Miami athletic director Blake James announced earlier this week what many football fans in the Sunshine State had already expected: the on-again, off-again football relationship between Florida and Miami is over for the foreseeable future.
It’s not surprising that the series is ending. With an SEC schedule that may expand to nine conference games and an annual series against Florida State, it makes sense for the Gators not to pursue another series with a power conference team. The two game home-and-home with Miami is a big enough surprise in itself for the Gators, a team that rarely, if ever, schedules top-notch out-of-conference opponents. Under athletic director Jeremy Foley UF hasn’t played an out-of-state regular season non-conference game since a 38-21 loss at Syracuse in 1991.
It’s a bigger deal for Miami. Playing in a conference without the prestige of the SEC, the Hurricanes could use a strong out-of-conference rivalry similar to what the Gators have with the Seminoles. For a team that struggles to fill its stadium, a series with Florida also pretty much guarantees at least one sellout every other year. Meanwhile, a home-and-home would take away one potential home game for the Gators every other year.
Florida/Miami didn’t have the same national spotlight as some of the ‘Canes’ other rivals during the time it was held annually but it was nevertheless one of the nation’s most entertaining. While Miami was busy becoming the bad boys of amateur football in the 1980’s on their way to an assentation as a national power, the Gators were finally beginning to realize their own potential during the decade. Along with the rivalry elements inherent in any in-state competition, the two teams battled out to some of the more memorable moments of the decade.
With their team down big in 1980, angry Florida fans began pelting Miami players with oranges. Hurricanes head coach Howard Schnellenberger responded by calling a time out to kick a field goal late in the game to rub in the lopsided margin of victory.
In 1982, future NFL hall of fame quarterback Jim Kelly, then in his senior season at Miami, wore a shirt that said “GATORS EAT BOOGERS” to a press conference before that year’s Florida game. According to a Sports Illustrated article from Sep. 13, of that year he said “I want everybody to know I hate the Gators.” The Hurricanes would go on to lose in Gainesville 17-14.
In 1985 the Gators gave the Hurricanes their last home loss before a decade-long and national record 55-game winning streak.
Miami held a 5-3 lead in the series during the ‘80’s after the final game in 1987. The Hurricanes won decisively in the 2001 Sugar Bowl and the 2004 Peach Bowl. They also swept UF during a home-and-home in 2002 and 2003.The Gators won in their most recent matchup, a 2008 home game at the beginning of UF’s national championship run.
Florida will enter the Sep. 7 matchup as the favorites and the likely holder of bragging rights between the instate rivals for years to come.