Florida Gators football

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Florida Gators Football
2015 Florida Gators football team
Florida Gators logo.svg
First season 1906
Athletic director Jeremy Foley
Head coach Jim McElwain
1st year, 10–1 (.909)
Home stadium Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Stadium capacity 88,548
Stadium surface Grass
Location Gainesville, Florida
Conference SEC (1933– )
Division SEC Eastern Division
(1992– )
All-time record 701–401–40 (.631)
Postseason bowl record 21–20 (.512)
Claimed national titles 3 (1996, 2006, 2008)
Conference titles 8
Heisman winners 3
Consensus All-Americans 31[1]
Current uniform

orange and blue

Fight song "The Orange and Blue"
Mascot Albert and Alberta Gator
Marching band Pride of the Sunshine
Rivals Georgia Bulldogs
FSU Seminoles
Tennessee Volunteers
LSU Tigers
Auburn Tigers
Miami Hurricanes
Website GatorZone.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 Athletics Association (NCAA) and the Eastern Division of the Southeastern Conference (SEC). They play their home games in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (popularly known as "The Swamp") on the university's Gainesville, Florida campus. The Gators have won three national championships and eight SEC titles in the 108-season history of their varsity football program.



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 will be 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.


Before the Gators[edit]

1899 Florida Agricultural College team

The modern University of Florida was created in 1905 when the Florida Legislature enacted the Buckman Act, which abolished all of the State of Florida's existing, publicly supported institutions of higher learning and consolidated the academic programs of four of them in the new "University of the State of Florida", a land-grant university for white men.[2]

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

On November 22, 1901, Florida Agricultural College (FAC) and Stetson College assembled teams for a match in Jacksonville as part of the State Fair, the first known intercollegiate football game played in the state of Florida.[3] Stetson won 6–0, after a sure FAC score was obstructed by a tree stump.[4] This first game sparked considerable interest for football in the state, and as a result several other colleges organized intercollegiate contests of their own, which included the East Florida Seminary in Gainesville and Florida State College in Tallahassee.[5] The 1902 East Florida Seminary team split games with Stetson and declared itself a state champion.

1903 Lake City team

The first coach of FAC was James M. Farr, an English professor from South Carolina, who led the team to a victory over Florida State College in 1902.[6] Two of UF's predecessor institutions, the University of Florida at Lake City (previously known as FAC) and the East Florida Seminary played each other in 1903.[7] The 1904 Lake City team was coached by Marvin O. Bridges and beaten easily by all its opponents, including several southern powers outside of Florida: the Alabama Crimson White, the Auburn Tigers, the Georgia Bulldogs, first-year head coach John Heisman's Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. The team lost its final game to state champion Florida State College. Florida State College's coach was Jack Forsythe, who later became the first coach of the Florida Gators.[8][9][10]

Of all the players from these earlier predecessor teams of the Florida Gators, only tackle William Gibbs of the 1905 Lake City team made the transition to the new university's team in Gainesville in the fall of 1906.[11]

Humble beginnings (1906–22)[edit]

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. The as-yet un-nicknamed state university football team began varsity play when the Gainesville campus opened in September 1906.

1907 University of Florida football team. Forsythe is center row, second from left. Shands is bottom right.

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.[12] 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.[13][14]

Jack Forsythe era (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. The 1907 team was co-champions of the state with Stetson. The 1908 team defeated Stetson at home and managed a scoreless tie on the road. William A. Shands, later state senator and namesake of Shands Hospital, played on both the 1907 and 1908 teams. Some time during these early years, the Florida sports teams adopted their orange and blue team colors, purportedly representing a combination of the blue and white of the old Florida Agricultural College and the orange and black of the old East Florida Seminary, two of the above referenced predecessor institutions.[15]

George Pyle

George Pyle era (1909–13)[edit]

"Bo Gator" Storter

The official name of the new university was shortened to the "University of Florida" in 1909, and George Pyle became the new head coach of the 1909 Florida football team. The only blemish on the year were the two games to Stetson, a loss in the away game in DeLand made up for by a tie in Gainesville. 1909 is the last season in which Stetson claims a state championship.[16] Pyle accumulated a 26–7–3 record and a 0.764 winning percentage in his time with the Gators,[17] making him still the third winningest coach in school history.

The 1910s saw the team face many of their current rivals and regular opponents for the first time. The newly named Gators met the South Carolina Gamecocks for the first time. The 1911 Gators captained by Neal "Bo Gator" Storter tied South Carolina, defeated The Citadel Bulldogs, Clemson Tigers and the College of Charleston, declared themselves to be the "champions of South Carolina," 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 Florida football history,[18][19] scored 49 of the team's 84 points, including a then-school record of 8 field goals.[20][21]

Dummy Taylor

When the Gators joined the now-defunct Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (SIAA), in time for the 1912 season, the first southern athletics conference, they faced the Auburn Tigers in the teams' first contest. Florida posted a 5–2–1 record and beat South Carolina for the first time.[17]

After the season, the team participated in its first post-season game, the Bacardi Bowl held in Havana, Cuba. It was actually a two-game series against different Cuban athletic clubs. The first game was played on December 25 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.[22] On December 30, Florida played the Cuban Athletic Club of Havana under the "new rules." Pyle and his team left the game in protest.[23] Pyle was arrested by the Cuban authorities.[24] He was charged with violating a law that prohibited a game's suspension after money had been collected.[25] After his trial was delayed, Pyle and the Gators left the island country,[24] which caused him to be branded a "fugitive from justice."[23]

The 1913 team defeated the Florida Southern Moccasins 144 to 0. Back Harvey Hester played under an assumed name and scored 7 touchdowns.[26][27] The very next game the Gators lost 55 to 0 to conference champion Auburn. They also beat the Mercer Baptists for the first time.

C. J. McCoy era (1914–16)[edit]

Rammy Ramsdell

In C. J. McCoy's first season in 1914, the team posted a 5–2 record. The following season, McCoy was also the school's first basketball coach. The 1915 Gators played the Georgia Bulldogs and Tulane Green Wave for the first time. Led by quarterback Rammy Ramsdell, the first scholarship athlete at the University of Florida,[28] the Gators defeated Tulane 14–7. Ramsdell ran in a touchdown in the rain to seal the victory. He also scored a then-school record of four touchdowns against Mercer. The 1916 Gators, captained by Rex Farrior, faced the Alabama Crimson Tide and Tennessee Volunteers for the first time.[29] The ill-fated 1916 team lost every game, starting the season with an injury to Ramsdell and ending it with one to Farrior. They were shutout in all but the last game against Indiana, a 14–3 loss.[30]

Al Buser era (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. The 1917 season, however, was a 2–4 disappointment. During his three seasons leading the Gators, Buser compiled a 7–8 record,[31] including the one-game 1918 season shortened by the 1918 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 was viewed by many as an unacceptable failure. Only Gator captain Jim Sparkman drew praise for his play against Southern.[32]

W. G. Kline

William G. Kline era (1920–22)[edit]

Tootie Perry

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. 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," namely end Ferdinand H. Duncan, halfback Ark Newton, tackle Arthur Doty, fullback Ray C. Dickson, and end Lloyd Hockenstadt.[33][34]

The 1921 Gators were captained by center Tootie Perry, the Gators' first All-Southern selection.[35] At greater than 210 pounds, he was a very large player in his day. The 1922 Seminole, the University of Florida yearbook, called Perry the Gators' "jolly captain" and "Dixie's greatest guard" who played every minute of every game for two years and "developed into a wizard at blocking punts."[36] The 1921 Gators went 6–3–2 overall and 4–1–2 in the conference, including ties with Hall of Famer Goat Hale's Mississippi College Choctaws 7–7 and a defeat of Alabama for the first time by a 9–2 score. End Ferdinand Duncan scored all the points in the win over Alabama. The Gators also hosted a postseason contest in Jacksonville against the North Carolina Tar Heels, but lost 14 to 10. Georgia head coach Herman Stegeman wrote in his treatment of football in the south for Spalding's Football Guide, considered an "official" publication: "Florida, for the first time, had a strong team. Aided by Dixon, the South's best punter, they combined a kicking game and a well diversified offense to good advantage."[37]

Ark Newton

The 1922 Gators joined the Southern Conference following their regional rivals' departure from the SIAA at the end of the prior year. Former University of Virginia athlete James L. White was hired as athletic director. In the conference's inaugural season, the Gators posted an undefeated conference record, though only played two conference opponents (the Tulane Green Wave and Clemson) and so did not rank as co-champions among Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, and North Carolina. The 1922 Spalding's Football Guide ranked Florida as the best forward passing team in the country.[38] One sportswriter alleged Newton threw 13 completions in a row in the 27 to 6 win over Tulane in New Orleans.[39] Newton was selected All-Southern by Ed Hebert of the Times-Picayune there.[40] Nicknamed "Ark" as he came from Arkansas, Newton was one of the greatest early Florida athletes, winning a total of 14 varsity letters and twice lettering in football, baseball, basketball and track in the same year.[41]

The 1922 season also includes the Gators' first game against a traditional northeastern college football power as they traveled north to play the Harvard Crimson. The Gators stopped in Washington, D. C. en route to Massachusetts and met then-president Warren Harding. In the game to follow, Harvard subs overwhelmed the Florida team 24 to 0 in front of the largest crowd yet to see the Gators play. One writer recalled Florida's Robbie Robinson, "who at times stood Harvard's backs on their heads"..."Robinson and Duncan stood out all afternoon."[42] All year the Gators suffered only one other loss: on opening week they suffered an upset from Furman in the rain, losing by a single point.

First national prominence (1923–32)[edit]

Edgar Jones

From 1923 to 1925 the Gators had the best three-year streak in the history of the first 20 years of the Florida football program. The 1923 Gators garnered some of the team's first coverage in the national media, and this era includes the Gators' first intersectional victories. 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 era (1923–24)[edit]

Major James Van Fleet, an army officer and assistant under Kline,[43] coached the 1923 and 1924 teams to their first taste of national prestige,[44] posting 6–1–2 and 6–2–2 records.[45] Both teams suffered losses to Eastern power Army Cadets and ties to southern power Georgia Tech.[46]

The 1923 Gators celebrated their first ever homecoming with a win over Mercer. Aside from Georgia Tech, the team suffered another tie with the Mississippi A&M Aggies, a team which tied conference champion Vanderbilt. To close the season, the Gators shocked Wallace Wade's heavily favored Alabama Crimson Tide in Birmingham and the rain 16–6 in one of the biggest upsets of the year, giving the Gators some of their first national coverage.[45] Alabama had not yet lost to a southern team.[47] Edgar Jones scored all of the Gators' points and Newton provided long punts. Newton and lineman Max "Goldy" Goldstein, both later among the first Gators to play professional football, were on the composite All-Southern team at year's end. Gator lineman Cy Williams also went on to play professionally alongside Newton and Goldstein, with the Newark Bears of the fledgling American Football League.

A field goal on Fleming Field in 1924.

The 1924 Gators tied the Texas Longhorns aside from Georgia Tech; and as well as the loss to Army suffered a 10–0 upset from Mercer after some 5,000 miles of travel in three weeks. The Gators scored an intersectional victory over the Drake Bulldogs, and ranked second to conference champion Alabama. Goldstein and Jones made composite All-Southern.

Tom Sebring

Tom Sebring era (1925–27)[edit]

Led by new head coach Tom Sebring,[48] a former star football player for the Kansas State Wildcats, the 1925 Gators finished 8–2.[49] All-Southern halfback Edgar Jones scored 108 points, setting the team record for most points scored in a season—a record that stood for another forty-four years.[46][50] Goldstein made composite All-Southern for the third straight season. Injuries plagued the 1926 team, which posted a 2–6–2 record.[51] Bill Middlekauff, a fullback who played on the 1923 and 1924 teams, returned to the squad.[52]

The 1927 season hit a snag early with an upset loss to the Davidson Wildcats in the second week. A few days after the loss, captain Frank Oosterhoudt was declared ineligible; his replacement by unanimous vote was Bill Middlekauff.[53] With Middlekauff at captain, the Gators finished 7–3 and defeated Auburn for the first time. The Gators won more conference games in 1927 than they had in any two previous seasons combined. Sebring graduated from the university's College of Law and left the university in 1928, but recruited a talented team for his successor.[54]

Charlie Bachman era (1928–32)[edit]

Charlie Bachman

Coach Charlie Bachman led the Gators to greater national recognition, taking over as the Gators head coach in 1928. Bachman 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 Knute Rockne,[55] Bachman used the Notre Dame Box of his former team; players in the backfield lined up as if in a T formation, then shifted to a box formation.[56] He coached Sebring at Kansas State. Bachman's 1928 and 1929 Gators squads finished 8–1 and 8–2, respectively,[57] and represented the Gators' highest season win totals for thirty-two years.

Dale Van Sickel

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 with the most points scored—336 points. The team's sole loss was to Robert Neyland's Tennessee Volunteers, 12–13, in the final game of the season. 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.[58]

Other key members of the 1928 backfield included captain and quarterback Goof Bowyer, halfback Tommy Owens, fullback Ed Sauls and halfback Red Bethea. One account reads "There were twelve backs on the squad. Six of them can do the hundred in 10.1 seconds. Eight of them are fine punters and ten of them are great passers. And all of them are good receivers."[59] The team produced the Gators' first-ever first-team All-American, end Dale Van Sickel, who later became Florida's first member of the College Football Hall of Fame, inducted in 1975.[60] Quarterback Crabtree, who was ambidextrous and could throw passes with either hand or punt with either foot, while on the run or stationary, and Van Sickel were both unanimous All-Southern selections. By the second week, in less than three quarters of play, Crabtree had directed eight touchdowns.[61]

Red Bethea

In 1929 the Gators lost only to defending national champion Georgia Tech and Harvard. They had a major intersectional victory, defeating the Oregon Webfoots 20–6 before 20,000 fans in the first game at Miami's Madison Square Garden Stadium.[62] The Gators also defeated Georgia for the second time, and played the school's first night game, defeating Auburn 19 to 0 in Montgomery, Alabama.

Another intersectional victory followed in 1930, when Florida defeated Amos Alonzo Stagg's Chicago Maroons 19–0. The victory was historic for the Florida football program, representing the first time the Gators won an inter-sectional game outside the South.[63] Against Chicago, Red Bethea rushed for a single-game team record of 218 yards which would stand for 55 years.[64] In the season's first game, against Florida Southern, Bethea had three touchdowns on his first three touches, including runs of 46 and 48 yards. This earned Bethea a column in Ripley's Believe It Or Not.[65] Bethea was voted a second-team All-American in the "captain's poll" of the Central Press Association by season's end. The 1930 season also includes a defeat of Georgia Tech 55 to 7, and the first-ever game at Florida Field, a 20–0 loss to national champion Alabama in front of some 18,000 fans. Guard Jimmy Steele was composite All-Southern.

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 the 19th and final game of the second season with a 12–2 intersectional upset of the UCLA Bruins.

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

John Tigert

The University of Florida joined the new Southeastern Conference (SEC) in December 1932, along with twelve other former member universities from the Southern Conference, including Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Louisiana State, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Sewanee, Tennessee, Tulane and Vanderbilt. University of Florida president John J. Tigert, a former All-Southern halfback on the Vanderbilt football teams of 19011903, was instrumental in the organization of the new conference and served four separate terms as the SEC president.

Florida Field

Tigert was also responsible for the construction of the Gators' first and only permanent stadium, Florida Field, in 1930. His drive to construct a new and larger stadium began upon his appointment on September 1, 1928.[66] 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.[67][68][69] 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.

Dutch Stanley era (1933–35)[edit]

Dutch Stanley

Gator alumnus Dutch Stanley, the end opposite Van Sickel on the team of '28, replaced Bachman as coach in 1933, the first SEC football season. Stanley, who was only 26 years old, had been a stand-out end on the great 1928 Gators team. He brought an all-Gator-alumni coaching staff to the program, including Ben Clemons, substitute center on the 1928 team, and the Gators experienced a brief two-year revival after two consecutive losing seasons under Bachman in 1931 and 1932.

Stanley's Gators posted 5–3–1 and 6–3–1 records in 1933 and 1934, but faltered with a 3–7 tally in 1935. The 1934 team won hard-fought victories over Auburn and Georgia Tech, and also posted a much trumpeted victory over NC State on Tampa's Plant Field.[70] Prominent Gator players during the Stanley era include second-team All-SEC quarterback Wally Brown, halfback Billy Chase, and lineman Al Hickland, a 250-pound, three-sport athlete who also did the kickoffs and field goals.[71][72]

Josh Cody era (1936–39)[edit]

Dutch Stanley resigned under fan pressure following the 1935 season, and was replaced by Josh Cody as head coach. Cody was a three-time All-American and former tackle for Dan McGugin's great Vanderbilt Commodores football teams of 1914, 1915, 1916 and 1919. Cody had previously coached the Clemson Tigers football team to a 29–11–1 record from 1927 to 1930, but returned to his alma mater to be the head coach of the Vanderbilt Commodores basketball team and serve as an 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.[73]

Cody draws a play.
Tiger Mayberry

In Cody's first season of 1936, the Gators posted only a single conference victory. Despite a 4–7 finish, the 1937 team beat Georgia and produced the Gators' first-ever first-team All-SEC selection: Tiger Mayberry. As the senior team captain, Mayberry ranked second in the country with 818 rushing yards in 1937.[74] Mayberry was a "triple threat" back who posted team records for interceptions in a season (6) and a career (11).[75] 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."[76] The 1938 season opened with an upset loss to Stetson at home and featured the first ever meeting between the Gators and the 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 Boston in 1939. Sophomore end Fergie Ferguson was the defensive star of the game for the Gators.[77] However, the Gators failed to win a conference game in 1939, and Cody left Gainesville to accept an assistant coach position at Temple University. Cody compiled a 17–24–2 win-loss-tie record in his four seasons as the Gators' mentor.

Tom Lieb era (1940–45)[edit]

Tom Lieb replaced Josh Cody as head coach in 1940. Lieb was a former Notre Dame All-American who became coach Knute Rockne's top assistant at Notre Dame. Lieb was an assistant on Notre Dame's first national championship team in 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. Lieb had also coached for Loyola, posting a winning record. Despite fans' early hopes for Lieb's "Notre Dame system" and his prior success at other jobs, however, the Gators posted a disappointing 20–26–1 record in five seasons.[78] Lieb's best season was probably his first in 1940, as the Gators celebrated victories over Georgia, Georgia Tech and Miami.

Fergie Ferguson competing in shot put.

The 1941 season was mostly disappointing aside from a 14–0 road win over Miami, and a hard-fought, 14–7 homecoming victory over Georgia Tech. The season included a 19–3 loss to Georgia despite Frank Sinkwich's broken jaw. However, the Gators honored their second first-team All-SEC selection, senior end Fergie Ferguson.[46] Ferguson also received honorable mention All-American honors from Grantland Rice in Collier's magazine.[79] He led the team with 36 points scored and 420 minutes played. Ferguson scored both touchdowns on receptions for 45 and 74 yards in the upset of Miami, while totaling 123 yards; The Miami Herald reported the game score as "Forrest Ferguson 14; University of Miami 0."[80][81] The much-coveted Fergie Ferguson Award is named in his honor.

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. Georgia's Sinkwich won the Heisman Trophy, and was helped by Charley Trippi. Gator Paul Duhart was drafted second overall after Trippi in the 1945 NFL Draft, the highest a Gator has ever been taken.

Florida did not field a team for lack of available players in 1943, and the 1945 backfield was made up entirely of freshmen.[82] During the war, former Gator Tiger Mayberry had his fighter aircraft shot down over the Pacific Ocean and died in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp; former Gator Fergie Ferguson received critical wounds while leading an infantry assault during the D-Day landings in France, from which he would later succumb.

Bear Wolf's "Golden Era" (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, and Bear Wolf, the pre-war head coach of North Carolina, replaced Tom Lieb. Unfortunately, the Gators football program slid even further under Wolf, posting a 13–24–2 record in four losing seasons,[83] the lowest point in the history of the Gators football program. It is ironically remembered by the close-knit players as the "Golden Era." Such players include standout guard and later Hall of Fame Tampa Spartans and Wichita State Shockers coach Marcelino Huerta.

Mr. Two Bits

The first season for Wolf was disastrous: the 1946 Gators finished 0–9—the worst football season in Gators history. The iconic cheerleader, Mr. Two Bits, attended his first home game during the 1946 season, and began his personal sixty-year tradition of leading Gators fans in the "two bits" cheer at Florida Field. On a winless team with few stars, and despite missing the last two games of the 1946 season due to injury, end Broughton Williams led the NCAA in receiving yards.[84]

The upset of the 18th-ranked North Carolina State Wolfpack in 1947 broke a thirteen-game post-war losing streak. Wolf failed to use the two-platoon system and used the by-then dated double-wing, only converting to the T-formation by 1948.[85] 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.

Hunsinger on the Chicago Bears.

Gators running back Chuck Hunsinger rushed for 2,017 yards in 1948 and 1949. Hunsinger ran for 174 yards and three touchdowns against the Georgia Bulldogs in the Gators' 28–7 victory in November 1949.[86] Jimmy Kynes, the last Gator football player to play every minute of an entire sixty-minute game,[46] provided defense in the win. However, the Gators lost their last three games, and Wolf's contract was not renewed after the 1949 season.[87]

Bob Woodruff era (1950–59)[edit]

The Gators achieved a measure of respectability under coach Bob Woodruff during the 1950s. Woodruff, who came to Florida from Baylor after an extensive coaching search,[88] was an eccentric who was a "master of X's and O's" and employed unusual methods to train and motivate his players. Woodruff was best known for his work as an assistant on Doc Blanchard's Army teams. 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;[89] an annual salary $5,000 more than that of University of Florida President J. Hillis Miller.[90]

Bob Woodruff

As a former Tennessee Volunteers football player and a disciple of legendary Volunteers coach Robert Neyland, Woodruff emphasized defense, field position and the kicking game to the exclusion of a more wide-open offensive scheme. Perhaps ironically, in Woodruff's first season of 1950 the Gators offense, led by quarterback Haywood Sullivan and Woodruff's offensive coordinator, Frank Broyles, posted record numbers. Sullivan was the first sophomore in SEC history to throw for more than 1,000 yards in a season. He set nine school records, including average (50.3%), yardage (1,170), and average for a single game (7 for 7 against Kentucky).[91] 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).

Rick Casares

The Gators peaked under Woodruff during the 1952 season, when they posted an 8–3 record, a No. 15 Associated Press Poll ranking, and received their first official post-season bowl invitation, defeating the Tulsa Golden Hurricane 14–13 in the Gator Bowl on New Year's Day. Star fullback Rick Casares kicked the winning extra point for the margin of victory.[92] Quarterback Doug Dickey advanced from seventh on the Gators' depth chart to starter after Sullivan's early departure for the Boston Red Sox left the Gators without a starting quarterback.[93] With Dickey and Casares in the backfield were Buford Long and "Papa" Hall. National champion Georgia Tech needed a last-second field goal to defeat the Gators. The 1952 Gators also produced Florida's second ever first-team All-American, walk-on tackle Charlie LaPradd, one of the two team captains and the lightest tackle on the team.[94] Led by LaPradd, the Gators dominated the rival Georgia Bulldogs 33–0 in Jacksonville, which would remain the Gators' largest victory over the Bulldogs for almost forty years.[95] Casares ran for 108 yards, kicked a field goal, and made all the extra points.[96]

Woodruff never again equaled the success of his 1952 Gators team, in part due to the NCAA rule changes of 1953 disallowing unlimited substitutions,[97][98] but his ten-year tenure as coach was notable for a 6–4 record against the rival Georgia Bulldogs, four final AP Poll top-twenty rankings, and the fact that only two of his ten Gators teams finished with losing records. The 1953 season was a year of rebuilding and backsliding after the graduation of LaPradd and the loss of fullback Casares to the U.S. Army.

Vel Heckman

The 1954 Gators' best-ever Southeastern Conference (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 Southeastern Conference schedule before the 1990s. The 1954 and 1955 teams featured third-team All-SEC back Jackie Simpson. The 1956 Gators produced first-team All-American guard John Barrow 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. The 1957 team upset 10th ranked LSU and finished with a #17 AP Ranking. Bernie Parrish was named Associated Press "Back of the Week" for his performance in the Gators' 14–7 win over Vanderbilt, including 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.[99] Running back Jim Rountree was All-SEC. The prospects for the 1958 season were devastated by Parrish deciding to play baseball with the Cincinnati Reds.[100]

The 1958 Gators produced first-team All-American tackle Vel Heckman and posted a No. 15 ranking despite a 6–4–1 record. The season included a 12–9 upset win over Miami and the first-ever win over the new in-state rival Florida State Seminoles. Bill Kastelz, the sports editor of the Jacksonville Times-Union, wrote that Heckman's play reached All-American levels in the 7–10 loss to No. 3-ranked LSU on October 25.[101] The following week, an injury to one of Florida's tackles led coach Woodruff to use an unorthodox strategy of shifting Heckman between the right and left tackle positions during the game in a 5–6 loss to No. 4-ranked Auburn.[102] Sports reporter Bill Kastelz wrote: "Big, fast and tough, he outshone all of Auburn's great linemen."[101] 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."[103]

Woodruff finished his Gators career with a combined record of 53–42–6.[104] Despite having returned the Gators to competitive respectability within the Southeastern Conference (SEC) in his ten seasons as the Gators' coach and athletic director, University of Florida president J. Wayne Reitz declined to renew Woodruff's contract in 1959 after two previous contract extensions. Woodruff returned to the University of Tennessee, his alma mater, in 1963, where he became the long-time athletic director of the Tennessee Volunteers sports program.

Ray Graves era (1960–69)[edit]

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,[105] a Florida record that stood for twenty-seven years.[106]

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

Graves, a former assistant under Tennessee coach Robert Neyland and a long-time Georgia Tech defensive assistant for coach Bobby Dodd,[107] led his Gators to a series of "firsts," including the Gators' first nine-win season in 1960, and their first Sugar Bowl appearance on New Year's Day 1966 (an 18–20 loss). During this same time, Dr. Robert Cade and other University of Florida medical researchers developed the popular sports drink Gatorade and tested it on the Gators football team under the consistently extreme conditions of heat and humidity under which the team played. Gatorade was a success, and the Gators developed a reputation as a "second-half team."

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, led by option quarterback Larry Libertore, drop-back passer Bobby Dodd, Jr., and running back Lindy Infante, gambled on a successful two-point conversion for the last-minute win.[108] In the Gator Bowl, the Gators defense, sparked by All-SEC senior guard Vic Miranda, 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.[109] Baylor dropped a pass for the two-point conversion and the win, and Libertore was voted game MVP.

The 1961 team attempted the three-platoon system of Paul Dietzel and finished with a disappointing 4–5–1 record.[110] The 1962 team again won the Gator Bowl, this time an upset over ninth-ranked Penn State. The backfield included Libertore and All-SEC tailback Larry Dupree. They wore the Confederate Battle Flag on the side of their helmets to pump up the southern team facing a favored northern school.[111] The 1963 Gators started their season 1–1–1, having eked out their single win over the Richmond Spiders (35–28). Before the fourth game against coach Bear Bryant's third-ranked Alabama, Gators defensive coordinator Gene Ellenson challenged his shaky team's manhood and they rose to the occasion. The highlight of the season followed: a 10–6 upset of the Joe Namath-quarterbacked Crimson Tide on their home field in Tuscaloosa, Alabama—one of only two home losses in Denny Stadium during Bryant's twenty-five years as the Crimson Tide's coach. Graves' 1963 Florida Gators won their last three games over Georgia (21–14), Miami (27–21) and Florida State (7–0) to finish 6–3–1.

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

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 the 7th ranked LSU Tigers 20–6 in a game played weeks after the season finale due to Hurricane Hilda. The 1965 team was ranked No. 12 in the United Press coaches poll and lost a close game to the Missouri Tigers in the Sugar Bowl, the Gators' first major bowl appearance. Spurrier was recognized as the game's Most Valuable Player—the only MVP selected from the losing team in the history of the Sugar Bowl. Bruce Bennett broke Tiger Mayberry's career interception record, and Spurrier, Bennett, Charles Casey, Larry Gagner and Lynn Matthews were chosen as first-team All-Americans.

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.[112] Running back Larry Smith had a 94-yard touchdown run in the Orange Bowl—while struggling to keep his pants up. His 187 yards rushing resulted in him being named the game's "Outstanding Player."[113] Spurrier won the Heisman Trophy,[114] awarded annually to the most outstanding college football player in the nation, and was a unanimous All-American. He memorably waved off Florida's starting kicker and booted a 40-yard field goal to give the Gators a 30–27 victory over Auburn.[115] Along with Spurrier and Smith, end Richard Trapp and center Bill Carr were selected All-SEC.

The 1967 Gators upset Georgia, something even the 1966 team failed to do. Trapp sparked a Gator comeback with a 57-yard touchdown catch-and-run. Wayne Barfield kicked the field goal with 34 seconds left to upset the Bulldogs 17–16.[116]

Carlos Alvarez (45) vs. Georgia, 1970

The 1968–69 school year brought a first of another kind, too. Graves signed Leonard George and Willie Jackson, Sr., the Gators' first two African-American scholarship football players, on December 17 and 18, 1968.[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 African-American players into the fabric of the team.

Graves' final season in 1969 is remembered for the group of young stars known as the "Super Sophs," including quarterback John Reaves and All-American wide receiver Carlos Alvarez, fullback Tommy Durrance's single-season scoring record of 110 points,[117] an all-time best record of 9–1–1, and a 14–13 Gator Bowl upset victory over the SEC champion Tennessee Volunteers.[112]

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. After the Gator Bowl, Ray Graves resigned as the head coach of the Gators football team, but continued as the athletic director of the Florida Gators sports program until 1979. 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.[46][118] Ray Graves' career record as the Gators' head coach was 70–31–4.[105]

Doug Dickey era (1970–78)[edit]

Doug Dickey

Florida alumnus and former Gators quarterback Doug Dickey took over the reins in 1970. Dickey had been the head coach of Tennessee for the preceding six seasons, where he had won the SEC championship twice and led the Volunteers to five straight bowl appearances.[119]

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 the rival Miami Hurricanes 45–8 with less than two minutes on the clock.[120] 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.[120] 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.[121] Dickey refused twice before he acquiesced.[122] 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.[123] Florida's offense then got the ball back and Reaves completed a fifteen-yard pass to Carlos Alvarez to break the record.[121] 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.[122]

In 1972, freshmen could play on southeastern teams for the first time since 1921.[124][125] Coach Dickey also brought in twelve black players.[125] The 1972 and 1973 Gators were spearheaded by the African-American running back Nat Moore.

Dickey's Gators peaked in 1974, with an 8–4 season (a 7–1 start) and a Sugar Bowl appearance (a 13–10 loss).[119] Dickey employed the wishbone offense for the first season in the Gators' history.[126] Linebacker Ralph Ortega was first-team All-American; and another linebacker Glenn Cameron was third-team All-American. The 1975 season featured consensus All-American Sammy Green.

Another moment which seemed to define the Dickey era came in the Florida–Georgia game of 1976. The season opened with a 24–21 loss to North Carolina, then Florida reeled off six straight wins. 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–down–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."[127] The 1976 and 1977 teams featured first-team All-American wide receiver Wes Chandler, first-team All-SEC linebacker Scot Brantley, and first-team All-SEC defensive end Scott Hutchinson. Dickey was never able to duplicate his prior success at Tennessee, posting a 58–43–2 record over nine seasons with the Gators, and he resigned after a 4–7 season in 1978.[119] Former quarterback Steve Spurrier was an offensive assistant on the 1978 team, his first year spent coaching. He recruited quarterback Bob Hewko.[128]

Pell–Hall era (1979–89)[edit]

Charley Pell was hired as Florida's new head football coach for 1979.[129] Pell had previously coached the Clemson Tigers football team at Clemson University, where he had led the Tigers to a 10–1 record and an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) championship in 1978.[129] 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.

The 1979 campaign was an 0–10–1 disaster.[130] However, Pell's Gators improved quickly after he hired offensive guru Mike Shanahan. Quarterbacks Hewko and Wayne Peace led the Gators to a then-NCAA-record turn-around with an 8–3 season in 1980.[130] Linebacker David Little set the career record for tackles by a Gator and was consensus All-American; wide receiver Cris Collinsworth was first-team All-American. Despite Herschel Walker, the Gators nearly beat national champion Georgia for their first-ever SEC championship until the famous "Run Lindsay Run."[131] The Gators capped their season with a 35–20 bowl victory over the Maryland Terrapins in the Tangerine Bowl, marking the first time in the history of major college football that 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.[130] The 1983 team finished No. 6 in the final AP Poll, the highest final poll ranking in school history to date. The teams featured All-American linebacker Wilber Marshall.

Prior to the 1990s, Florida's 1984 team was considered by many sports commentators to be the best in school history. The Gators dominated early in the game against the rival Georgia Bulldogs, building a 17–0 lead by early in the second half. But the Bulldogs seemed to come alive in the third quarter, mounting a long drive; however, Georgia's drive died in the shadow of the Gators' goal line when they were stuffed on fourth down, checking the Bulldogs momentarily but pinning the Gators deep in their own territory. On the third play following the change of possession, Gators 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. The Bulldog momentum was snuffed out and the Gators went on to a convincing 27–0 victory, eventually completing an undefeated conference schedule for the first time in Gators history. The 1984 squad won the school's first-ever SEC championship; until then Vanderbilt had been the only other charter SEC member to have never won a conference title. The offense was especially formidable behind an offensive line dubbed the "Great Wall of Florida" (Phil Bromley, Lomas Brown, Billy Hinson, Crawford Ker, Scott Trimble and Jeff Zimmerman) that paved the way for John L. Williams and Neal Anderson to run the ball. Redshirt freshman quarterback Bell was the SEC Player of the Year. At the end of the regular season, several polls ranked the Gators as the best team in the nation.

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.[132] 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.[133] 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 (including a single tie under Pell)—all but assuring that Hall would become the permanent coach after the season. However, the SEC refused to allow the Gators to play in the Sugar Bowl; LSU went in their place. Two weeks after the end of the season, the NCAA imposed two years' probation (a third year was suspended) and banned them from bowl games and live television in 1985 and 1986. The most damaging sanction in the long run, however, was a limit of 20 new scholarships in 1985 and 1986, and a reduction to 85 total scholarships in 1985 and 75 in 1986.[134] To the shock and 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.

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 violations committed under Pell took their full effect. His first two recruiting classes had only 25 players.[135] The unranked 1986 Gators stunned the Auburn Tigers 18–17, overcoming a 17–0 fourth-quarter deficit in a game that is still considered one of the most dramatic in Florida Field history.[136]

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, and broke Red Bethea's single-game rushing yards record in a 23–14 upset of Alabama in 1987.[137] The Gators started the 1988 season 5-0 and were ranked as high as No. 14. 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. Walk on Louis Oliver was a first-team All-American in 1987 and 1988. Defensive tackle Trace Armstrong set a new Gators single-season record for most tackles for a loss with nineteen, including seven sacks in 1988. Tackle David Williams was first-team All-SEC.

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.[135][138] As a result, interim university president Robert A. Bryan forced Hall to resign five games into the 1989 season.[139] 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.[140]

Steve Spurrier era (1990–2001)[edit]

Steve Spurrier in 1999.

Despite intermittent success, Florida had never been considered a consistent national power. Prior to 1990, the Gators had never officially won a conference championship in 83 seasons of play. Things changed in 1990 when Steve Spurrier left Duke and returned to Gainesville as the Gators' "Head Ball Coach."[141] Spurrier is credited with changing the way the SEC played football. Spurrier employed a pass-oriented offense (known in the sports media as the "Fun 'n' Gun")[142] in contrast to the ball-control, rush-oriented offenses that were traditionally played in the SEC.[143]

Just before Spurrier's debut, the Gainesville campus was rocked by the Danny Rolling murders.[144] 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 in Tuscaloosa. The two games set the tone for Spurrier's tenure and much that followed; since his return in 1990, the Gators have ranked among the three Division I (FBS) programs with the most wins.[145]

In Spurrier's first season, the 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. Team captain Huey Richardson was first-team All-American. The 1991 Gators won the team's first official SEC championship, 59 seasons after joining the SEC as a charter member. Before then, they had been one of two charter members (the other being Vanderbilt) to have never officially won an SEC title. The Gators defeated Alabama 35–0. Spurrier later recalled those early victories over Alabama as of prime importance, "those victories early -- '90, '91 -- really got us started there at Florida and I think convinced the players during that time: Hey, we're good enough to beat almost anybody if we prepare and get ready to play."[146] Team captain Brad Culpepper was consensus All-American. Quarterback Shane Matthews was SEC Player of the Year in both 1990 and 1991.

The 1992 Gators won the first of four consecutive SEC Eastern Division titles. They played for the conference championship in the first-ever SEC Championship Game, but lost 28–21 to the eventual national champion Alabama Crimson Tide. Spurrier's Gators rebounded, however, and won the next four SEC Championship Games (1993–1996), leading Spurrier to quip as the Gators posed for their championship photo that "this is our annual team picture."[147]

The 1993 season marked the first time the Gators were ranked in the top ten of the Associated Press Poll during every week of the season. Running back Errict Rhett broke Emmitt Smith's Gators career rushing record, finishing with 4,163 yards and thirty-four touchdowns, and leading the Gators in rushing for all four seasons of his college career. The 1993 Gators faced adversity in just its second week. Against Kentucky, quarterbacks Terry Dean and Danny Wuerffel combined to throw seven interceptions.[148] With 8 seconds in the game remaining, Wuerffel threw a pass down the middle to walk-on receiver Chris Doering for the game-winning touchown. The very next week the Gators defeated the Heath Shuler-led Vols in a "shootout"[149] 41–34. The loss to Auburn knocked the Gators to their lowest ranking all season of 10th. The two teams were tied at 35 with 1:21 left in the game, when Tigers placekicker Scott Etheridge booted a 41-yard field to beat the Gators, 38–35.[150] The only other loss all season was to national champion, rival Florida State. In a game in which the Gators never led, they cut the Seminoles lead to 27–21. With the crowd roaring louder than it had all day, Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Charlie Ward led the Seminoles back onto the field with just under 6 minutes remaining in the game. The Seminoles faced third down at their own 21-yard-line. Unfazed, Ward hit freshman Warrick Dunn up the sideline for a 79-yard game-clinching touchdown run and a 33–21 FSU win. After the loss to FSU, the Gators went on to convincing wins over Alabama in the SEC Championship 28–13 and over the #3 ranked West Virginia Mountaineers 41–7. The Gators finished 5th in the AP Poll.

The Gators were AP preseason No. 1 for the first time to begin the 1994 season, which remained until a loss in similar fashion as the year before[151] to Auburn. However, Florida remained in the top 5 until what is known as the Choke at Doak. The Gators were up 31 to 3 in the fourth quarter on rival Florida State, who managed four touchdowns in the fourth quarter to nothing for Florida. Bobby Bowden immediately made the decision 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).[152][153] Bowden did not want to see the Seminoles come back from such a large deficit only to lose on a failed 2-point attempt.[153] Dan Mowrey came on and split the uprights, tying the game at 31 and completing Florida State's historic fourth quarter comeback. The Gators edged Alabama by a single point in the SEC Championship, then faced the Seminoles in a rematch for the Sugar Bowl, which the Seminoles won 23–17. The Gators finished 7th in the AP poll. Gator wide receiver Jack Jackson was SEC Player of the Year and consensus All-American. Defensive end Kevin Carter was first-team All-America.

Danny Wuerffel on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

The Gators had their first (and to date, only) 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 defeated Tennessee by so many points it landed Wuerffel on the cover of Sports Illustrated, even though it had supposedly planned to get Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning on the cover.[154][155] However, the Gators were denied a national championship in the Fiesta Bowl, losing to the Nebraska Cornhuskers, today considered one of the sports greatest ever teams,[156] 62–24. Despite the huge loss the Gators remained ranked second. Lineman Jason Odom was consensus All-American.

Most of the 1996 Gators' offensive players were returning upperclassmen, and they set dozens of team scoring records as they rolled over most of their opponents to start the season 10–0. In that stretch, they were only seriously threatened twice. Against Tennessee, the Gators raced to a 35-0 halftime lead, only to have the Vols score 29 unanswered points in the second half as Spurrier opted for a more conservative game plan. However, when the Vols closed within 35-29 with 10 seconds in regulation, the Gators recovered an onside kick to preserve the win. Against Vanderbilt, the Gators were held to only 28 points due to the Commodores' relentless blitzing, giving the Commodores a chance to make a brief run in the second half. However, after closing the margin to 28-21, Vanderbilt came up short on two chances to either tie or win the game.

The top-ranked Gators faced the second-ranked and undefeated Florida State Seminoles in Doak Campbell Stadium to close out the regular season. Keyed by several blocking errors on offense and special teams, the Gators fell behind in the first quarter, nearly rallying to win, but fell short, and left Tallahassee with a disappointing 24–21 loss. But the pieces fell into place for Florida, as they beat the Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship Game, 45–30, and Texas upset Nebraska in the inaugural Big 12 Championship Game, clearing the way for third-ranked Florida to become 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, thus setting up the Sugar Bowl as the national championship game. The Gators seized the opportunity, as Heisman trophy-winning quarterback Danny Wuerffel garnered game MVP honors in a 52–20 rout of the Seminoles, winning their first-ever national championship. Earlier in the season, Spurrier became the Gators' all-time winningest coach, surpassing Ray Graves' 70 career wins. Both receivers Ike Hilliard and Reidel Anthony were consensus All-American.

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

The following season, the 1997 Gators appeared to be poised for another title, beating Peyton Manning-led Tennessee at home in September to regain the top spot in the polls. 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. Tony George memorably returned an interception 88 yards as the Gators never trailed. But the Gators struggled midway through their schedule, losing to the LSU Tigers on the road and the Georgia Bulldogs in Jacksonville, after dominating both teams the previous year. The Gators finished the season in The Swamp, as the tenth-ranked Gators upset the top-ranked Florida State Seminoles in a 32–29 victory known as the "greatest game ever played in the Swamp." The first twelve minutes of the fourth quarter were scoreless, but the Seminoles drove inside the Gators' 5-yard line until the Gators defense, led by Jevon Kearse and Mike Peterson, stopped the 'Noles on three consecutive running plays and the Seminoles settled for a Sebastian Janikowski field goal. On first down from the Gators' own 20-yard line, quarterback Doug Johnson hit consensus All-American receiver Jacquez Green for a 62-yard pass play. Fred Taylor completed the drive with a touchdown, and Florida took the lead for good, 32–29. Florida State's final comeback attempt ended when senior linebacker Dwayne Thomas intercepted a third-down pass from Thad Busby, sealing the victory for Florida, and costing Florida State a chance to play for the national championship. Cornerback Fred Weary was also consensus All-American

Having won five SEC titles in six seasons from 1991 to 1996,[157] the Gators went three seasons before capturing the title again in 2000.[158] The 1998 Gators lost two games to the teams which would eventually meet in the first BCS national championship game: Tennessee and Florida State. 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. The team suffered a single conference loss, to Mississippi State. A frustrated Spurrier rotated three quarterbacks including Rex Grossman. Grossman went 13 for 16 with 231 yards and two touchdowns. All together, the Gators had 494 yards and four touchdowns through the air. Mississippi State won the game 47–35, breaking Florida's 72-game winning streak against unranked teams. After the game, the Mississippi State fans stormed the field and tore down the goal posts, parts of which ended up all over campus.

The preseason No. 1-ranked 2001 Gators appeared ready to return to the SEC Championship Game as favorites, but again were upset by Auburn 23–20 with a last-minute field goal and lost a 34–32 heartbreaker to the Tennessee Volunteers in a game postponed until December 1 because of the attacks of 9/11.[159] The Gators accepted an invitation to the Orange Bowl, and crushed the Maryland Terrapins 56–23; it would be Spurrier's last game as a Gator. Quarterback Rex Grossman was Heisman Trophy runner-up and consensus All-American; receiver Jabar Gaffney and defensive end Alex Brown were consensus All-American. Brown's 33 sacks is still a school, career record.

On January 4, 2002, Spurrier stunned Florida fans by resigning as the Gators' head coach,[160] and ten days later, became the head coach of the NFL's Washington Redskins.[161]

Ron Zook era (2002–04)[edit]

Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley initiated a coaching search that focused on Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan[162] and the head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners, Bob Stoops. After being turned down by both, Foley decided on New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator and former Gator assistant coach Ron Zook as Spurrier's replacement.

Zook showed himself to be a strong recruiter, signing the twentieth-ranked class in an abbreviated 2002 search,[163] the second-ranked class in 2003,[164] and the seventh-ranked class in 2004.[165] Although talented, Zook's teams were remembered for their inconsistency, typically dominating their opponents in the first half, then collapsing in the second.[166] They dealt the Georgia Bulldogs their only loss of 2002, and upset the 2003 Louisiana State Tigers on their way to the BCS Championship, but went winless against both of the SEC's Mississippi teams, and lost twice to the Miami Hurricanes. Keiwan Ratliff set the school single-season interception mark in 2003 with 9.

After two consecutive five-loss seasons and an embarrassing upset by the Mississippi State Bulldogs, Zook was fired midway through the 2004 season, but was allowed to finish out the regular season. In Zook's final game, the Gators beat Florida State to give them their first win at Doak Campbell Stadium since 1986. Defensive coordinator Charlie Strong served as the interim head coach for the Peach Bowl against Miami, becoming the first African-American to serve as head coach for a football game at Florida and the second in SEC history.

Urban Meyer era (2005–10)[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, the head coach at Utah. Meyer chose to accept the position at the University of Florida, over a competing offer from Notre Dame,[167] and was announced as Florida's new head coach in December 2004.[168]

Meyer's first season in 2005 was an improvement at 9–3, including an Outback Bowl win against the Iowa Hawkeyes.[169] The Gators defeated all three of their biggest rivals (Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida State) for only the fourth time in school history.

In 2006, the Gators completed a 13–1 season[169] during which their sole loss was to the Auburn Tigers 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. The Gators defeated the Arkansas Razorbacks in the SEC Championship Game, winning their first SEC title since 2000. The Gators played in the 2007 BCS Championship Game on January 8, 2007, and, led by quarterback Chris Leak, routed the No. 1 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, 41–14, for the Gators' second national football championship. Safety Reggie Nelson was consensus All-American.

Tim Tebow became the full-time starting quarterback for the 2007 season. The Gators started the season 4–0 and were ranked as high as No. 3 in the various media polls. However, a mid-season stretch in which the team lost 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[169] and No. 13 final ranking, but Tim Tebow's record-setting season earned him the Heisman Trophy – the first sophomore to receive the Heisman.

Tim Tebow

The 2008 Gators responded as a vastly improved team. Florida won their fourth straight game over Tennessee 30–6, followed by an upset 31–30 loss to Ole Miss. In an emotional press conference after the game, quarterback Tim Tebow promised that no team would play harder than Florida the rest of the season. Florida delivered with dominant play on both sides of the ball on their way to a second national championship game berth in three years. They beat the defending national champion LSU Tigers 51–21, achieved revenge on SEC rival Georgia, handed former coach Steve Spurrier the worst loss of his career, and thumped Florida State 45–15. Florida earned the second slot in the BCS poll by beating previously undefeated Alabama 31–20 in the SEC Championship Game. The Gators won the 2009 BCS National Championship Game on January 8, 2009, over the Oklahoma Sooners 24–14. Percy Harvin was first-team All-American for the second season in a row, and kick returner Brandon James and linebacker Brandon Spikes were consensus All-American.

The 2009 Gators were voted No. 1 in the 2009 preseason Associated Press and Coaches polls. Though they would post the second undefeated regular season in program history, the departures of offensive coordinator Dan Mullen and wide receiver and running back Percy Harvin decreased offensive production. During the Gators' 41–7 win at Kentucky, Tim Tebow suffered a serious concussion and spent the night in a Lexington hospital. Tebow returned to action two weeks after the injury for Florida's 13–3 win at LSU. Tebow broke the SEC's career rushing touchdown record held by former Georgia running back Herschel Walker as Florida beat the Bulldogs for the seventeenth time in twenty seasons, 41–17.

The Gators celebrating after the 2009 BCS Championship Game.

The Gators were undefeated and ranked No. 1 when they entered the 2009 SEC Championship Game 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. 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).[170] With the Sugar Bowl victory, the Gators became the only Division I team to have back-to-back thirteen-win seasons. Cornerback Joe Haden was consensus All-American.

On December 26, 2009, Meyer announced he would resign as head coach of the Florida Gators following their bowl game due to health and family concerns.[171] The following day, however, Meyer stated that he would not resign, but would instead take an indefinite leave of absence.[172] Despite uncertainty about Meyer's status, the Gators signed the consensus No. 1 recruiting class in the nation in February 2010.[173][174][175][176]

Meyer resumed his coaching duties in time for Florida's spring practice in March 2010.[177] The Gators lost defensive coordinator Charlie Strong to the head coaching job at Louisville after the 2009 season. 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.[169] Florida finished the 2010 season unranked for the first time since 1989. On December 8, 2010, Meyer once again announced his resignation, citing many of the same concerns of the family and health issues that he had 12 months beforehand[178] His final game was an Outback Bowl victory over Penn State on January 1, 2011.[179] 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 era (2011–14)[edit]

Muschamp at Texas.

On December 11, 2010, Florida named Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp as the Gators' new head coach.[180] Muschamp had previously served as the defensive coordinator at LSU and Auburn and had been designated as the Longhorns' "head coach-in-waiting."[180] 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.[181] 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.[182] Weis left to become the head coach at Kansas in December 2011.[183]

The 2012 defense was much improved. Behind a defense that had grown into one of nation's best and a ball control offense led by 1,000-yard rusher Mike Gillislee, 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 104th in the NCAA in passing with less than 2,000 passing yards. The sole regular season loss was to Georgia, who defeated the Gators 17–9. The season ended with an upset loss to Louisville,[184] 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,[185] including their first-ever defeat at the hands of an FCS team, Georgia Southern,[186] and finished 4–8. Florida also missed a bowl game for the first time since 1990. After the season, Muschamp fired offensive coordinator Brent Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis, and hired Kurt Roper as the new offensive coordinator.[187]

Late in the 2014 season Muschamp was dismissed as the head coach following a devastating loss to South Carolina.[188] He was allowed to coach the final two games of regular season play [189] and the Gators became bowl eligible after a win to Eastern Kentucky. The season ended with a loss to in-state rival FSU. The Gators would go on to win the Birmingham bowl against East Carolina and finish the season 7–5.[190] Muschamp's overall record was 28–21 as head coach.[191]

Jim McElwain era (2015–present)[edit]

On December 4, 2014, Jim McElwain, former Alabama offensive coordinator and Colorado State head coach, was introduced as Muschamp's replacement.[192] In his first year at Florida, he became the third coach to go to the SEC championship in his first year. He is the first Florida coach to win more than nine games in his first year coaching at Florida.



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.[193]

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.


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[194]

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.[195] 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.[196] 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.[197]

Team logos[edit]



Previously known as "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party," although it is most commonly called the "Florida–Georgia Game" among Gator fans. Currently, the game is held at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida, usually on the last Saturday in October or the first in November. The designated "home" team alternates yearly, with ticket distribution split evenly between the universities.

The teams first met in Jacksonville in 1915.[198] 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.[198] 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.[198]

Georgia dominated the rivalry early, winning the first six meetings and building a 21–5–1 series lead before 1950.[198] 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.[198] The Bulldogs lead the all-time series, 49–42–2.[198]

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.


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.[199] 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 become 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.[199] 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.[199]

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.[200]

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, 34–23–2[201]

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.[202] 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.[202]


Florida v. Alabama in 2010.

While Alabama and Florida were charter members of the SEC, they have never been annual opponents.[203] 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.[203] 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 4–3 edge in SEC Championship Games against the Crimson Tide with Alabama leading the overall series 24-14.[203]


Auburn and Florida played annually from 1945 to 2002.[204] 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. The unranked Gators stunned the 1986 Auburn Tigers 18–17, overcoming a 17–0 fourth-quarter deficit in a game that is still considered one of the most dramatic in Florida Field history.[136] The 2006 Tigers upset the undefeated Gators 27–17 in Jordan-Hare Stadium for what would be Florida's only loss on their way to a BCS National Championship. Auburn also upset previously unbeaten Florida teams in 1993, 1994, 2001 and 2007, although the Gators went on to win SEC championships in 1993 and 1994.[46]

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.[204]


Florida and Miami formerly played each other for the Seminole War Canoe Trophy, but the annual rivalry ended after the 1987 season,[205] when Florida's annual SEC schedule expanded to eight games. The two schools did not play each other again until the 2001 Sugar Bowl.[205] Florida and Miami played a home-and-home series in 2002 and 2003, and met again in the 2004 Peach Bowl.[205] Florida won the first leg of a home-and-home series in 2008, ending a six-game losing streak against the Hurricanes.[205] The last scheduled regular season meeting between the Gators and the Hurricanes was in Miami in 2013 where the Hurricanes won 21–16.[206] Miami holds a 29–26 edge in the all-time series.[205]

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.[207][208][209] 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.[210] 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.[211]

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 ten appearances in the SEC Championship Game, more than any other SEC school, with the most recent in 2009. The Gators have won seven of the ten SEC Championship Games in which they have appeared.

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 TBD TBD
Totals 13 7–3 259 217

†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.[46]

For a complete list of the Gators' season win-loss-tie records, and their end-of-season rankings in the Associated Press 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 24 0 .378 Lost 4 1916 2014[203]
Arkansas 9 1 0 .900 Won 9 1982 2013[212]
Auburn 38 43 2 .470 Lost 3 1912 2011[204]
Georgia 42 49 2 .462 Won 2 1915 2015[198]
Kentucky 48 17 0 .734 Won 29 1917 2015[213][214]
LSU 31 28 3 .524 Lost 3 1937 2015[202]
Mississippi State 33 19 2 .630 Lost 1 1923 2010[215]
Missouri 2 3 0 .400 Won 1 1966 2015[216]
Ole Miss 11 12 1 .479 Won 1 1926 2015[217]
South Carolina 25 8 3 .736 Won 1 1911 2015[218]
Tennessee 26 19 0 .578 Won 11 1916 2015[199]
Texas A&M 2 1 0 .667 Won 2 1962 2012[219]
Vanderbilt 37 10 2 .776 Won 2 1945 2015[220]
Totals 318 233 15 .575

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

Opponent Won Lost Tied Percentage Streak First Last
Florida State 34 23 2 .603 Lost 2 1958 2014[221]
Miami 26 29 0 .473 Lost 1 1938 2013[205]
Totals 60 50 2 .545

Bowl games[edit]

The Florida Gators have appeared in forty NCAA-sanctioned bowl games, with a total of twenty-one wins and twenty losses. This includes the Gators' streak of twenty-two consecutive bowl game appearances which stretched from 1991 through 2012 and was the fifth longest in college football history.[222]

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
Games 41 Bowl Record: 21–20

Overall bowl record: 21–20 (41 Games)

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

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.[223] Ferguson helped clear the way for his troops to advance on the enemy position, and was severely wounded leading his men in the assault.[223] He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions.[223] 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."[224]

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.[225]

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).

University of Florida All-Time Team[edit]

A University of Florida All-Time Team was put out by the Florida Alumnus, the official organ of the Florida Alumni, in 1927.[226]

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

Florida Gator 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.

University of Florida Gator 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.

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[227]
Charlie Bachman Coach 1928–32 1978[228]
Wes Chandler Wide receiver 1974–77 2015
Doug Dickey Coach 1970–78 2003[229]
Ray Graves Coach 1960–69 1990[230]
Marcelino Huerta Coach 1947–49 2002[231]
Wilber Marshall Linebacker 1980–83 2008[232]
Emmitt Smith Running back 1987–89 2006[233]
Steve Spurrier Quarterback 1963–66 1986[234]
Dale Van Sickel End 1927–29 1975[60]
Danny Wuerffel Quarterback 1993–96 2013[235]
Jack Youngblood Defensive end 1967–70 1992[236]

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.[229] 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.[234] Spurrier was also the Gators' head coach from 1990 to 2001, and his career coaching record far exceeds the Hall of Fame's minimum requirements, but he is still an active coach and is not eligible for induction as a coach until he retires. 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.[231]

Individual award winners[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.[46] Included among these players are thirty-one consensus All-Americans, of which six were also unanimous All-Americans.[239] 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.[46][240] Florida's first consensus All-American was quarterback Steve Spurrier, who was the winner of the Heisman Trophy for the 1966 Gators.[46][241]

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.

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.[242]

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]

2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
vs UMass
September 3
vs Michigan
at Arlington, TX.
September 2
at Florida State
November 24
vs Florida State
November 30
at Florida State
November 28
vs North Texas
September 17
vs Florida State
November 25
vs Colorado State
September 15
vs Presbyterian
November 19
at Florida State
November 26


See also[edit]


  1. ^ NCAA Football Award Winners, National Collegiate Athletic Association, Indianapolis, Indiana, pp. 7–13 (2011). Retrieved March 7, 2012. 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-first and most recent was punter Chas Henry in 2010.
  2. ^ a b c The University of Florida would not accept its first black student until 1958, and would not become fully integrated racially until the 1960s. The Florida Gators football team's first African-Americans players were not recruited until 1968–69. 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.
  4. ^ "A History of Stetson Football" (PDF). 
  5. ^ Ric A. Kabat, "Before the Seminoles: Football at Florida State College, 1902–1904, Florida Historical Quarterly, vol. LXX, no. 1, p. 33 (July 1991). Retrieved November 30, 2010.
  6. ^ Buddy Martin. The Boys from Old Florida: Inside Gator Nation. 
  7. ^ McEwen, Tom, The Gators: A Story of Florida Football, The Strode Publishers, Huntsville, Alabama, p. 363 (1974).
  8. ^ Kabat, p. 34.
  9. ^ University Athletic Association / IMG College copyright 2015. "Gator Memories - Henry Buckman Starts UF". gatorzone.com. 
  10. ^ "June/July 1996 - Colors may change; fans don't". nolefan.org. 
  11. ^ McEwen, The Gators, p. 37.
  12. ^ Carlson, Norm (14 Sep 2009). "Gator talk: History lesson". Gatorzone.com. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  13. ^ Rex Saffer, "Crabtree Leads Gators to Victory Over Oregon," St. Petersburg Times, p. 1 (December 8, 1929). Retrieved April 9, 2010.
  14. ^ Norm Carlson, University of Florida Football Vault: The History of the Florida Gators, Whitman Publishing, LLC, Atlanta, Georgia, p. 38 (2007).
  15. ^ For partial football records of Florida Agricultural College and the East Florida Seminary, please see College Football Data Warehouse, Florida Agriculture College Records by Year and East Florida Seminary Records by Year. Retrieved August 21, 2009.
  16. ^ Stetson University Athletics. "ISSUU - 2013 Stetson Football by Stetson University Athletics". Issuu. 
  17. ^ a b College Football Data Warehouse, All-Time Coaching Records, G.E. Pyle Records by Year. Retrieved March 1, 2010.
  18. ^ Steve Rajtar. Gone Pro: Florida Gators Athletes Who Became Pros. p. 26. 
  19. ^ Antonya English. "100 Things about 100 years of Gator football". 
  20. ^ "Florida Gators History". 
  21. ^ The Times-Union (September 1, 2006). "10 top 10 lists". Retrieved April 17, 2015. 
  22. ^ College Football Data Warehouse, 1912 Game by Game Record. Retrieved February 23, 2009.
  23. ^ a b Floyd Conner, Football's Most Wanted: The Top 10 Book of the Great Game's Outrageous Characters, Fortunate Fumbles, and Other Oddities, Brassey's, Dulles, Virginia, pp. 191–192 (2000). Retrieved March 1, 2010.
  24. ^ a b Antonya English, "100 things about 100 years of Gator football," St. Petersburg Times (August 27, 2006). Retrieved March 1, 2010.
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  27. ^ Robbie Andreu. "No. 74 FLORIDA 144, FLORIDA SOUTHERN 0". 
  28. ^ Joey Johnston, "Tampa Bay's All-Century Team: No. 98 Rammy Ramsdell," The Tampa Tribune (September 22, 1999). Retrieved October 2, 2011.
  29. ^ 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.
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