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April 8, 2013

A Lingering Tall Gator Tale

In '66, it was obviously (L to R) Varnado, Patton, & Stanfill
who drank Gatorade, and not Florida's Superman.
Yesterday, I saw a Gatorade commercial for the first time -- a supposed "true story" -- once again depicting the sports drink's association with Florida Gators football of the mid-1960s.  And, as I've desired for quite some time of the Gatorade-Gators  connection, I just wish everyone would be on the up and up...
 
Several years ago, I discovered that the account of the drink practically turning around the Gators' program was somewhat exaggerated to say the least.  When I was asked to write I Love Georgia/I Hate Florida, I finally got to expose Florida's fabricating ways.  For anyone who isn't aware, or even cares, I hate to burst your bubble, but the only thing worse than a Gator is an embellishing Gator.  From my book:
 
Thank goodness for the 1965 Florida football team and a few of the university’s researchers from the time.  Because of them, there have been far fewer athletes affected by the heat and heat-related illnesses; these much appreciated Gators are the reason for the acclaimed sports drink of Gatorade.
 
In the spring of 1965, an assistant coach approached Dr. Robert Cade, the university’s kidney disease specialist, asking the reason why so many Gator players were “wilting” towards the end of games in the Florida heat.  In response, Cade and other researchers formulated a new beverage to help counteract the players’ debilitating dehydration better than just plain drinking water.

The new drink, Gatorade, was presented to head coach Ray Graves, who agreed that the researchers could try out the concoction on his Gators, but only the freshman team. Legend has it, the first on-the-field tests of Gatorade came in a scrimmage between the freshman squad, or the "guinea pigs," against the superior Gators' B team.

“At the end of the first half, the B team was ahead 13-0. They pushed the freshmen around pretty good,” Cade says. “In the third period, the freshmen, who had been given the solution, came out and began pushing the B team around. They scored two or three touchdowns in the third period and five or six more in the fourth period.”

Coach Graves was instantly sold on Gatorade and asked the researchers if they could supply enough for the entire Florida varsity to use in its upcoming game against heavily-favored LSU.

The very next day, Florida came from behind in the fourth quarter in 102-degree heat in Gainesville to upset the Tigers, 14-7.  Apparently, the Gators had been filled with Gatorade in the second half, whereas LSU had wilted down the stretch.

At that point, according to the drink’s official website, “the Gators began winning… outlasting a number of heavily favored opponents in the withering heat and finishing the season at 7–4.”

With Gatorade in hand, it only got better for the Gators.  In 1966, they achieved a regular-season record of 8-2 while earning the reputation as a second-half team.  Prior to Florida’s first-ever Orange Bowl appearance that season, the Florida Times-Union summed up the Gators’ newly-found success and their secret remedy with the headline: “One Lil’ Swig of That Kickapoo Juice and Biff, Bam, Sock — It’s Gators, 8-2.”

In the Orange Bowl, the Gatorade-filled Gators defeated Georgia Tech, finishing its season with a school-record-tying nine victories.  Word soon spread about the University of Florida’s balanced carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage and how the magic potion brought instant fortune to its football team.

And, as they say, the rest is history: “Orders from other college football programs across the country soon followed, as playing without Gatorade on your sidelines began to be likened to playing with just ten men on the field.”

Let us first start off by saying that your average Bulldog fan does not dislike Gatorade simply because it was created by a group of Gators.  Most of us like the drink, in fact, probably just as much as the next guy.  We’ve even used it once in a while for alternative purposes, like dumping it on our coaches following a big victory.  However, the Gators tend to often exaggerate their football history, while we Bulldogs usually will call a spade a spade.

In 1965, “heavily-favored” LSU was actually just a three-point favorite over the Gators.  Also, Florida did not rally in the fourth quarter to defeat the Tigers as the story goes; the Gators didn’t score a single point in the final quarter and actually never trailed the entire game.

As far as Florida “outlasting a number of heavily favored opponents” that season, in fact, the opposite could actually be said.  Following the victory over LSU, the Gators did not win a single game as a decided underdog while actually losing two games when ranked in the top ten to unranked teams – Auburn and Miami (Fla) – who would both finish their seasons with sub-par records.

The 1965 Florida football team would actually end its season with an overall record that was a little worse than the Gatorade-less Gators from the year before.

Granted, the following season of 1966 was a banner year for Florida.  However, if one was to consider the first three Gator teams that were drinking Gatorade, including the ’66 Orange Bowl champions, and compare them to the three Florida football squads prior to the drink’s creation (1962 to 1964), each group of Gators lost the exact number of combined games – 10 each.

As far as the ’66 Gators earning the reputation as a second-half team, any “reputation” certainly wasn’t earned in Jacksonville, when Florida blew a 10-3 halftime lead to Georgia and was outscored 24-0 in the second half (17-0 in the fourth quarter).  We guess the Gators forgot to drink their Gatorade during the final two quarters, especially the top Gator – quarterback Steve Spurrier, or “Superman” as he was then known as.

Constantly harassed and repeatedly sacked while throwing three interceptions in the second half against the Bulldogs, instead of Gatorade, Superman must have come in contact with some kryptonite.

2 comments:

Cojones said...

Kryptonite in the form of Bill Stanfill sacked Spurrier 3 times.

StuDawg said...

Great stuff Patrick!