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March 5, 2013

"I Need Some Excedrin"

While conducting a recent interview for my latest book, a former Bulldog player spoke of the 1985 Florida game.  And, although he had already left the field when the ruckus occurred, he detailed the infamous clash that resulted between jubilant Bulldog fans and Jacksonville's finest following Georgia's 24-3 upset win over the Gators.
Just a few days later, I happened upon video (below) of the game's aftermath (the first time I had ever seen as much), exhibiting the final moments of a great victory and a celebratory crowd donned in red and black which left the Gators, and apparently even one of their broadcasters, grasping for some Excedrin. 
As a kid, left to only listen to the radio since Florida had gotten itself placed on probation, I clearly recall two things from the game: Kerwin Bell threw all over the Bulldogs the entire afternoon; however, once he got inside Georgia's 20 to 25-yard line, the Bulldogs left him with little to no room to operate.  I've always said it assuredly is the only time in the history of college football a quarterback passed for 400+ yards in a game, yet his team failed to score a single touchdown.
In addition, I remember the legendary voice of Larry Munson following the game.  Except, instead of postgame comments or analysis, I recall the stentorian voice, backing the Bulldog fans when some of them were literally being beaten by the police: “[The cops] are kicking those fans!" Munson hollered over the airwaves during the melee.  "I can’t believe it!  Those people are just lying on the ground and they’re kicking them!”

Along with video of the skirmish, the following is a piece from my Georgia-Florida book, describing the partiality of the Jacksonville police and the city's mayor in the mid-80s, and the event that resulted in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party becoming less of a, well, cocktail party:

In 1984, Florida defeated Georgia soundly by a score of 27-0 for what seemed like the Gators’ first victory in the series in an eternity.  Florida fans stormed the field, unearthed a newly-sodded playing surface, tore down and dismantled both goal posts, carried them around, and eventually left the Gator Bowl with the goal posts in tow.  Like previous years, police had been posted around the field to prevent fans from entering.  However, during the melee, officers merely watched as the destruction took place and did not make a single arrest.  Police restraint was exercised, according to a spokesman for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s office, “because the surge of fans was too great.”

Jacksonville’s mayor at the time and an apparent Florida fan, Jake Godbold, inexplicably stated that the city “would be tickled to death to pay for [any damages to the field].  If [the Gators] beat ‘em like that next year, they can tear it down then too.”

Much to the mayor’s presumed dismay, there would be no victory for the Gators in 1985, but instead a 24-3 Georgia upset win over a top-ranked Florida team.  As the Gators had done the year before, Bulldog fans attempted to rush the field following the victory by climbing over a fence; however, this time, the jubilant crowd was held back by police.  Nonetheless, spectators would eventually open a gate and soon there was a red and black throng covering the field.

Jacksonville police did not exercise restraint that particular year as law enforcement took to the Georgia crowd wielding nightsticks.  Numerous arrests were made while 15 fans were treated on the field alone for injuries suffered during the police-engaged chaos.

Entering the 1986 matchup, a “war on alcohol” was more or less declared in and around the stadium as security was greatly increased.  This included the addition of police dogs, mounted police on horses, undercover law enforcement, reinforced fences, and if necessary, even helicopters and marine patrol boats could be used.  Apparently, lessons had been learned from previous years and drastic steps were taken by both teams and the city of Jacksonville to keep the Cocktail Party out of the confines of the Gator Bowl.


Dawg19 said...

Here's the hi-lites from the game in case you're interested...


JAXDAWG said...

Yeah, that was Florida football in the 80's. I heard someone shouting after the game "Florida was #1, for less than a week! GO DAWGS!".

Let me also say that Galen Hall was such a appropriate coach for the Gators - the typical NE FL redneck with a beer-drinker's physique. If only his name would have been "Chaz".

Unknown said...

Even in 1990 my freshman year I saw Jax cops taking swings and sticks at our students for some pretty mild misbehavior. One kid lingered too long alon the fence. The cop told him to move. He didn't so he smacked him to the ground and cuffed him.

It was a different vibe there to be sure back them.

It has really mellowed. The UF fans pre game are pretty mild. Post game they are a handful. But they aren't the humorless bunch that the Gamecocks are.

And they aren't as rambunctious as the LSU fans.

Right now we have the most trouble with SC fans for being just petty and crappy. And that was before they won 3 in a row. Ps - I have been to 100+ road games so I have some perspective on this.

Anonymous said...

Pat, good piece as always. Two things- 1) checkout the MSU bulldog logo they use for Georgia on the telecast 2) you sure Zeier never passed for 400-plus while we couldn't muster a TD?

Amanda said...

Bulldog fans celebrate following Georgia's historic 24-3 upset victory over top-ranked Florida in 1985, and encounter Jacksonville's Finest in the process. Amanda Vanderpool