Just like the snap of a Florida alligator, the University of Florida Gators football history began, in 1906, with a bang, when coach James Forsythe racked up three winning seasons. Throughout the 1910s, the Gators operated as an independent team and played a number of reputable opponents including their first game against South Carolina in 1911.
In 1912, the Gators became part of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association, facing Auburn University for the first time and meeting up with Georgia in 1915. In 1922, Florida joined the Southern Conference from 1922 to 1932 until finding a permanent home with the SEC in 1933.
The first flash of long-term Gators dominance came in the middle of the 1960s when Ray Graves boasted a team record of 70 wins. The 1966 team (led by Heisman Trophy winner, Steve Spurrier) is considered one of the best teams in Florida history.
During this same time, the school gained outside interest, as Florida researchers developed a sports drink that would later become the very popular beverage -- Gatorade. That's right, "Gatorade" got its name because it was developed at the University of Florida.
Check out these links for your Florida Gators Merchandise and Apparel, Tickets, and Baseball Caps.
When the University of Florida stadium was first built in 1930, it was known as Florida Field. In 1989, it was renamed to pay tribute to a college benefactor by the name of Ben Hill Griffin, Jr. During the 1990s, the nickname of "the Swamp" was given to the stadium by former head coach, Steve Spurrier.
University of Florida's "Florida Field". Thanks to bjsmith at flickr.com for the picture.
Over the years, the seating of the stadium has increased from 21,769 to more than 90,000, which eventually made it the largest stadium in the state of Florida. From 1971 to 1989, the playing surface was made of artificial turf until it was replaced with grass for the 1990 season.
The bright colors of orange and blue decorate the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, as the mascot, Albert E. Gator pumps up the crowd to the Pride of the Sunshine marching band. On the days and moments leading to game time, one of the largest student-run pep rallies in the world the Gator Growl erupts into a full-blown party. Inside of the stadium, chants of "ORANGE" and "BLUE" fill the air.
1996 was a very good year for the Gators. That was the season Florida earned their first ever National Title. During that same year, quarterback Danny Wuerffel also won the Heisman Trophy. Anthony Reidel set the record for the SEC player to score the most points (18) and touchdowns (3) during a championship game. Read more about that at 1996 Florida Gators Football Team.
Then there was the 2006 - 2007 season when the Gators won their second national championship -- this time under head coach Urban Meyer. The Gators' QB in that game was Chris Leak. Tim Tebow was the backup. Read about that at 2007 BCS Championship Game.
Of course Tebow followed that up by winning the Heisman Trophy in 2007 and then leading the Gators to their 3rd National Championship in the 2008 - 2009 season. You can read more about these exciting chapters in Florida Gators football history at 2007 Tebow Heisman Trophy and 2009 BCS Championship Game.
Thanks to atlassb at flikr.com for this shot of Tim Tebow in the Orange Bowl jumbotron during the 2009 College Football BCS National Championship game.
Other Florida Gator football graduates who have gone on to the pros include Carlos Alverez (All-American wide receiver); Scot Brantley (former all-SEC linebacker); and Lomas Brown (Super Bowl Champion and seven-time Pro Bowl selection).
Retiring a number is commonplace with college and professional football teams. However, Florida currently does not uphold this tradition. It is true that the numbers of players, Steve Spurrier (11) and Jack Youngblood (74) were retired in the past. However, both were reissued to players during the years that Spurrier served as head coach.
Instead of retiring numbers, Florida established the Gator Football Ring of Honor to pay homage to former players and coaches. Since its creation in 2006, inductees include Emmitt Smith (1987-1989), Steve Spurrier (1990-2001), Danny Wuerffel (19931996), and Jack Youngblood (19671970).
Over the years, the Gators have established strong rivalries with the Florida State Seminoles, Georgia Bulldogs, Miami Hurricanes, and Tennessee Volunteers.
Everyone knows the 1996 Gators won the National Championship. But, it is less known that in 1995 the Gators went undefeated, during the regular season, for the first (and only) time. However, they let the National Championship slip from their grasp in a 62-24 loss to the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Fiesta Bowl. The outcome was so bad that the game was later dubbed the "Fiasco Bowl."
Florida is known for winning a total of ten SEC football conference championships. However, only nine are recorded as being official. Due to NCAA violations, the Gators were officially stripped of their 1984 SEC championship.
Although the 1985 and 1990 teams finished best in the SEC, they were ineligible to compete for the conference championship because of NCAA violations that the previous coaching staffs had committed.
When it comes to SEC Championship games, Florida holds a handful of SEC records. In 1996, Florida scored the most points (45). As for regular season games, Florida also holds the record for scoring the most touchdowns (nine vs. Central Michigan in 1997). Good old Steve Spurrier! Gotta love him (if you are his mom or a Gators fan).
On October 13th, 1934, Florida Field was dedicated to the memory of servicemen who lost their lives in World War I.
If you are looking for a great book about the history of Florida Gators football, I think I've found one. Just released (July 2009) is a new book by Kevin McCarthy with the best selection of old Florida Gators football pictures I've ever seen. In fact, unless you have visited the UF or Florida Department of State Archives -- you likely would never have seen many of them.
The book is titled Historic Photos of University of Florida Football. I read it last night and found it a quick, fun and informative read. I found out many things I never knew and found myself telling my wife over and over: "wow, college football and especially Florida Gators football has sure come a long way." It is really something to see those early photos of CFB's humble beginnings. Here's a couple:
Florida football fans watch Gators beat Jacksonville's Riverside Athletic Club. UF won 4-0. In 1908 both TD's and FG's scored 4 points.
With the stock market crash in October, 1929 was a depressing year. But, at least Florida college football fans could cheer on their 8-2 team that beat a West Coast team (Oregon) for the first time ever.
The book also has interesting pictures about modern day aspects of Gator (and SEC) football. For instance, check out this picture from the book:
Yep, that's Steve Spurrier in the 1965 Sugar Bowl where he broke six bowl records and was named the MVP -- despite the Gators losing to Missouri 20-18. That was the first time a player from the losing team was named MVP of the Sugar Bowl. In the book, you'll also see a picture of Stever Spurrier -- the punter!! One of the reasons Spurrier won the 1966 Heisman Trophy was that not only was he a great quarterback, but he also was a good punter -- and kicker. In fact, it was his game winning 40 yard field goal against Auburn that probably clinched him the Heisman.
You'll read about (and see) lots of similar interesting pieces of Florida Gators football history throughout the 202 pages of Historic Photos of University of Florida Football.
The best place to buy the book is at Amazon. And, here's a link:
You can see other great pictures from the book scattered on other University of Florida football pages -- listed below.
FLORIDA GATORS FOOTBALL HISTORY
FLORIDA GATORS FOOTBALL HISTORY
FLORIDA GATORS FOOTBALL HISTORY
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