, an English professor from South Carolina, who led the team to a victory over FSC in 1902.[7] Two of UF's predecessor institutions, the University of Florida at Lake City (previously known as FAC) and EFS faced each other in 1903.[7] In 1904 the Lake City university's athletic club was reorganized, allowing for the first major schedule by a football team from Florida.[7] Led by coach M. O. Bridges, the team was beaten easily by all its opponents, including several southern powers outside of Florida: Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, and Georgia Tech.[9][note 3] The Lake City team lost its final game to state champion FSC, coached by Jack "Pee Wee" Forsythe,[note 4] a former lineman for John Heisman at Clemson, who was later to become the first coach of the Florida Gators.[11]

Humble beginnings (1906–22)[edit]

1907 UF football team. Forsythe is center row, second from left. Shands is bottom right.

The University of the State of Florida operated in Lake City during its first year of existence (1905–06) while the first buildings for its new campus were constructed in Gainesville.[12] The 1905 football season was a lost one, as new university president Andrew Sledd ruled several players ineligible for academic reasons.[note 5] The as-yet un-nicknamed state university football team began varsity play when the Gainesville campus opened in September 1906. Tackle William Gibbs is the only known member of the lost 1905 team who played for the new university's team in Gainesville.[13]

Football games as well as baseball and track events occurred at "University Athletic Field", which was simply a grassy playing surface flanked by low bleachers located along West University Avenue immediately north of the present stadium site. Permanent bleachers were installed in 1911, and the facility was rechristened "Fleming Field" in honor of former Florida governor Francis P. Fleming.[14] From 1911 to 1930, Florida's football squads posted a 49–7–1 record at Fleming Field. But because of the facility's limited capacity (approximately 5,000) and the relative inaccessibility of Gainesville in the early 20th Century, most home games against top opponents were scheduled at larger venues in Jacksonville or Tampa, with a handful also played in St. Petersburg or Miami.[15]

Jack Forsythe (1906–08)[edit]

The school's first football coach was "Pee Wee" Forsythe as above, who led the Florida team for three winning seasons, including a 6–0 win over the Rollins College Tars in their first game.[note 6] The 1907 team was co-champion of the state with Stetson.[note 7] The 1908 team beat Stetson at home and managed a scoreless tie on the road. William A. Shands, future state senator and namesake of Shands Hospital, played on both the 1907 and 1908 teams.[17] Some time during these early years, the Florida sports teams adopted their orange and blue team colors, purportedly representing a combination of Florida's predecessor institutions; the blue and white of the old FAC and the orange and black of the old EFS.[12]

George Pyle (1909–13)[edit]

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 Florida football team. The only blemishes on the year were two games to Stetson, a loss on the road made up for by a tie in Gainesville.[note 8] Pyle accumulated a 26–7–3 (.764) record in his time with the Gators, making him still the third winningest coach in school history.[19]

"Bo Gator" Storter
Dummy Taylor

The 1910s saw the newly named Gators face many of their current rivals and regular opponents for the first time. The 1911 Gators captained by center Neal "Bo Gator" Storter tied the South Carolina Gamecocks, defeated The Citadel Bulldogs, Clemson and the College of Charleston, declared themselves to be the "champions of South Carolina,"[20] and finished their season 5–0–1—still the only undefeated football season in the Gators' history. Earle "Dummy" Taylor, the only 5-time letterwinner in team history,[21] scored 49 of the season's 84 points, including a then-school record of 8 field goals.[22]

Before the 1912 season, Florida joined the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (SIAA),[23] the first southern athletics conference,[24] and began the season by facing the Auburn Tigers for the first time.[19] Florida posted a 5–2–1 record and beat South Carolina for the first time.[19] After the season, the team participated in its first post-season game: the Bacardi Bowl held in Havana, Cuba. It was in fact a two-game series against different Cuban athletic clubs.[25][note 9] After the second game, Pyle and his team left the game in protest of what they felt was blatantly biased officiating, and the coach was promptly arrested for violating a Cuban law that prohibited a game's suspension after money had been collected.[28] When his trial was delayed, Pyle and the Gators quickly left the island country,[25] which caused him to be branded a "fugitive from justice."[27]

The 1913 Gators began the season by defeating Southern 144–0, still the largest margin of victory in program history.[29] The very next week, the eventual SIAA champion Auburn Tigers beat the Gators 55–0.[30] Florida finished their see-saw season with a 4-3 record, after which Pyle left to become the athletic director at West Virginia.

C. J. McCoy (1914–16)[edit]

Rammy Ramsdell

In C. J. McCoy's first season of 1914, the team posted a much-improved 5–2 record. In contrast to last season, the Gators played respectably against Auburn despite a 20–0 score.[31] Next year, McCoy was also the school's first basketball coach. The 1915 Gators played the Georgia Bulldogs as well as Tulane for the first time. Led by quarterback Rammy Ramsdell, the first scholarship athlete at UF,[32] Florida defeated Tulane 14–7. In a pouring rain, Ramsdell ran in the touchdown to seal the victory.[32] "Rammy" also scored a then-school record of four touchdowns against Mercer.[33]

McCoy felt he had the makings of a great Gators squad in 1916, assembling the most ambitious and difficult Gators football schedule to date.[34] The Gators, captained by Rex Farrior, faced the Alabama Crimson Tide and Tennessee Volunteers for the first time.[note 10] The ill-fated 1916 team lost every game, faced multiple transfers, began the season with an injury to Ramsdell and ended it with one to Farrior.[35] The Gators were shutout in all but the last game against Indiana, a 14–3 loss.[36]

Al Buser (1917–19)[edit]

After the winless 1916 campaign the Gators hired Al Buser, a former All-American lineman for the Wisconsin Badgers, who promised to bring a Midwestern, power-football style of play to revive the Gators.[citation needed] The 1917 season, however, was a 2–4 disappointment. During his three seasons leading the Gators, Buser compiled a 7–8 record,[37] including the one-game 1918 season shortened by the influenza pandemic and World War I. Despite an improved record in 1919, the loss to Florida Southern was the first to a Florida opponent since Stetson in 1909, and viewed by many as an unacceptable failure.[38]

William G. Kline (1920–22)[edit]

In 1920, the Gators hired William G. Kline as head coach, a former halfback for the Illinois Fighting Illini who previously coached the Nebraska Cornhuskers.[39] His first year saw an improved 6–3 overall but still a 1–3 conference record. Kline upgraded the team considerably when in his second season of 1921 he brought five players "from the University of Oklahoma and the western states."[note 11]

Tootie Perry
Ark Newton

The 1921 Gators went 6–3–2 overall and 4–1–2 in the conference, including the team's first defeat of Alabama 9–2.[41] Georgia coach Herman Stegeman wrote in his treatment of southern football for Spalding's Football Guide, considered an "official" publication: "Florida, for the first time, had a strong team...they combined a kicking game and a well diversified offense to good advantage."[42] The team was captained by center and guard Tootie Perry,[note 12] Florida's first All-Southern selection.[note 13] UF's yearbook calls him "Dixie's greatest guard."[44] For two years, he played every minute of every game and "developed into a wizard at blocking punts." Perry later moved back to Gainesville and became a fixture on the team's sidelines, serving as water boy.[45] He gained national media notoriety as the "All-American Waterboy."[46]

The 1922 Gators joined the Southern Conference following their regional rivals' departure from the SIAA in 1921, and hired former UVA athlete James L. White as athletic director.[47] This season also includes the Gators' first game against a traditional, northeastern power. They went north to play the Harvard Crimson on the road and were overwhelmed by Harvard subs 24–0 in front of the largest crowd yet to have seen the Gators play.[47][note 14] The Gators went 7–2, posting an undefeated conference record, though they only played two conference opponents (Tulane and Clemson) and so did not rank as co-champion with Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, and North Carolina.[23] According to Spalding's Football Guide, the Gators ranked as the best forward passing team in the country.[49] Triple-threat halfback Ark Newton was selected All-Southern.[50] Former Tampa Tribune sports editor Pete Norton called Newton "Florida's greatest football player."[51]

First national prominence (1923–32)[edit]

The 1920s and early 1930s saw the Gators' first intersectional victories and the first victories over several regular opponents. The 1923 and 1924 Gators garnered some of the team's first coverage in the national media, and from 1923 to 1925 the Gators had the best three-year streak in the first 20 years of the Florida football program.[52] The 1928 team was remembered by many sports commentators as the best Florida football team until at least the 1960s. Following the 1932 season the Gators joined other prominent southern prominent programs in establishing the Southeastern Conference.

James Van Fleet (1923–24)[edit]

Major James Van Fleet, a U.S. Army officer and assistant coach under Kline,[note 15] coached the 1923 and 1924 teams to 6–1–2 and 6–2–2 records.[53] Both teams suffered losses to Kline's alma mater, northeastern power Army, and managed ties with southern power Georgia Tech.[54]

Edgar Jones
A field goal on Fleming Field, 1924.

The 1923 team celebrated its first ever homecoming with a 19–7 win over Mercer.[55] Most notably, on Thanksgiving Day to close the season, the Gators shocked Wallace Wade's heavily favored Alabama in the rain 16–6.[56] This gave the Tide its only conference loss, and the Gators their first taste of national media coverage.[52][note 16] Halfback Edgar Jones scored all of the Gators' points and Ark Newton provided long punts.[57] Newton, captain and tackle "Robbie" Robinson, and guard "Goldy" Goldstein were on the composite All-Southern team.[58][note 17]

The 1924 loss to Army was a close one, 7–14.[note 18] Ark Newton returned the second-half kickoff 102 yards for the touchdown.[60] The week after the Army loss, the Gators suffered a 10–0 upset to Mercer after some 5,000 miles of travel in three weeks.[61] The team also had an intersectional victory; 10–0 over the Drake Bulldogs at homecoming.[62] Florida ranked second to conference champion Alabama; Goldstein and Jones made composite All-Southern.[63]

Tom Sebring (1925–27)[edit]

Led by new head coach Tom Sebring,[note 19] a former star football player for the Kansas State Wildcats, the 1925 Gators finished 8–2, the first season with as many wins.[64] Jones and Goldstein repeated as composite All-Southern.[65] Jones scored 108 points, setting the school record for most points in a season—a record that stood for another forty-four years.[55][note 20]

Injuries plagued the 1926 team, which posted a disappointing 2–6–2 record.[66] The 1927 season seemed lost early with an upset by the Davidson Wildcats. A few days after the Davidson loss, captain Frank Oosterhoudt was declared ineligible. His replacement by unanimous vote was Bill Middlekauff, a fullback from prior years.[67] Florida subsequently beat Auburn for the first time and salvaged the season,[68] finishing with a 7–3 record. The 1927 Gators won more conference games than they had in any two previous seasons combined. Sebring graduated from the university's College of Law and left the university in 1928,[note 21] but recruited a talented team for his successor.[68]

Charlie Bachman (1928–32)[edit]

Coach Charlie Bachman led the Gators to greater national recognition, taking over as the Gators head coach in 1928. Bachman, who coached Sebring at Kansas State, had attended Notre Dame from 1914 to 1916, where he was an All-American guard for the Fighting Irish football team in 1916–a disciple of the legendary Knute Rockne.[note 22] Bachman's 1928 and 1929 Gators squads finished 8–1 and 8–2 respectively, representing the Gators' highest season win totals for thirty-two years.[70] Both seasons include the first defeats of the rival Georgia Bulldogs.

Dale Van Sickel
Charlie Bachman

Driven by the "Phantom Four" backfield of halfback Carl Brumbaugh, fullback Rainey Cawthon, quarterback Clyde Crabtree and halfback Royce Goodbread, the 1928 Gators led the nation in points scored—336.[71] The 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.[72] Crabtree and Van Sickel were both unanimous All-Southern selections.[73][note 23] The 1928 Gators' sole loss was to coach Robert Neyland's Tennessee, 12–13, in the final game of the season.[75] Thick mud hampered the Florida offense in a game in which coach Bachman had his players convinced they were playing for a shot at a Rose Bowl berth.[71] Florida players accused Tennessee of watering the field.[76]

The 1929 Gators lost only to defending national champion Georgia Tech and to Harvard.[70] Their season closed in Miami with a 20–6 win over the Oregon Webfoots, a major intersectional victory.[77][note 24] Another intersectional victory followed in 1930, when Florida defeated Amos Stagg's Chicago Maroons 19–0. This was the first time the Gators won an intersectional game outside of the South.[78] Red Bethea rushed for a single-game school record of 218 yards which would stand for 55 years.[79] The 1930 Gators also beat Georgia Tech for the first time 55–7,[80] as well as had their first-ever game at Florida Field, a 20–0 loss to national champion Alabama.[81]

Winning just four of eighteen games over the next two seasons of 1931 and 1932, Bachman managed to end his tenure on a high note in his final game with a 12–2 intersectional upset of the UCLA Bruins.[80] After the season, Bachman accepted an offer to become the head coach of the Michigan State Spartans, and he was later inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.[82]

Depression, war and football (1933–49)[edit]

Florida Field

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.

In 1928, John J. Tigert, a former Vanderbilt halfback,[note 25] was appointed UF president and began a drive to construct a new and larger stadium.[83] By 1930 he was responsible for the construction of the Gators' first and only permanent stadium, Florida Field. With state funding unavailable at the cusp of the Great Depression, the University Athletic Association raised funds and oversaw the project. To expedite construction, Tigert first borrowed $10,000 to begin construction of the stadium, then he and ten supporters of the Florida's athletic program took out personal loans to raise the $118,000 required to pay the construction costs of the new 22,800-seat facility.[84]

UF joined the new Southeastern Conference (SEC) in December 1932, along with twelve other former member universities from the Southern Conference. Tigert was instrumental in the organization of the new conference and served four separate terms as the SEC president.[85]

Dutch Stanley (1933–35)[edit]

Gator alumnus Dutch Stanley, the end opposite Van Sickel on the great team of 1928, replaced Bachman as coach in 1933, the first SEC football season. Stanley, who was only 26 years old, 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.[86] 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 1934 team won hard-fought, consecutive victories over Auburn and Georgia Tech.[86]

Tiger Mayberry

Josh Cody (1936–39)[edit]

Dutch Stanley resigned under fan pressure following the 1935 season, and was replaced by Josh Cody as head coach, but continued to serve as an assistant. Cody was a former three-time All-American tackle for Dan McGugin's Vanderbilt football teams.[87] He had previously coached Clemson to a 29–11–1 record from 1927 to 1930,[87] but returned to his alma mater and served as basketball and assistant football coach under McGugin. Cody left Vanderbilt in 1936, and with McGugin's recommendation became the athletic director and head football coach at Florida.[88]

In Cody's first season of 1936, Florida posted just a single conference victory. The 1937 Gators were also lackluster—a 4–7 finish, but beat Georgia and produced the Gators' first-ever, first-team All-SEC selection: senior captain Walter "Tiger" Mayberry.[89] Mayberry was a triple-threat back who posted then-school records for interceptions in a season (6) and a career (11).[55][note 26] One writer quipped "I have not seen a better back in six years than Mayberry . . . Wallace Wade, Bernie Moore, and Harry Mehre all told me that Mayberry was the best back in the South, one of the best they have seen in half a dozen years and certainly the best that Florida has produced in a decade."[90] The 1938 Gators finished seventh of thirteen SEC teams in the conference standings—Cody's best finish in the SEC.[55] The season featured the first ever meeting between the Gators and in-state rival Miami Hurricanes.

Perhaps Cody's finest moment as the Gators' head coach was the team's 7–0 upset of coach Frank Leahy's then-undefeated, second-ranked Boston College Eagles in 1939. Sophomore end Fergie Ferguson was the defensive star of the game for the Gators.[91] However, the Gators failed to win a conference game in 1939, and Cody left Gainesville to accept an assistant coaching position at Temple University.[87] Cody compiled a 17–24–2 win-loss-tie record in his four seasons as the Gators' mentor.

Tom Lieb (1940–45)[edit]

Fergie Ferguson

Tom Lieb replaced Josh Cody as head coach in 1940. He had most recently coached for Loyola, posting a winning record. Lieb was a former Notre Dame All-American who became coach Knute Rockne's top assistant at Notre Dame.[92] He assisted in the Irish's national championship season of 1924, with the Four Horsemen, and 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.[93] Despite fans' early hopes for a return to a Bachman-like "Notre Dame system" and Lieb's prior success at other jobs,[92] the Gators posted a disappointing 20–26–1 record in five seasons.[94] Lieb's best season was probably his first, in 1940 the Gators celebrated victories over Georgia, Georgia Tech and Miami.

The 1941 season was mostly disappointing aside from a 14–0 road upset of Miami, and a hard-fought, 14–7 homecoming victory over Georgia Tech. Georgia running back Frank Sinkwich even played with a broken jaw as the Bulldogs romped over the Gators 19–3.[95] However, the Gators honored their second-ever first-team All-SEC selection: senior end Fergie Ferguson, who led the team in both points scored (36) and minutes played (420).[55][note 27] The much-coveted Fergie Ferguson Award is named in his honor. He caught both touchdowns in the win over Miami; The Miami Herald reported the score as "Forrest Ferguson 14; University of Miami 0."[97]

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. The 1942 Gators suffered a 75–0 loss to national champion Georgia, the worst in the history of the contest.[98] Georgia's backfield included Sinkwich, who won the Heisman Trophy, awarded annually to the most outstanding college football player in the nation, and Charley Trippi.[note 28]

Florida did not field a team for lack of available players in 1943, and the 1945 backfield was made up entirely of freshmen.[81] During the war, Tiger Mayberry had his fighter aircraft shot down over the Pacific Ocean and died in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp; and Fergie Ferguson received critical wounds while leading an infantry assault during the D-Day landings in France, from which he would later succumb.[99]

Bear Wolf (1946–49)[edit]

Coach "Bear" Wolf of the "Golden Era".

Returning war veterans arrived in force on the Gainesville campus in the fall of 1946. Dutch Stanley returned from Duke as dean of the college of physical education and hired Bear Wolf, the pre-war head coach of North Carolina, to replace Lieb.[100] Unfortunately, the Gators football program slid even further under Wolf, posting a 13–24–2 record in four losing seasons,[101] the lowest point in the history of the Gators football program. It is ironically remembered by the close-knit players as the "Golden Era."[100]

The first season for Wolf was disastrous: the 1946 Gators finished 0–9—the worst football season in Gators history. The upset of the 18th-ranked NC State Wolfpack in 1947 broke a thirteen-game post-war losing streak.[102][note 29] Several members of the Florida Board of Control and a number of Florida alumni called for Wolf to step down after the 1948 season, but football player-led student rallies in his support ended with Wolf's contract being extended for another year.[104]

Gators running back Chuck Hunsinger was first-team All-SEC in 1948 and 1949, rushing for 2,017 yards in his career.[55] In 1949, Hunsinger ran for 174 yards and three touchdowns in the 28–7 victory over Georgia.[105] Jimmy Kynes was a defensive standout; the last Gator football player to play every minute of an entire sixty-minute game.[55] However, the Gators lost their last three games, and Wolf's contract was not renewed after the 1949 season.[106] The iconic cheerleader, Mr. Two Bits attended his first home game during the 1949 season, and began his personal sixty-year tradition of leading Gators fans in the "two bits" cheer at Florida Field.[107]

Bob Woodruff (1950–59)[edit]

The Gators achieved a measure of respectability under coach Bob Woodruff during the 1950s. His ten-year tenure as coach was notable for a 6–4 record against Georgia, four top-twenty final AP Poll rankings, and just two losing records. Woodruff came to Florida from Baylor after an extensive coaching search,[108] and was best known for his work as an assistant on Doc Blanchard's Army teams.[note 30] As a former Tennessee football player and 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. Perhaps ironically, in Woodruff's first season of 1950 the Gators offense posted record numbers.[note 31] With victories over Auburn and Vanderbilt, it was the first season since 1940 in which the Gators won two or more SEC games. The 1951 Gators again won just two SEC games (over Vanderbilt and Alabama in Tuscaloosa), though did post two intersectional victories over the Wyoming Cowboys (13–0) and the Loyola Lions (40–7).

Bob Woodruff

The Gators peaked under Woodruff during the 1952 season, posting an 8–3 record and No. 15 AP Poll ranking.[111] The Gators dominated Georgia 33–0, remaining the largest victory over the Bulldogs for almost forty years.[112] Even national champion Georgia Tech needed a last-second field goal to defeat Florida. The Gators received their first official, post-season bowl invitation, beating the Tulsa Golden Hurricane 14–13 in the Gator Bowl on New Year's Day.[113] The team produced Florida's second ever first-team All-American: walk-on tackle and former Army paratrooper Charlie LaPradd, the team's lightest tackle and one of two captains.[114][note 32]

Woodruff never again equaled the success of his 1952 Gators team, in part due to the NCAA rule changes of 1953 disallowing unlimited substitutions.[note 33] The 1953 season was a year of rebuilding and backsliding after the graduation of LaPradd.[117] The 1954 Gators' best-ever SEC win-loss record of 5–2, including a win over Georgia Tech and the first-ever victory over rival Tennessee, was balanced by five overall losses. The 1955 Gators played their only eight-game SEC schedule before the 1990s. The 1956 Gators produced first-team All-American guard John Barrow[55] and started the season with a promising 6–1–1 record, but lost their final two games to top-ten ranked Georgia Tech and Miami to finish 6–3–1 overall.[55]

The 1957 team upset Billy Cannon and the 10th ranked LSU Tigers, finishing with a #17 AP ranking.[118] The prospects for the 1958 season were devastated by Bernie Parrish deciding to play baseball with the Cincinnati Reds.[119][note 34] The 1958 Gators produced first-team All-American tackle Vel Heckman[55] and posted a No. 14 ranking despite a 6–4–1 record.[121] The season included a 12–9 upset win over Miami and the first-ever win over the new in-state rival Florida State Seminoles (FSU). In a 5–6 loss to No. 4-ranked Auburn, an injury to one of Florida's tackles led coach Woodruff to use an unorthodox strategy of shifting Heckman between right and left tackles.[122][note 35] Auburn coach Shug Jordan said of the strategy: "There should be a law to prevent things like that. We were supposed to run plays where Heckman wasn't, and he's there now."[124]

Woodruff finished his Gators career with a combined record of 53–42–6.[125] Despite having returned the Gators to respectability within the SEC in his ten seasons as the Gators' coach and athletic director, UF president J. Wayne Reitz pressured Woodruff to resign after 1959.[126] Woodruff returned to Tennessee, his alma mater, in 1963, where he became the long-time athletic director of its sports program.[127]

Ray Graves (1960–69)[edit]

Graves is carried from the field by his players after the 1967 Orange Bowl victory.

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,[128] a Florida record that stood for twenty-seven years.[129][note 36] Graves, a former assistant under Tennessee coach Robert Neyland and a long-time Georgia Tech defensive assistant for coach Bobby Dodd,[130] led his Gators to a series of "firsts," including the Gators' first nine-win season in 1960. 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.[55][note 37] During this same time, Dr. Robert Cade and other UF 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.[131] Gatorade was a success, and the Gators developed a reputation as a "second-half team."[citation needed]

Among the 1960 season's many highlights was the Gators' 18–17 upset of Dodd's tenth-ranked Yellow Jackets and a hard-fought 13–12 victory over the twelfth-ranked Baylor Bears in the Gator Bowl on New Year's Eve 1960. In the defeat of Georgia Tech, the Gators gambled on a successful two-point conversion for the last-minute win.[132] In the Gator Bowl, the Gators defense halted a 75-yard drive by Baylor on the half-yard line in the first quarter, then set the stage for two second quarter touchdowns.[note 38]

Quarterback Steve Spurrier (11) under center vs. Georgia in 1966.

The 1961 team attempted the three-platoon system of LSU coach Paul Dietzel and finished with a disappointing 4–5–1 record.[134] The 1962 team again won the Gator Bowl, this time an upset over ninth-ranked Penn State.[note 39] The 1963 Gators started their season 1–1–1, having eked out their single win over the Richmond Spiders (35–28). The highlight of the season followed: a 10–6 upset of the Joe Namath-quarterbacked, third-ranked Crimson Tide on their home field in Tuscaloosa—one of only two home losses in Denny Stadium during coach Bear Bryant's twenty-five years at Alabama.[note 40] Graves' 1963 Florida Gators won their last three games over Georgia (21–14), Miami (27–21) and FSU (7–0) to finish 6–3–1.

Receiver Carlos Alvarez (45) vs. Georgia, 1970

The 1964 team featured sophomore quarterback Steve Spurrier and first-team All-American running back Larry Dupree, posted a 7–3 record and tied for a second-place finish in the SEC. They defeated 7th ranked LSU 20–6 in a game played weeks after the season finale due to Hurricane Hilda.[137] The 1965 team was ranked No. 12 in the coaches poll and lost a close game to the Missouri Tigers in the Sugar Bowl, the Gators' first major bowl appearance.[138] Spurrier was recognized as the game's Most Valuable Player—the only MVP selected from the losing team in Sugar Bowl history.[citation needed]

Graves fielded one of his best teams in 1966, finishing 9–2 and defeating Georgia Tech 27–12 in the Orange Bowl, Florida's first major bowl victory.[139] Halfback Larry Smith memorably had a 94-yard touchdown run—while struggling to keep his pants up.[note 41] Spurrier won the Heisman Trophy,[141] and was a unanimous All-American.[142] He memorably waved off Florida's kicker and booted a 40-yard field goal to give the Gators a 30–27 victory over Auburn.[143] The 1967 Gators upset Georgia, something even the 1966 team failed to do. End Richard Trapp sparked a Gator comeback with a 57-yard touchdown catch-and-run. The Gators kicked the field goal with 34 seconds left to upset the Bulldogs 17–16.[144]

The 1968–69 school year brought a first of another kind, too. Graves signed Leonard George and Willie Jackson, Sr., the Gators' first two black scholarship football players, on December 17 and 18, 1968.[2] In an 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.[2] Afterward, the Gators would quickly integrate black 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, All-American wide receiver Carlos Alvarez, and tailback Tommy Durrance's single-season scoring record of 110 points.[145] The 1969 Gators also posted an all-time best record of 9–1–1, and a 14–13 Gator Bowl upset victory over SEC champion Tennessee.[146] The Gator Bowl was dominated by a Gators defense led by linebacker Mike Kelley (the game's MVP) and All-Americans defensive back Steve Tannen and defensive end Jack Youngblood.[146] After the Gator Bowl, Ray Graves resigned as the head coach of the Florida football team, but continued as the athletic director of Florida's sports program until 1979. Ray Graves' career record as the Gators' head coach was 70–31–4.[128]

Doug Dickey (1970–78)[edit]

Florida alumnus and former quarterback Doug Dickey took over the reins in 1970. Dickey had been the head coach of Tennessee for the preceding six seasons, where he won the SEC championship twice and led the Volunteers to five straight bowl appearances.[147]

Doug Dickey

One of the more colorful moments of the Dickey era was a play known as the "Florida Flop" or the "Gator Flop." In the final game of the 1971 regular season, the Gators led Miami 45–8 with less than two minutes remaining.[148] 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.[148] 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.[149] Dickey refused twice before he acquiesced.[150] 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.[151] Florida's offense then got the ball back and Reaves completed a fifteen-yard pass to Carlos Alvarez to break the record.[149] 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.[150]

Notably, in 1972, freshmen were now allowed to play on southeastern teams.[152][note 42] Coach Dickey also brought in twelve black players.[152] The 1972 and 1973 Gators were spearheaded by the black running back Nat Moore.[55] Dickey's Gators peaked in 1974 and 1975. The 1974 Gators posted an 8–4 record (a 7–1 start) and a Sugar Bowl appearance (a 13–10 loss).[note 43] The 1975 Gators finished 9–3.[147] Sammy Green was a consensus All-American and Jimmy DuBose was SEC Player of the Year.[155]

The 1976 and 1977 teams featured All-American wide receiver Wes Chandler, who was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2015.[156] The 1976 season opened with a 24–21 loss to North Carolina, with Florida afterwards reeling off six straight wins. In the win over Auburn, Chandler memorably scored a touchdown on a short pass, running through the entire defense for a 64-yard touchdown.[157] Once Chandler had run out of the end zone, Auburn's mascot, the War Eagle, jumped off its perch and started clawing at Chandler's shoulder pads.[158] Next was the Florida–Georgia game. At the half the Gators were up 27–13 on the Bulldogs and an upset seemed in reach. After Georgia scored midway through the third period, Dickey went for it on a 4th–and–1 at his own 29-yard line, running an option which failed. Florida never recovered and Georgia went on to win 41–27—the play came to be known as "4th and Dumb."[159]

The Gators posted a 6–4–1 season in 1977 and Chandler finished 10th in the balloting for the Heisman Trophy.[160] He is widely considered to be one of the best all-around football players to ever play for UF.[161] Dickey resigned after a 4–7 season in 1978. He was never able to duplicate his prior success at Tennessee, posting a 58–43–2 record over nine seasons with the Gators.[147]

Charley Pell and Galen Hall (1979–89)[edit]

Charley Pell was hired as Florida's new head football coach for 1979.[162] Pell had previously coached at Clemson, where he led the Tigers to a 10–1 record and an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) championship in 1978.[162] Pell would help build Florida's football program, but at the price of a public scandal and NCAA sanctions that would cripple the program after his departure.

UF president Marshall Criser and Galen Hall celebrating the 1984 season.

The 1979 campaign was an 0–10–1 disaster.[163] However, Pell's Gators improved quickly after he hired offensive guru Mike Shanahan. Quarterbacks Bob Hewko and Wayne Peace led the Gators to a then-NCAA-record turn-around with an 8–3 season in 1980.[163] Despite Georgia's consensus All-American back Herschel Walker, Florida nearly beat national champion Georgia for its first-ever SEC championship; until the Bulldogs executed one of the most famous plays in college football history.[164] Georgia was behind 21–20 with time running out, facing third down and long yardage from their own 7-yard-line. After scrambling around in his own endzone, Bulldog quarterback Buck Belue found wide receiver Lindsay Scott open in the middle of the field. Scott outran everyone down the sideline, scoring the game-winning touchdown with only seconds left.[165] Long-time Georgia radio announcer Larry Munson's legendary call of the play gave the game its nickname of "Run Lindsay Run."

The Gators capped their season with a 35–20 bowl victory over the Maryland Terrapins in the Tangerine Bowl, marking the first time a winless team received a bowl bid the following season. Pell's teams built on that success, leading Florida to seven wins in 1981, eight wins in 1982 and nine wins in 1983.[163] The 1982 team upset 10th ranked USC 17–9 in a nationally televised game that helped to elevate the Florida program back into national prominence.[166] The 1983 team finished No. 6 in the final AP Poll,[167] then the highest final poll ranking in school history. The 1982 and 1983 teams featured consensus All-American linebacker Wilber Marshall.[55]

Prior to the 1990s, Florida's 1984 team was considered by many as the best in school history.[168] The 1984 squad won the school's first-ever SEC championship, completing an undefeated conference schedule for the first time in Gators history. The Gators sealed the 27–0 victory over Georgia when SEC Player of the Year,[155] redshirt freshman quarterback Kerwin Bell, dropped back into his own end zone and lofted a long pass to streaking receiver Ricky Nattiel, who went 96 yards for a touchdown.[169] Until then, Vanderbilt was the only other charter SEC member to have never won a conference title. The offense was especially formidable behind a 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. Several polls ranked the Gators as the best team in the nation.[170]

Interception v. LSU, 1988

Pell did not finish the 1984 season with the team, however. Due to reports of serious recruiting and other NCAA rule violations committed by Pell and his staff, he announced in August 1984—a month before the start of the season—that he would retire at the end of the season. But when school officials received an official list of 107 alleged major infractions from the NCAA in mid-September, university president Marshall Criser fired Pell, effective immediately.[171] Offensive coordinator Galen Hall, who had just arrived for the 1984 season and was not involved with the rule violations, was named interim head coach beginning with the fourth game of the season.[172] Hall rallied his players after a 1–1–1 start to win eight consecutive games and a 9–1–1 record, including an undefeated 5–0–1 SEC record—all but assuring that Hall would become the permanent coach after the season. The SEC refused to allow the Gators to play in the Sugar Bowl; LSU went in their place.[173] Two weeks after the end of the season, the NCAA imposed two years' probation (a third year was suspended) and banned the Gators from bowl games and live television in 1985 and 1986. The most damaging sanction in the long run was a limit of 20 new scholarships in 1985 and 1986, and a reduction to 85 total scholarships in 1985 and 75 in 1986.[174] To the dismay of the team and fans, the SEC university presidents voted 6–4 to retroactively vacate the Gators' 1984 SEC championship in the spring of 1985.[175]

Florida posted another 9–1–1 record in 1985, Hall's first full season as head coach, 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 the conference title. Though they never had a losing season, Hall's subsequent teams did not match his early success when the scholarship losses for Pell's violations took their full effect. His first two recruiting classes had only 25 players.[176] The unranked 1986 Gators stunned the Auburn Tigers 18–17. Bell led the Gators in overcoming a 17–0 fourth-quarter deficit in a game that is still considered one of the most dramatic in Florida Field history.[177]

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.[note 44] The Gators started the 1988 season 5-0 and were ranked as high as 14th. During an October game against the Memphis State Tigers, Smith injured his knee and was unable to play for a month. Florida lost the Memphis State contest and the next three as well, with the Gator offense unable to score a single touchdown while Smith was sidelined.

Another NCAA infractions scandal would end Hall's tenure at Florida. In 1989, he admitted to supplementing his assistant coaches' salaries from his own funds. He was also accused of paying child support-related legal expenses for one of his players, a charge that he denied.[176] As a result, interim university president Robert A. Bryan forced Hall to resign five games into the 1989 season.[179] Defensive coordinator Gary Darnell served as the interim head coach for the remainder of the season. The NCAA ultimately imposed two years' probation and banned them from bowl consideration in 1990. In imposing these penalties, the NCAA said it would have kicked the Gators off live television in 1990 as well had Hall still been coach.[180]

Steve Spurrier (1990–2001)[edit]

Despite intermittent success, Florida had never been considered a consistent national power. Things changed in 1990 when former quarterback Steve Spurrier left Duke and returned to Gainesville as the Gators' "Head Ball Coach."[181] Since his return, the Gators rank among the three Division I (FBS) programs with the most wins.[182] Spurrier is credited with altering the way the SEC played football. Spurrier employed a pass-oriented offense (known in the sports media as the "Fun 'n' Gun")[183] in contrast to the ball-control, rush-oriented offenses traditionally played in the SEC.[184] Spurrier's Gators won four straight SEC Championships (1993–1996), once leading Spurrier to quip as the Gators posed for their championship photo "This is our annual team picture."[185]

Spurrier dubbed Florida Field "The Swamp"..."Only Gators get out alive."

The 1990 Gators finished first in the SEC for the third time in their history, but for the third time, they were ineligible for the SEC title because of NCAA probation. Just before Spurrier's Gator coaching debut, the Gainesville campus was rocked by the Danny Rolling murders.[186] In contrast to the gloom, the 1990 Gators opened the season with a no-huddle, 80-yard touchdown drive in six plays and decisively defeated the Oklahoma State Cowboys 50–7. In their second game, they came from behind to beat Alabama 17–13. The 1991 Gators defeated Alabama 35–0. Spurrier held these victories over Alabama in high regard: "those victories early – '90, '91 – really got us started there at Florida..."[187] The 1991 Gators won the team's first official SEC championship, 59 seasons after joining the SEC as a charter member. Quarterback Shane Matthews was SEC Player of the Year in both 1990 and 1991.[155] The 1992 Gators won the first of five consecutive SEC Eastern Division titles. They played in the first-ever SEC Championship Game, but lost 28–21 to eventual national champion Alabama.

The 1993 season marked the first time the Gators were ranked in the AP top ten during every week of the season. In just the second week, the Gators faced adversity as quarterbacks Danny Wuerffel and Terry Dean combined to throw seven interceptions against Kentucky.[188] Eight seconds remained when Wuerffel threw a pass down the middle to walk-on receiver Chris Doering for the game-winning touchdown. Gators' play-by-play announcer Mick Hubert memorably cried out "Doering's got a touchdown!"[189] The next week Florida recovered and beat Heath Shuler-led, No. 5 ranked Tennessee in a "shootout" 41–34.[190] Auburn knocked the Gators to their lowest ranking all season of 10th. Tied at 35 late, Auburn booted a 41-yard field goal to defeat the Gators 38–35.[191] The one other loss was to national champion FSU. The Gators never led, once cutting the score to 27–21. With just under six minutes left and the crowd roaring louder than it had all day, FSU faced third down at its own 21-yard-line. Unfazed, Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Charlie Ward hit freshman running back Warrick Dunn up the sideline for a 79-yard, game-clinching touchdown and a 33–21 FSU win. The Gators went on to convincing wins over Alabama in the SEC Championship 28–13 and over the No. 3 ranked West Virginia Mountaineers in the Sugar Bowl 41–7, finishing 5th in the AP Poll.[192]

Danny Wuerffel on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

The Gators were preseason AP No. 1 for the first time to begin the 1994 season, remaining so until a loss to Auburn in a similar fashion as the year before.[193] Florida still ranked in the top 5 until the FSU game known as the Choke at Doak.[note 45] The Gators led 31–3 at the start of the fourth quarter. FSU then scored four touchdowns to nothing for Florida. FSU coach Bobby Bowden opted to kick the extra point rather than attempt a 2-point conversion, overruling nine assistants who pleaded with him to go for the win (there was no overtime in college football at the time).[194] The kick was good, tying the game at 31 and completing FSU's historic comeback. Florida edged Alabama by a single point in the SEC Championship, then faced the Seminoles in a rematch in the Sugar Bowl, which FSU won 23–17. The Gators finished 7th in the AP poll.[195]

The Gators had their first unbeaten and untied regular season in 1995. They roared through the regular season; their closest victory margin was 11 points—a feat all the more remarkable since they upended three teams who were ranked in the top 10. The Gators beat Tennessee by so many points it landed Wuerffel on the cover of Sports Illustrated, even though it supposedly planned to get Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning on the cover.[196] The Gators were denied a national championship in the Fiesta Bowl, however, losing to the Nebraska Cornhuskers, today considered one of the sports greatest ever teams,[197] 62–24. Despite the huge loss the Gators remained ranked 2nd in the AP poll.[198]

Most of the 1996 Gators' offensive players were returning upperclassmen; they set dozens of team scoring records as they rolled over most of their opponents to start the season 10–0.[note 46] The Gators were only seriously threatened twice: by Tennessee 35–29 and Vanderbilt 28–21. They raced to a 35–0 halftime lead over Tennessee only to have the Vols score 29 unanswered points in the second half, as Spurrier opted for a more conservative game plan; and Vanderbilt's heavy blitzing held the Gators to only 28 points. The top-ranked Gators then faced second-ranked and undefeated FSU on the road to finish the regular season. Keyed by several blocking errors, the Gators fell behind in the first quarter, and left Tallahassee with a disappointing 24–21 loss. But the pieces fell into place, as Florida beat Alabama in the SEC Championship, 45–30, and Texas upset Nebraska in the inaugural Big 12 Championship Game, third-ranked Florida was the best available opponent for the top-ranked Seminoles in the Sugar Bowl. To have a shot at a national title, the Gators needed Ohio State to beat second-ranked Arizona State—the only team to go through the regular season undefeated—in the Rose Bowl, which they did on the final play of the game, setting up the Sugar Bowl as the national championship game. The Gators seized the opportunity, winning their first-ever national championship, as Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Danny Wuerffel garnered MVP honors from the shotgun in a 52–20 rout of the Seminoles.[199] Wuerffel and receivers Ike Hilliard and Reidel Anthony were all consensus All-American.[200]

Steve Spurrier in 1999.

The following season, the 1997 Gators appeared poised for another title, never trailing Manning-led Tennessee at home to regain the top spot in the polls.[note 47] But the Gators struggled midway through the schedule, losing to LSU on the road and to Georgia, after dominating both teams the previous year. Florida closed the regular season with an upset of top-ranked FSU in a 32–29 victory known as the "greatest game ever played in the Swamp."[202] FSU was driving late in the fourth quarter until the Florida defense stopped FSU at the 5-yard line. The Seminoles settled for a Sebastian Janikowski field goal to go up 29–25. On first down of the ensuing drive, from the Gators' own 20-yard line, quarterback Doug Johnson passed to consensus All-American receiver Jacquez Green for a 62-yard gain. Running back Fred Taylor got a touchdown to complete the drive, and Florida took the lead for good 32–29. FSU's final comeback attempt was stymied when senior linebacker Dwayne Thomas intercepted a third-down pass from Thad Busby, sealing the victory and costing FSU a chance to play for the national championship.[203]

The Gators went three seasons before capturing an SEC title again in 2000.[204] The 1998 Gators lost two games to teams which would eventually meet in the first BCS National Championship game: Tennessee and FSU. The 1999 Gators returned to the SEC Championship, but were defeated soundly by Alabama, and suffered a loss to Michigan State in the Citrus Bowl. The 2000 team won Spurrier's sixth SEC championship and suffered a single conference loss. Mississippi State beat the Gators 47–35, breaking Florida's 72-game winning streak against unranked teams. A frustrated Spurrier rotated three quarterbacks including Rex Grossman. After the game, Mississippi State fans stormed the field and tore down the goal posts,[205] parts of which ended up all over campus. The preseason No. 1-ranked 2001 Gators appeared ready to return to the SEC Championship as favorites, but again were upset by Auburn 23–20 with a last-minute field goal and, in a game postponed until December due to the attacks of 9/11, lost a 34–32 heart-breaker to Tennessee.[206] Florida accepted an invitation to the Orange Bowl, and crushed Maryland 56–23. Grossman was Heisman Trophy runner-up. On January 4, 2002, Spurrier stunned Florida fans by resigning as the Gators' head coach,[207] and ten days later, became the head coach of the NFL's Washington Redskins.[208]

Ron Zook (2002–04)[edit]

Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley initiated a coaching search that focused on Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan[209] 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 Ron Zook as Spurrier's replacement.

Zook showed himself to be a strong recruiter, signing the twentieth-ranked class in an abbreviated 2002 search,[210] the second-ranked class in 2003,[211] and the seventh-ranked class in 2004.[212] While Zook's tenure was modestly successful, it was well short of what Gator fans had come to expect. Although talented, Zook's teams were remembered for their inconsistency, typically dominating their opponents in the first half, then collapsing in the second.[213] They dealt Georgia its only loss of 2002, and upset 2003 LSU on its way to the BCS Championship, but went winless against both of the SEC's Mississippi schools, and lost twice to Miami. They also lost six games at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium—one more than they had in 12 years under Spurrier.

After two consecutive five-loss seasons, it was understood that the 2004 season would be a make-or-break year for Zook. He did not help his cause by getting into a heated argument with members of a campus fraternity after being called in to diffuse a dispute between the brothers and some of his players. Following a shocking 38-31 road loss to the 1-5 Mississippi State Bulldogs, Zook was fired, but was allowed to finish out the regular season.[213] In Zook's final game, the Gators beat FSU to give them their first win on FSU's field since 1986. Soon afterward, Zook accepted the head coaching job at Illinois. Defensive coordinator Charlie Strong served as the interim head coach for the Peach Bowl against Miami,[214] for a game becoming the first black head coach at Florida and second in SEC history.

Urban Meyer (2005–10)[edit]

Urban Meyer and the Gators celebrated 100 years of Florida football with a BCS Championship in 2006.

Athletic director Jeremy Foley targeted a much higher profile replacement for Zook—the 2004 Sporting News Coach of the Year, Urban Meyer, head coach at Utah. Meyer chose to accept the position at UF, over a competing offer from Notre Dame,[215] and was announced as Florida's new head coach in December 2004.[216]

Tim Tebow

Meyer's first season in 2005 was an improvement at 9–3, including an Outback Bowl win over the Iowa Hawkeyes.[217] The Gators defeated all three of their biggest rivals (Tennessee, Georgia, and FSU) for only the fourth time in school history. In 2006, the Gators completed a 13–1 season[217] during which their sole loss was to Auburn 27–17. In their final regular season SEC game, the Gators' managed a slender 17–16 victory when Jarvis Moss blocked a fourth-quarter field goal attempt by South Carolina.[218] The Gators beat the Arkansas Razorbacks in the SEC Championship, their first SEC title since 2000. The Gators played in the BCS Championship Game and, led by quarterback Chris Leak, routed the No. 1 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, 41–14, for the Gators' second national championship.[219]

Tim Tebow became the full-time starting quarterback for the 2007 season. The Gators started 4–0 and were ranked as high as No. 3 in the various media polls, but a mid-season stretch, losing three of four games to conference foes, ended any hopes of a repeat national championship. The Gators finished with a relatively disappointing 9–4 record[217] and No. 13 final ranking, but Tebow's record-setting season earned him the Heisman Trophy – the first sophomore to receive the honor.

The 2008 Gators responded as a vastly improved team. Florida won its fourth straight game over Tennessee 30–6, followed by a 31–30 upset loss to Ole Miss. In an emotional press conference after the game, quarterback Tebow promised no team would play harder than Florida the rest of the season.[220] Florida delivered on their way to a second national championship game berth in three years. They beat defending national champion LSU 51–21, achieved revenge on Georgia, handed former coach Steve Spurrier the worst loss of his career,[note 48] and thumped FSU 45–15. Florida earned the second slot in the BCS poll by beating previously undefeated Alabama 31–20 in the SEC Championship and won the BCS National Championship Game over Oklahoma 24–14.[221]

The 2009 Gators were voted preseason No. 1 in the AP and Coaches polls. Though they posted the second undefeated regular season in program history, the departures of All-American Percy Harvin and offensive coordinator Dan Mullen decreased offensive production. As Florida beat Georgia 41–17, for the seventeenth time in twenty seasons, Tebow broke the SEC's career rushing touchdown record held by Herschel Walker.[222] The Gators were undefeated and ranked No. 1 when they entered the SEC Championship against undefeated No. 2 Alabama. Alabama dominated the contest 32–13 and went on to win the national championship. The Gators ended their season by defeating the No. 4 Cincinnati Bearcats 51–24 in the Sugar Bowl.[note 49][223] With the Sugar Bowl victory, the Gators became the first Division I team to have back-to-back thirteen-win seasons. The 2008 and 2009 teams featured consensus All-American linebacker Brandon Spikes.[224]

The Gators celebrating after the 2009 BCS Championship Game.
The Gators in the Swamp.

On December 26, 2009, Meyer announced he would resign as the Gators' head coach due to health and family concerns, following their bowl game.[225] The following day, however, Meyer stated that he would not resign, but instead take an indefinite leave of absence.[226] Despite uncertainty about Meyer's status, the Gators signed the nation's consensus No. 1 recruiting class in February 2010.[227] Meyer resumed his coaching duties in time for Florida's spring practice in March 2010.[228] The 2010 Gators struggled in the fall, especially on offense, and their final record of 8–5 was the worst of Meyer's head coaching career.[217] Florida finished the season unranked for the first time since 1989. On December 8, 2010, Meyer once again announced his resignation, citing many of the same concerns he had 12 months beforehand.[229] His final game was an Outback Bowl victory over Penn State.[230] 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).

Will Muschamp (2011–14)[edit]

On December 11, 2010, Florida named Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp as the Gators' new head coach.[231] Muschamp had previously served as the defensive coordinator at LSU and Auburn and had been designated as the Longhorns' "head coach-in-waiting."[231] Charlie Weis, a four-time Super Bowl champion offensive coordinator and a former head coach at Notre Dame, was hired as associate head coach and offensive coordinator.[232] However, Weis's offense struggled throughout the 2011 season. Combined with an inexperienced defense, the Gators finished with a 3–5 record in the SEC, a 7–6 overall record, and a Gator Bowl victory over Ohio State.[233] Weis left to become the head coach at Kansas in December 2011.[234]

The 2012 defense was much improved. Behind a defense that had grown into one of nation's best and a ball control offense, Florida outscored their opponents 115–30 in the fourth quarter while posting an 11–1 regular season record and earning their first top-5 ranking since 2009. The offense remained unimpressive, however, and finished 116th in the NCAA in passing with less than 2,000 passing yards.[235] The sole regular season loss was to Georgia, who defeated the Gators 17–9. The season ended with an upset loss to Louisville,[236] but Florida still finished with a top-10 ranking.

The 2013 season was the Gators' worst experience since 1979. The Gators lost their final seven games, including their first-ever defeat at the hands of an FCS team, Georgia Southern,[237] and finished 4–8. Florida also missed a bowl game for the first time since 1990. Late in the 2014 season Muschamp was dismissed as the head coach following a devastating loss to South Carolina.[238] Muschamp's overall record was 28–21 as head coach.[239]

Jim McElwain (2015–present)[edit]

On December 4, 2014, Jim McElwain, former Alabama offensive coordinator and Colorado State head coach, was introduced as Muschamp's replacement.[240] In his first year at Florida, he became the third coach in SEC history to go to the SEC championship game in his first year - the first to accomplish this feat in the SEC East. [241] He is the first Florida coach to win more than nine games in his first year coaching at Florida, and he finished his first regular season at Florida with a 10-2 record.

Uniforms[edit]

Jerseys[edit]

Florida has worn blue jerseys (usually a variation of royal blue) with white pants at home throughout much of the program's history, Orange jerseys were also used periodically. The exception was a decade-long period beginning with the final home game of the 1979 season, when Florida switched to wearing orange home jerseys. 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 1999 season when the Gators played Florida State during the regular season finale in Gainesville and then again in the 2013 Sugar Bowl against Louisville.

Steve Spurrier restored blue jerseys full-time when he was named coach 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 Gators wore white jerseys with blue pants at home once during the 1998 season and twice during the 2000 season. 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.[242]

Since 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 and blue pants once in 2013.

The Gators wore orange jerseys (with white pants) for one home game per year from 2010 to 2012, the 2015 Birmingham Bowl against East Carolina and in 2015 againest Vanderbilt, and in 2015 wore orange jerseys and orange pants for home games against East Carolina and Mississippi.

Helmets[edit]

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[243]

Since 1979, the Gators have worn orange helmets with a script "Gators" logo, the only exceptions being three "throwback" games. In 2006 for the 100th year anniversary game against Alabama, Florida wore 1960s throwback uniforms that included white helmets featuring a simple "F" logo.[244] 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.[245] These uniforms were worn for the last regular season game against Florida State, and the white helmets were worn again the following week against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game along with white jerseys and pants.[246]

Team logos[edit]

Rivalries[edit]

Georgia[edit]

Previously known as "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party," it is most commonly called simply 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 yearly, with ticket distribution split evenly between the universities.

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.[247] 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.[247]

Georgia dominated the rivalry early, winning the first six meetings and building a 21–5–1 series lead before 1950.[247] However, after the 2014 game, Florida has won 20 out of the last 26 meetings, and holds a 37–28–1 advantage in the series since 1950.[247] The Bulldogs lead the all-time series, 49–42–2.[247]

Starting in 2009, the Okefenokee Oar has been awarded to the winner of the Florida-Georgia game. Florida was last awarded the oar with their victory over Georgia in 2015.

Tennessee[edit]

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.[248] 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.

The contest did not reach its peak as a rivalry until the 1990s. 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, usually in mid-September for what is the first conference game of the season for the teams.[248] Led by coaches Steve Spurrier and Phil Fulmer and featuring star players such as Danny Wuerffel and Peyton Manning, both teams were 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 an eleven-game winning streak against Tennessee and leads the all-time series 26–19.[248]

Florida State[edit]

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 play each other annually.[249]

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 universities 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 two 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 through 1976. Though both teams have produced significant winning streaks, the series is nearly tied over the past four decades, with Florida State holding a 21–18–1 advantage over the past forty games. Florida leads the all-time series, 34–24–2[250]

The Florida–Florida State game has often held national championship implications since 1990, and both teams have entered the game 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.

Louisiana State[edit]

Louisiana State and Florida first met on the football field in 1937, and have been annual opponents since 1971.[251] 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 31–28–3.[251]

Alabama[edit]

Florida v. Alabama in 2010.

While Alabama and Florida were charter members of the SEC, they have never been annual opponents.[252] Nevertheless, they have had many noteworthy meetings over the years, especially since the SEC Championship Game was instituted in 1992.

The Gators and Crimson Tide have met seven times for the SEC championship.[252] 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 champions going on to win the BCS National Championship Game. The Gators hold a tie with the Crimson Tide at 4–4 in SEC Championship Games with Alabama leading the overall series 25–14.[252]

Auburn[edit]

Auburn and Florida played annually from 1945 to 2002.[253] In terms of the overall series 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, giving the contest conference and national title implications.

The series has had many memorable contests, including several notable upsets. Auburn upset previously unbeaten Florida teams in 1993, 1994, 2001, 2006 and 2007, although the Gators went on to win SEC championships in 1993 and 1994.[55]

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. When Texas A&M and Missouri joined the conference in 2012, the schedule was changed so that each team played one permanent foe and one rotating opponent from the opposite division every year. 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.[253]

Miami[edit]

Florida and Miami formerly played each other for the Seminole War Canoe Trophy, but decided to cancel after the 1987 season,[254] when Florida's annual SEC schedule expanded to eight games. The two schools did not play each other again until the 2001 Sugar Bowl.[254] Florida and Miami played a home-and-home series in 2002 and 2003, and met again in the 2004 Peach Bowl.[254] Florida won the first leg of a home-and-home series in 2008, ending a six-game losing streak against the Hurricanes.[254] Their 2008 victory against the Hurricanes has been their only victory against them in the last 30 years. The last scheduled regular season meeting between the Gators and the Hurricanes was in Miami in 2013 where the Hurricanes won 21–16.[255] Miami holds a 29–26 edge in the all-time series.[254]

Conference affiliations[edit]

Conference championships[edit]

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.

Season Conference Coach Overall Conference
1991 SEC Steve Spurrier 10–2 7–0
1993 SEC Steve Spurrier 11–2 7–1
1994 SEC Steve Spurrier 10–2–1 7–1
1995 SEC Steve Spurrier 12–1 8–0
1996 SEC Steve Spurrier 12–1 8–0
2000 SEC Steve Spurrier 10–3 7–1
2006 SEC Urban Meyer 13–1 7–1
2008 SEC Urban Meyer 13–1 7–1
Total conference championships 8

Conference division championships[edit]

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 eleven appearances in the SEC Championship Game, more than any other SEC school, with the most recent in 2015. The Gators have won seven of the eleven SEC Championship Games in which they have appeared.

Season Division CG Result Opponent PF PA
1992 SEC Eastern Loss Alabama 21 28
1993 SEC Eastern Win Alabama 28 13
1994 SEC Eastern Win Alabama 24 23
1995 SEC Eastern Win Arkansas 34 3
1996 SEC Eastern Win Alabama 45 30
1999 SEC Eastern Loss Alabama 7 34
2000 SEC Eastern Win Auburn 28 6
2003 SEC Eastern
2006 SEC Eastern Win Arkansas 38 28
2008 SEC Eastern Win Alabama 31 20
2009 SEC Eastern Loss Alabama 13 32
2012 SEC Eastern
2015 SEC Eastern Loss Alabama 15 29
Totals 13 7–4 274 246

†In 1992, the Gators finished their season tied with Georgia for the SEC East; however, Florida had beaten Georgia head to head and won the tie-breaker to represent the division in the 1992 SEC Championship Game. In 2003, Florida ended the regular season in a three-way tie for the SEC East title with Georgia and Tennessee, and in 2012, the Gators ended tied with Georgia. According to the SEC's tie-breaking procedures, Georgia was selected to represent the division in both the 2003 SEC Championship Game and 2012 SEC Championship Game.

Yearly records[edit]

The Florida Gators football season records are taken from the official record books of the University Athletic Association. Through the conclusion of the 2013 season, the Gators have compiled an overall record of 684 wins, 395 losses, and 40 ties, including post-season bowl games.[55]

For a complete list of the Gators' season win-loss-tie records, and their end-of-season rankings in the AP and Coaches polls, please see the article linked immediately above.

All-time record vs. SEC teams[edit]

Opponent Won Lost Tied Percentage Streak First Last
Alabama 14 25 0 .359 Lost 5 1916 2015[252]
Arkansas 9 1 0 .900 Won 9 1982 2013[256]
Auburn 38 43 2 .470 Lost 3 1912 2011[253]
Georgia 42 49 2 .462 Won 2 1915 2015[247]
Kentucky 48 17 0 .734 Won 29 1917 2015[257][258]
LSU 31 28 3 .524 Lost 3 1937 2015[251]
Mississippi State 33 19 2 .630 Lost 1 1923 2010[259]
Missouri 2 3 0 .400 Won 1 1966 2015[260]
Ole Miss 11 12 1 .479 Won 1 1926 2015[261]
South Carolina 25 8 3 .736 Won 1 1911 2015[262]
Tennessee 26 19 0 .578 Won 11 1916 2015[248]
Texas A&M 2 1 0 .667 Won 2 1962 2012[263]
Vanderbilt 37 10 2 .776 Won 2 1945 2015[264]
Totals 318 235 15 .573

All-time record vs. in-state rivals[edit]

Opponent Won Lost Tied Percentage Streak First Last
Florida State 34 24 2 .583 Lost 3 1958 2015[265]
Miami 26 29 0 .473 Lost 1 1938 2013[254]
Totals 60 53 2 .530

Bowl games[edit]

The Florida Gators have appeared in 42 NCAA-sanctioned bowl games, with a total of 21 wins and 21 losses. This includes the Gators' streak of 22 consecutive bowl game appearances which stretched from 1991 through 2012 and was the fifth longest in college football history.[266]

Season Bowl Opponent Result
1912 Bacardi Bowl Vedado Athletic Club W, 28–0
1952 Gator Bowl Tulsa W, 14–13
1958 Gator Bowl Mississippi L, 3–7
1960 Gator Bowl Baylor W, 13–12
1962 Gator Bowl Penn State W, 17–7
1965 Sugar Bowl Missouri L, 18–20
1966 Orange Bowl Georgia Tech W, 27–12
1969 Gator Bowl Tennessee W, 14–13
1973 Tangerine Bowl Miami (OH) L, 7–16
1974 Sugar Bowl Nebraska L, 10–13
1975 Gator Bowl Maryland L, 0–13
1976 Sun Bowl Texas A&M L, 14–37
1980 Tangerine Bowl Maryland W, 35–20
1981 Peach Bowl West Virginia L, 6–26
1982 Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl Arkansas L, 24–28
1983 Gator Bowl Iowa W, 14–6
1987 Aloha Bowl UCLA L, 16–20
1988 All-American Bowl Illinois W, 14–10
1989 Freedom Bowl Washington L, 7–34
1991 Sugar Bowl Notre Dame L, 28–39
1992 Gator Bowl (Bowl Coalition) NC State W, 27–10
1993 Sugar Bowl (Bowl Coalition) West Virginia W, 41–7
1994 Sugar Bowl (Bowl Coalition) Florida State L, 17–23
1995 Fiesta Bowl (Bowl Alliance National Championship) Nebraska L, 24–62
1996 Sugar Bowl (Bowl Alliance National Championship) Florida State W, 52–20
1997 Florida Citrus Bowl Penn State W, 21–6
1998 Orange Bowl (BCS) Syracuse W, 31–10
1999 Florida Citrus Bowl Michigan State L, 34–37
2000 Sugar Bowl (BCS) Miami (FL) L, 20–37
2001 Orange Bowl (BCS) Maryland W, 56–23
2002 Outback Bowl Michigan L, 30–38
2003 Outback Bowl Iowa L, 17–37
2004 Peach Bowl Miami (FL) L, 10–27
2005 Outback Bowl Iowa W, 31–24
2006 BCS National Championship Game Ohio State W, 41–14
2007 Capital One Bowl Michigan L, 35–41
2008 BCS National Championship Game Oklahoma W, 24–14
2009 Sugar Bowl (BCS) Cincinnati W, 51–24
2010 Outback Bowl Penn State W, 37–24
2011 Gator Bowl Ohio State W, 24–17
2012 Sugar Bowl (BCS) Louisville L, 23–33
2014 Birmingham Bowl East Carolina W, 28–20
2015 Citrus Bowl Michigan L, 7-41
Games 42 Bowl Record: 21–21

Overall bowl record: 21–21 (42 Games)

† The University Athletic Association does not recognize the 1912 "Bacardi Bowl" in the Gators' official bowl record.

National championships[edit]

Year Coach Selector Record Bowl Opponent Result
1996 Steve Spurrier AP, Coaches 12–1 Sugar Bowl (Bowl Alliance National Championship Game) Florida State W 52–20
2006 Urban Meyer BCS, AP 13–1 BCS National Championship Game Ohio State W 41–14
2008 Urban Meyer BCS, AP 13–1 BCS National Championship Game Oklahoma W 24–14
Total national championships: 3

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.[267] 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.[268] 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.[269]

Individual award winners[edit]

College Football Hall of Fame members[edit]

Twelve persons associated with the Florida Gators football program have been inducted as members of the College Football Hall of Fame, including thee former Gators head coaches and nine former Gators players:

Name Position Florida years Inducted
Carlos Alvarez Wide receiver 1969–71 2011[272]
Charlie Bachman Coach 1928–32 1978[273]
Wes Chandler Wide receiver 1974–77 2015
Doug Dickey Coach 1970–78 2003[274]
Ray Graves Coach 1960–69 1990[275]
Marcelino Huerta Coach 1947–49 2002[276]
Wilber Marshall Linebacker 1980–83 2008[277]
Emmitt Smith Running back 1987–89 2006[278]
Steve Spurrier Quarterback 1963–66 1986[279]
Dale Van Sickel End 1927–29 1975[72]
Danny Wuerffel Quarterback 1993–96 2013[280]
Jack Youngblood Defensive end 1967–70 1992[281]

Doug Dickey was also the Gators' quarterback from 1951 to 1952, but was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003 for his record as the head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers from 1964 to 1969 and the Florida Gators from 1970 to 1978.[274] Steve Spurrier was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986 for his record as the Gators' Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback from 1964 to 1966.[279] Marcelino Huerta was a standout lineman for the Gators from 1947 to 1949, but was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002 for his record as the head coach of the Tampa Spartans, Wichita State Shockers and Parson Wildcats.[276]

All-Americans[edit]

Since the Florida Gators played their first football season in 1906, eighty-nine Gators football players have received one or more selections as first-team All-Americans.[55] Included among these players are thirty-one consensus All-Americans, of which six were also unanimous All-Americans.[282] The first Florida player to be recognized as a first-team All-American was end Dale Van Sickel, a member of the great 1928 Gators.[283] Florida's first consensus All-American was quarterback Steve Spurrier, who was the winner of the Heisman Trophy for the 1966 Gators.[55][284]

For a complete list of all Florida Gators players who have received All-American honors, please see the article linked immediately above.

SEC Legends[edit]

Main article: SEC Football Legends

Starting in 1994, the Southeastern Conference has annually honored one former football player from each SEC member school as an "SEC Legend." Through 2012, the following twenty former Gators football players have been honored as SEC Legends.

Fergie Ferguson Award[edit]

Main article: Fergie Ferguson Award

The Forrest K. Ferguson Award is given in memory of one of the University of Florida's finest athletes, Forest K. Ferguson. Ferguson was an All-SEC end for the Gators in 1941 and was the state boxing champion in 1942. He subsequently served as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, and led an infantry platoon during the D-Day landings in Normandy, France on June 6, 1944.[285] Ferguson helped clear the way for his troops to advance on the enemy position, and was severely wounded leading his men in the assault.[285] He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions.[285] He subsequently died from war-related injuries in 1954. The Fergie Ferguson Award is made annually in the form of a trophy, and is given to the senior football player who most displays "leadership, character, and courage."[286]

Ring of Honor[edit]

Unlike many other college and professional sports teams, the Florida Gators do not currently have any retired jersey numbers. The jersey numbers of Steve Spurrier (11) and Scot Brantley (55) were once retired, but Spurrier re-issued the numbers during his time as head coach.

The Gator Football Ring of Honor is the Gators' alternative to retiring a player's number and pays homage to the greatest former players and coaches. The University Athletic Association created the Ring of Honor in commemoration of 100 years of Florida Football and was unveiled in 2006. Jerseys featuring the numbers of Wilber Marshall (88), Emmitt Smith (22), Steve Spurrier (11), Danny Wuerffel (7), and Jack Youngblood (74) are displayed on the facade of the north endzone of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. However, these numbers are regularly used by current players.[287]

Name Position No. Florida years Inducted
Wilber Marshall Linebacker 88 1980–83 2007
Emmitt Smith Running back 22 1987–89 2006
Steve Spurrier Quarterback 11 1964–66, 1990–2001 2006
Danny Wuerffel Quarterback 7 1993–96 2006
Jack Youngblood Defensive end 74 1967–70 2006

To be considered for induction into the Ring of Honor, a former player or coach must be removed from the university for five seasons, be in good standing, and satisfy at least one of the following criteria:

  • Heisman Trophy winners (Spurrier, Wuerffel);
  • Former All-Americans who were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as players (Smith, Youngblood);
  • Former All-Americans who are NFL career category leaders (Smith);
  • College career category leaders;
  • Coaches with one or more national championship (Spurrier);
  • Coaches with three or more SEC championships (Spurrier); or
  • Players with two or more consensus All-America honors who have also been named national offensive or defensive player of the year (Marshall).

All-Time teams[edit]

A University of Florida All-Time Team was put out by the Florida Alumnus, the official organ of the Florida Alumni, in 1927.[288]

Another University of Florida All-Time Team was chosen by The Miami Herald by a fan vote in August 1983.

All-Century Team[edit]

The Florida Gator All-Century team was chosen by Gator fans and organized by The Gainesville Sun in the Fall of 1999.

100th Anniversary Team[edit]

The University of Florida Gator 100th Anniversary Team was selected in conjunction with the celebration of 100 Years of Florida Football. In 2006, fans voted with mail-in ballots and on the internet.

Gators in the National Football League[edit]

Numerous former Florida Gators have played in the National Football League (NFL), starting in the 1920s. Former Gators who have distinguished themselves in the NFL include defensive lineman Jack Youngblood and running back Emmitt Smith, both of whom have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. For a complete list of all former Gators who have played in a regular season NFL game, please see the article linked immediately above.

Current coaching staff[edit]

The current head coach of the Florida Gators is Jim McElwain, and the 2015 season will be McElwain's first with the Gators. McElwain replaced Will Muschamp after the 2014 regular season and bowl game. Below is a list of McElwain's coordinators and assistant coaches for 2015. For a complete list of all Florida Gators football head coaches from 1906 through the present, please see the article linked immediately above.

Name Responsibilities Joined
Jim McElwain Head coach 2014
Doug Nussmeier Offensive coordinator/Quarterbacks 2015
Geoff Collins Defensive coordinator 2015
Greg Nord Special teams/Tight ends 2015
Kerry Dixon II Wide receivers 2015
Randy Shannon Associate head coach/Linebackers 2015
Mike Summers Offensive line 2014
Kirk Callahan Defensive backs 2015
Tim Skipper Running backs 2015
Chris Rumph Defensive line 2015

Future opponents[edit]

Non-division opponents[edit]

Florida plays Louisiana State (LSU) as a permanent non-division opponent annually, and with the other six SEC Western Division rotated on a six-year cycle, so that Florida plays every Western Division team once every six years, and twice every twelve years, with alternating home and away games.[289]

2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 2025
vs LSU at LSU vs LSU at LSU vs LSU at LSU vs LSU at LSU vs LSU at LSU
at Arkansas vs Texas A&M at MSU vs Auburn at Ole Miss vs Alabama at Texas A&M vs Arkansas at Auburn vs MSU

Non-conference opponents[edit]

Announced schedules as of October 7, 2015

2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
vs UMass
September 3
vs Michigan
at Arlington, TX.
September 2
vs Colorado State
September 15
vs Florida State
November 30
at Florida State
November 28
vs North Texas
September 17
vs Florida State
November 25
at Florida State
November 24
vs Miami (FL) (Orlando, FL)
August 31
vs Presbyterian
November 19
vs UAB
November 18
vs Idaho
TBA
at Florida State
November 26

[290]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The NCAA records for "consensus" All-Americans do not reflect the total number of All-American honors received by Gators football players, only those players who received a majority of the various first-team All-American selections at their position in any given season. The Gators' first consensus All-American was quarterback Steve Spurrier in 1966; the thirty-second and most recent was cornerback Vernon Hargreaves in 2015.[1]
  2. ^ The University of Florida would not accept its first black student until 1958, and would not become fully integrated racially until the 1960s.[2]
  3. ^ It was Mike Donahue's first season at Auburn and John Heisman's first season at Georgia Tech.
  4. ^ In 1903, Bridges at Cumberland and Forsythe at Clemson tied in the first organized Southern championship game.[10] Forsythe was the only one on Heisman's Clemson teams to spend every minute of his career on the field.[10]
  5. ^ Just half a contest was played, against Julia Landon Institute of Jacksonville.
  6. ^ Forsythe used the Minnesota shift and also played on the team.[16]
  7. ^ The team picture is captioned "Champions of Florida '07".
  8. ^ 1909 is the last season in which Stetson claims a state championship.[18]
  9. ^ The first game was played under the so-called "old rules" that existed before the American football reforms of 1906. In that game, Florida defeated the Vedado Tennis Club, 28–0.[26] Five days later, Florida played the Cuban Athletic Club of Havana under the "new rules."[27]
  10. ^ Rex Farrior became a name partner in a prominent Tampa law firm with 1910 quarterback Bob Shackleford, and remained one of the biggest boosters of the Gators sports program until his death.
  11. ^ Namely end Ferdinand H. Duncan, halfback Ark Newton, tackle Arthur Doty, fullback Ray C. Dickson, and end Lloyd Hockenstadt.[40]
  12. ^ Perry is also the namesake of the university's baseball stadium: Perry Field.
  13. ^ According to the F Club, the university's lettermen's association.[43]
  14. ^ En route, the team met then-President Warren Harding in Washington, D. C.[48]
  15. ^ Van Fleet was an active duty U.S. Army officer who was also the senior officer of the university's Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program. As a regimental commander, he participated in the D-Day landings in Normandy, France during World War II, and later became a division and corps commander under General George Patton. During the Korean War, Van Fleet commanded the U.S. Eighth Army, following Douglas MacArthur and Matthew Ridgway. He retired as a four-star general in 1953
  16. ^ Vanderbilt, where Wade had coach previously, thus won the conference.
  17. ^ Newton, Goldstein, and lineman Cy Williams were among the first Gators to play professional football, as teammates with the Newark Bears of the fledgling American Football League
  18. ^ Van Fleet swore biased officiating cost his Gators the victory.[59]
  19. ^ Sebring was a student at the University of Florida College of Law while serving as the Gators' coach. He later was appointed to the Florida Supreme Court.
  20. ^ Jones played a nine-game season, and the record stood until 1969 when sophomore fullback Tommy Durrance broke it by scoring 110 points during an eleven-game season.
  21. ^ Sebring later became a circuit court judge and chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court.
  22. ^ Just before Rockne died in a plane crash, he vacationed in Florida and spoke with Bachman.[69]
  23. ^ Crabtree was ambidextrous and could throw passes with either hand or punt with either foot, while on the run or stationary,[74]
  24. ^ John McEwan coached Oregon, who had been Army's coach during the Van Fleet era.
  25. ^ Tigert was All-Southern in 1903.
  26. ^ Mayberry was also the first Gator ever chosen in the NFL Draft, though he never played professionally.
  27. ^ Ferguson also received honorable mention All-America honors from Grantland Rice in Collier's magazine.[96]
  28. ^ Gator Paul Duhart was drafted second overall, after Trippi, in the 1945 NFL Draft, the highest a Gator has ever been taken.
  29. ^ Wolf failed to use the two-platoon system and used the by-then dated double-wing, only converting to the T-formation by 1948.[103]
  30. ^ In order to induce Woodruff to coach the Florida team, the Florida Board of Control offered him a seven-year guaranteed contract at $17,000 per year; an annual salary $5,000 more than that of University of Florida President J. Hillis Miller.[109]
  31. ^ Haywood Sullivan was the first sophomore in SEC history to throw for more than 1,000 yards in a season. He set nine school records.These included average (50.3%), yardage (1,170), and average for a single game (7 for 7 against Kentucky).[110]
  32. ^ LaPradd became a football coach at FSU and then president of St. John's River Community College in Palatka.[115]
  33. ^ The NCAA embraced a set of new rules requiring the use of the one-platoon system, primarily due to financial reasons. The system allowed only one player to be substituted between plays, which effectively put an end to the use of separate specialized units. Tennessee's coach Neyland praised the change as the end of "chickenshit football"[116]
  34. ^ Parrish had been named AP "Back of the Week" for his performance in the 14–7 win over Vanderbilt. This included rushing for 111 yards, scoring both touchdowns, kicking both extra points, catching an interception, and making seven tackles—including one to prevent the Commodores' tying score.[120]
  35. ^ Bill Kastelz, the sports editor of the Jacksonville Times-Union, wrote: "Big, fast and tough, he outshone all of Auburn's great linemen."[123]
  36. ^ Steve Spurrier led the Gators to seventy-three wins from 1990 to 1996, and ultimately won a total of 122 games as the Gators' head coach from 1990 to 2001.
  37. ^ Coach Ray Graves' Gators football teams of the 1960s produced fifteen first-team All-Americans. From 1906 to 1959, the Gators only had five players who received first-team All-American honors.
  38. ^ Baylor dropped a pass for the two-point conversion and the win, and Quarterback Larry Libertore was voted game MVP.[133]
  39. ^ They wore the Confederate Battle Flag on the side of their helmets to pump up the southern team facing a favored northern school.[135]
  40. ^ Before the game, Florida's defensive coordinator Gene Ellenson challenged his shaky team's manhood and they rose to the occasion.[136]
  41. ^ His 187 yards rushing resulted in him being named the game's "Outstanding Player."[140]
  42. ^ For the first time since 1921[153]
  43. ^ Dickey employed the wishbone offense for the first season in the Gators' history.[154]
  44. ^ Including Red Bethea's single-game yardage record in a 23–14 upset of Alabama in 1987.[178]
  45. ^ FSU plays at Doak Campbell Stadium
  46. ^ During this stretch, Spurrier became the Gators' all-time winningest coach, surpassing Ray Graves' 70 career wins.
  47. ^ Tony George memorably returned an interception 88 yards for a score.[201] Peyton Manning went on to be the first overall pick the NFL Draft and break numerous NFL records, but ended his career without a win against Florida.
  48. ^ Spurrier had returned to the college ranks at South Carolina
  49. ^ 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)

References[edit]

  1. ^ NCAA Football Award Winners, National Collegiate Athletic Association, Indianapolis, Indiana, pp. 7–13 (2015).
  2. ^ a b c See Michael DiRocco, "Generations of inspiration: The first black football players at UF remain an inspiration to others," ESPN (February 24, 2012). Retrieved September 20, 2012.
  3. ^ "A History of Stetson Football" (PDF). 
  4. ^ a b Kabat, Before the Seminoles pp. 23-33
  5. ^ e. g. "Pinakidias". p. 73. 
  6. ^ James P. Jones. "F. S. U. ONE TIME A HISTORY OF SEMINOLE FOOTBALL". p. vi. 
  7. ^ a b c d e McEwen, The Gators, p. 20-30
  8. ^ "America's Lost Colleges". America's Lost Colleges. 
  9. ^ McEwen, The Gators, p. 30-34
  10. ^ a b Wiley Lee Umphlett. Creating the Big Game: John W. Heisman and the Invention of American Football. p. 67. 
  11. ^ University Athletic Association / IMG College copyright 2015. "Gator Memories - Henry Buckman Starts UF". gatorzone.com. 
  12. ^ a b "University of Florida History". 
  13. ^ McEwen, The Gators, pp. 36–37.
  14. ^ Carlson, Norm (September 14, 2009). "Gator talk: History lesson". Gatorzone.com. Retrieved July 19, 2013. 
  15. ^ Carlson, Football Vault p. 38
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