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October 22, 2015

Forgotten Gators

The "truth" there was a Georgia-
Florida game in 1904. But, apparently,
the Gators can't handle the truth!
An edited re-post of mine from several years ago regarding an era of Florida football which has been disregarded and forgotten by the Gators...

I'm sure like many of you, I've known for quite some time that there is a discrepancy between Georgia and Florida regarding the series record; the Bulldogs declare they have a 50-41-2 advantage while the Gators claim to trail 41-49-2.  The one meeting in dispute was played in 1904 in Macon by a Florida squad, which evidently is not acknowledged by the school as a "true" Gators team. 

Simply, the University of Florida does not recognize any football results prior to the school's move  to Gainesville from Lake City beginning with the 1906-07 academic year.  This means the five Florida football teams from 1901 to 1905, all located in Lake City, are disregarded in the team's history.

Although, just prior to the 1903 football season, the school at Lake City began referring to itself as the "University of Florida," and so the press did as well from that point going forward.  That year, the Florida football team won one of three games. The next season in 1904, the school recorded likely one of the worst campaigns in the history of southern football, losing all five of its contests by a combined 225-to-0 score. That's no typo you see; that's an average loss by a score of 45 to zilch.

To illustrate how bad the 1904 University of Florida football team must have been, it was defeated by Georgia 52-0 in the series' first game and the Red and Black's season opener.  That dismal Georgia squad, who absolutely routed Florida, would play five more games the rest of the year, and lose them all by a combined 68-to-16 score. 

Florida also lost to Alabama 29-0 and Georgia Tech 77-0 in 1904 as well. For what it's worth, both the Crimson Tide and Yellow Jackets, like Georgia, recognize the games in their records, while the University of Florida (at Gainesville) does not. 

In 1905, Florida played just one gamea 6-0 victory over "Julian Landon," whomever they, he, or she may have been.  Upon the relocation to Gainesville the following year, the Gators finally began acknowledging their football history, and thus what Georgia claims is the rivalry's second gamea 37-0 win in 1915 and another blowout over Floridais what the Gators actually believe to be the first.

In 1941, Jacksonville's The Florida Times-Union identified the 1904 Georgia-Florida game as "the No. 1 game in the famous series."  In addition, Tom McEwen, a Florida graduate and then-sports editor of the Tampa Tribune, wrote in 1974 the book, "The Gators: A Story of Florida Football." For years, McEwen's book was considered the "bible" of the school's football history.  In the back pages, under "Florida's Past Scores," listed are the team's historical results and included are the games from, you guessed it, 1903 to 1905 (and 1901-1902 as well).

Let me add, I have a suspicion that if the University of Florida football team, whether located in Lake City, Gainesville, or any other place for that matter, had achieved, let's say, a 7-2 mark instead of its actual 2-7 record from 1903 to 1905, the results might be counted by the school, including the 1904 Georgia game.  However, since it's somewhat of a gray area and those early Florida teams were absolutely dreadful, the Gators have picked and chosen what to recognize and what not to recognize.

Personally, and I might be somewhat bias, but I side with the late, great Dan Magill when, in acknowledging Georgia's win in 1904, said, "That's where Florida was back then.  We can't help it if they got run out of [Lake City]."

Furthermore, although the Florida players and coaches from 1903 to 1905 have long past away, I'm sure they would want their efforts (or lack thereof) to be recognized.  These men sweated and bled while playing under the "University of Florida" name, so their games should be counted by the school instead of merely dismissed.

Finally, it wasn't too long ago when the Gators were enjoying a one-sided 18-3 run against Georgia. It was then Florida followers were often quick to instruct Bulldog enthusiasts to stop living in the past.  

Nevertheless, apparently for University of Florida football, part of its past actually never occurred.

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