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October 19, 2011

Disregarded Gators

Like Tom Cruise in "A Few Good
Men," apparently, Florida can't
handle the truth either.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I recently signed a contract to write a book on the Georgia-Florida football rivalry.  In my research, I've already delved into lots of information on the history of the Gators - nearly too much, in fact, for one Bulldog to endure.  

I'm sure like many of you, I've known for quite some time that there is a discrepancy between the two schools regarding the series record; the Bulldogs declare they have a 47-40-2 advantage while the Gators claim to trail 40-46-2.  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. 

I recently became aware of the exact details surrounding the series conflict, and thought they were fitting to post with the 90th meeting of the rivalry (or is it 89th?) looming...

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 is 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 game - a 6-0 victory over "Julian Landon," whomever they, he, or she may have been.  Upon the relocation to Gainesville the following year is when the Gators begin acknowledging their football history, and thus what Georgia claims is the rivalry's second game - a 37-0 win in 1915 and another blowout over Florida - is what the Gators actually believe is the first.

A Florida newspaper - Jacksonville's The Florida Times-Union - identified the 1904 Georgia-Florida game in 1941 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 "The Gators: A Story of Florida Football" in 1974.  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 awful, 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 Bulldog historian and icon Dan Magill when, in acknowledging Georgia's win in 1904, he 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.

During the Gators' one-sided 18-3 run against Georgia since 1990, Florida followers have often been quick to instruct Bulldogs to stop living in the past.  Apparently, for University of Florida football, part of its past actually never occurred.


AthensHomerDawg said...

Nice read .... thanks!

Anonymous said...

Funny how Magill doesn't count the 1943-1944 Tech games in the series but counts the 1904 Fla game. Seems a little contradictory to me. I know he's a legend and all but, sheesh. I guess he too is a little bias. Great pi=ece, Garbin. Looking forward to your new book.

Anonymous said...

Oy vey, this again.

In 1845, the Florida Legislature authorized the founding of two seminaries of higher learning, one located east of the Suwannee River, the other west of the river.
The East Florida Seminary opened in Ocala in 1853.
The West Florida Seminary opened in Tallahasee in 1857.
The East Florida Seminary closed at the outset of the Civil War in 1861; it reopened in Gainesville in 1866.
Separate and apart from the history of the two seminaries authorized in 1851, Florida Agricultural College was chartered as a new land grant school to be opened in Lake City pursuant to the federal Morrill Acts in 1884.
As one of a series of faltering and politically disjointed steps to reform the state's higher education "system," the legislature revoked the authority of Florida State College (the renamed West Florida Seminary) to call itself the "University of Florida" in 1903.
The legislature authorizes the Florida Agricultural College to use the name "University of Florida," which it assumes from the fall of 1903 to the spring of 1905. Florida Agricultural College and the old University of Florida in Lake City were the same entity, with a simple name change authorized by the legislature.
The Florida Agricultural College fielded a football team in 1902; the renamed University of Florida in Lake City fielded a football team in 1903 and 1904. The FAC/UF colors were blue and white.
The East Florida Seminary fielded its own football team in 1903 and 1904.
With the full political backing of Gov. Broward, the 1905 legislature enacted the Buckman Act that legally abolished all pre-existing state-supported institutions, including Florida State College in Tallahassee, the University of Florida in Lake City, the East Florida Seminary in Gainesville, the St. Petersburg Normal and Industrial School in St. Petersburg, and the South Florida Military Academy in Bartow. The assets and academic programs of the latter four coeducational colleges were consolidated into the new single-sex University of the State of Florida.
The president of the old University of Florida in Lake City, Andrew Sledd, was forced to reapply to the new Board of Control to become the president of the new University of the State of Florida.
In addition to a new name, the new university had a new charter, a new governing body (the Board of Control), a newly constructed campus in Gainesville (started in 1905 and opened in September 1906), a new organizational structure, new academic programs, a faculty that was approximately one-third different from the old University of Florida in Lake City, new school colors, a new alma mater, a student body that was over half different and was not coeducational, and new sports teams. From the standpoint of corporate law, the old University of Florida (1903–1905) and the new University of the State of Florida (1905–present) were and are different corporate entities.
The new university had a football team, with a new coach, in the fall of 1905, but Sledd canceled the season with no games having been played when several of the players failed to satisfy his academic eligibility standards.
The new university fielded a football team in the fall of 1906. The team had its second new coach in two years, Jack Forsythe, who was formerly the coach of Florida State College before the Buckman Act. The team also had new colors----orange and blue. No members of the 1904 team were members of the 1906 University of the State of Florida team.
The University of the State of Florida officially shortened its name to the University of Florida in 1909.
From 1905 to 1932, the modern University of Florida used 1905 on its seal as its official founding date; only after president John Tigert petitioned the state attorney general to use the founding date of the East Florida Seminary, the oldest of the university's four predecessor institutions, did the university alter the founding date to 1853 on its seal.