As we continue looking at at the top five rivals for the University of Florida football team, it’s time to recognize the “Defunct Bunch.” Keep in mind that these are based off my own opinions and ones I’ve gathered from fellow fans over the years. The teams will certainly elicit some emotion from Gator fans no matter who you think is the biggest rival. Next rival(s) up …
No. 4 A Miami
This game was once part of a round-robin series played between Florida, Florida State and Miami. Then in the early 1990s Florida chose not to renew the series – much to the ire of both Miami and FSU. And no, it wasn’t because Florida was “afraid” to play Miami; it was a matter of fairness to both fans and the football program. Playing a home-and-home with both Miami and FSU, and then a neutral site game with Georgia in Jacksonville causes the loss of at least two home games every year. Florida saw the losing end of that spectrum, and made the appropriate changes. Thus FSU, as the bigger rival, was maintained while Miami was dropped.
This is not to say Miami isn’t still a rival of Florida. From the infamous Florida Flop in 1971 that allowed Gator QB John Reaves to break Jim Plunkett’s all-time passing yardage record, to the 1983 rout of the defending national champion Hurricanes, to that 23-point lead the 2003 Gators blew to the Hurricanes in 22 minutes: this rivalry has produced some memorable games.
I honestly have little-to-no feeling about Miami. The rivalry quit being played on a yearly basis in 1987 (when I was the ripe old age of two), and Miami has always added another fan in me on the day they play Florida State (especially here, here, and here). Really, they just sit down there in South Florida, while UF is in Gainesville. Their fans are terribly obnoxious and classless, but again, they don’t play Florida so it doesn’t mean as much to me as it does to older Gators.
Rumors of a potential annual tilt at the Citrus Bowl are circulating, and I think that would be great. This once proud rivalry deserves better than being demoted to sporadic taunting, scoffing at a bar when each other’s fans walk in, and being non-existent from the remembrances of all but the most die-hard followers. It will be tricky, and only time will tell if it can happen. But there’s a bigger loss (to me at least) in terms of rivalries that occurred just recently.
Which brings me to …
No. 4 B Auburn
No team has caused the Gators more heartbreak over the years than the one from the Plains. While Florida lost Auburn as a permanent rival in 2002, there was always the hope of playing them at least once every four years and maintaining the second-longest rivalry (83 total games) in Florida Gators history. However, when the SEC announced its conference expansion schedule a few weeks ago, Auburn and Florida became a footnote on the pages of SEC rivalry history. They will not play until five years from now in Gainesville, and then must wait another six before Florida travels to Auburn.
Put it this way: the SEC basically bought a house … and then sold all its possessions in order to protect the history of a few over the tradition of the masses. To give you some perspective, my niece just finished kindergarten a few weeks ago. She will be in 6th grade when Florida next plays Auburn at The Swamp; she will then be a senior in high school when the Gators next travel to Auburn. I get respecting rivalries such as Tennessee-Alabama and Auburn-Georgia, but do we really need to lose great games like Florida-Auburn in the process? Come on, SEC. Man up, play nine games and allow this series to return to its rightful place of prominence.
Auburn was the only team to beat Tim Tebow twice (2006 and 2007), the future coach (Kerwin Bell) of my alma mater (Jacksonville University) sealed his place in both programs’ history in 1986 when an unranked Florida toppled the #1 ranked Auburn, and Stephen O. Spurrier locked up his Heisman in 1966 (see above) when he kicked arguably the most famous field goal in UF history. This one runs deep, folks.
One of my favorite sports columnists, Pat Dooley of the Gainesville Sun, had the impeccable assessment of this rivalry in 2007 following an agonizing defeat when he wrote, “Florida-Auburn delivered another game that made one side ecstatic and one side heartbroken. That’s what it does.” He is right, and the SEC is dead wrong in letting this one go. Sadly it won’t climb higher on this list.
C’est la vie. Might that be a clue to the No. 3 rival on this list? Stay tuned, Gator fans.