Wednesday, January 31, 2007

To be a Gator in Miami

As you probably know by know my co-blogger, Mergz, has been posting a fine series entitled “To be a Gator” which is about the various rivalries Florida has, mainly with other SEC teams. The point, as Mergz puts it, to show those that are skeptical of Florida and the “overall difficulty the Gators face on an annual basis in having an undefeated or ‘BCS worthy’ season.”

That being said, there is no team I would personally like the Gators to beat more than the Hurricanes of the University of Miami. And I’ve been waiting for 20 years (the amount of time I’ve been a Gator) for that to happen. So I’ve decided to borrow the format Mergz has been using to describe the various rivalries and talk about Florida vs. Miami from my personal perspective.

Why it’s important - The truth is that it isn’t all that important today the way some of our other rivalries are. But the way the recruiting wars among the various Division 1A football programs in the state are intensifying means that any game against an in-state rival has important implications.

Historically speaking the game has had a degree of importance for both schools. In 1983 the only blemish Miami had on their way to a “National Championship” was a loss to the Gators. Miami paid the Gators back by handing the Gators their sole loss in 1984, which was the main reason that Gator team didn’t take the top spot in the AP and Coaches polls at season’s end.

The Gators have faced the Hurricanes 53 times since 1938 and trail in the series 25-28. Unfortunately the teams have only squared off four times, with the Gators losing all four meetings, since Florida dropped Miami from its schedule after the 1987 season (more on that later).

Growing up in the Miami area as I did, I rooted for the Hurricanes as a child. I even went to several games in the Orange Bowl. Then I was accepted to the University of Florida and my lukewarm allegiance to the Canes was shed in favor of a fervent following of my new school’s team. My first encounter with the rivalry was in 1987, my freshman year of college. Having just arrived in Gainesville, I found myself back in Miami a couple of weeks later for the season opener and what would be the last game with Canes until the 2000-01 Sugar Bowl. Miami pounded Florida 31-4 in that 1987 game. The Gators’ four points came from two bad snaps on punts that resulted in safeties for Miami; we needed Miami to score our only points. The two programs would go in different directions from there. Florida would finish the year 6-6 and Miami would cap an undefeated season with a “National Championship” under Jimmy Johnson.

The Hurricanes would go on to win 3 more MNCs (89, 91, 01) and were pretty much robbed of their 6th in 2002 on a pass interference call that even I thought was bogus. Both programs have had their ups and downs and brushes with the NCAA. Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley and Miami athletic director Paul Dee, who is ironically a University of Florida alumnus, have agreed to schedule games between the two teams whenever feasible. The Hurricanes are currently scheduled to travel to Gainesville in 2008 and the Gators will travel to Miami in 2013.

Why they are good - Did I mention that Miami has 5 “National Championships”? Plain and simple, the University of Miami is, by my reckoning, the most dominating college football program of the last quarter century. In a state where football reigns supreme Miami has led the way. Their epic battles with Florida State are legendary with the winner usually having the inside track for the MNC. Miami of course has historically had better of that rivalry as well.

The thing is, that as an independent and later as a member of a weak Big East conference, Miami really had nothing else to play for than what is nothing more than a dream for most programs: the National Championship. With the Dolphins failing to reach a Super Bowl since 1985 the Hurricanes became a team that locals could rally around. No town loves a winner more (and is more apathetic about a loser) than Miami. The fact is that there isn’t a huge UM alumni base in the area because Miami is a smallish private school with many of the students coming from other parts of the country. In this sense Miami is an unlikely football power. It’s safe to say that times were different in early 80s when Miami rose to prominence and that it would be hard for private university to establish itself as perennial power in today’s big dollar football landscape. That’s not to say Miami can’t compete today, it certainly can and will because it’s already entrenched as a winner and a football school.

Why we hate them - From 1957 to 1977 the Gators beat the Canes 15 times in 21 attempts. You could say it was pretty one sided. But then Florida’s fortunes began to change with the Gators losing 11 of the last 14 meetings. In fact the Gators have not beaten the Hurricanes since September of 1985. But the real animosity from the Gators’ standpoint stems from the fact that Florida dropped Miami from the yearly schedule 20 years ago and we haven’t stopped hearing about it ever since. We’ve heard accusations that we are “ducking” the Hurricanes as a heavyweight boxer might avoid a match-up with a worthy adversary. But the truth is that Miami was dropped from the schedule for one reason: money.

In 1987 the SEC presidents voted on a proposal to increase the number of conference games each to would play from 6 to 7 (it has since increased to 8). The only president that voted against the proposal was the UF president who knew it would mean having to drop either the Miami game or the FSU game. Remember that home games generate revenue and with an 11-game schedule (back then) your objective was to schedule at least six at home. Playing a 7th conference game each season and maintaining both the FSU and UM rivalries would have meant the loss of a home game (and the millions in revenue that come with it) every other year.

It was unfortunate that this change happened when the programs were headed in opposite directions because it has given Miami fans a cheap argument to use against us all these years. They conveniently forget the years when Miami was either down (like 2006) or on probation (1995-1996) and Florida was riding a wave of success. In any case Florida’s frustration with Miami has to do with their fans and our inability to shut them up. The most heartbreaking loss to Miami, for me, was in 2003. The Gators under 2nd year head coach, Ron Zook, had the biggest 2nd half meltdown I had seen since “The Choke at Doak” except this time it would result in a loss instead of tie. I was pretty convinced by that point that Zook was a lousy coach but losing to Miami and having to listen to their fans gloat put me over the edge and squarely in the camp of

Why they hate us - Two words: Gator Flop. For the uninitiated you will find this story fascinating. Leading 45-8 in the final minutes of the game, the Gators decided to let the Hurricanes score a touchdown. When I say they decided, I mean they got together and agreed to literally lie down so that Miami could score. The reason for this unprecedented behavior was to get the ball back for star quarterback John Reaves who needed only a few more yards to break Jim Plunkett’s career passing record. It was the last game of the season for the non-bowl-bound Gators and Reaves last chance for the record. As you can see by clicking on the photos below, many of the Gator players did in fact lay down to make the Miami touchdown happen. Reaves set the record on the next drive but UF has never been able to live that incident down. It's ironic considering that some 15 years later a dominating Miami team would establish a reputation as a program that reveled in outlandish behavior and poor sportsmanship. Maybe the Gators were just ahead of their time.

Mergz believes another reason they hate us dates back to their first MNC year (1983), when the Gators were the only team that beat them. He recalls bumper stickers in Gainesville when he got there in 84 that said “Miami – Champion in 49 States” with a picture of the state of Florida crossed out.

Another reason that Miami fans hate us is that most Florida fans actually have some sort of connection (outside of being just a fan) with our school as opposed to most them who do not. Most of my friends who root for Miami went to FIU, the lowly and relatively new D1A program that the Hurricanes got in a brawl with during the 2006 season. I think there is some jealousy and resentment there. UF grads are a proud bunch. Beyond football there is a lot to be proud of if you went to UF. But if your only interest in a college is a rooting interest, well that might make you insecure.

Summary - The infrequent meetings between these two major programs located just 335 miles apart makes them quite anticipated events. In 2002 scalped tickets outside The Swamp were still going for $200 each, after the game had begun. With UF winning the MNC in 2006 and Miami finishing the season 7-6 with an MPC Computers Bowl appearance you can bet that fans of “Da U” have September 6th 2008 circled on their calendars; they’ll be wanting to prove to the football world that they are back and Randy Shannon will be in his second year as head coach of the Hurricanes when the two teams renew the rivalry on that date. I’m sure he’ll have his team well prepared. As for me, my calendar is circled on that date as well. I sure as hell don’t want to extend this losing streak to 2013. And Mergz? He told me in an email, “I want to win that game more than any other that year.”


Floridan said...

Regarding "the flop" -- the reason the Gators resorted to this tactic was that they believed that the Hurricanes were stalling and running down the clock slely to deny Reeves the opportunity to set the record.

Anonymous said...

fine article, sir. i agree completely with the gators' reason for animosity- the 'canes never had to play a spurrier team and there's still no way to shut up those miami fans. and based on the last 20 years, what have we done to warrant them shutting up?
i will say, though, the one act that personally made me hate the canes for all time was brock berlin's mock chomp and throat slash after a particularly nasty touchdown pass in the 2003 game. anyone who does that and the team they play for (hello rick clausen?) could lose the rest of their games for the entire duration of their program and it wouldn't bother me for a second.
we'll see the canes in 2008 with tebow and harvin as juniors, hopefully then we can start a streak of our own~

machete said...

Funny that your main beef and mine are the same: the fans. Though I have some gator friends (and you guys are cool), man are gators fans obnoxious. So many years being cocky without any reason to be. Not as bad as OSU, of course, but bad enough.

I'm looking forward to continue our streak in 2008. Like I said, I'm down for a cross-blogger wager...

machete said...

"...the reason the Gators resorted to this tactic was that they believed that the Hurricanes were stalling and running down the clock slely to deny Reeves the opportunity to set the record."

gator: no shit. Would you want YOUR team to lay down when a rival has an opportunity to set a record on you? That's a ridiculous comment.

Henry Louis Gomez said...

Machete, I have to agree with you about the comment made by Gator above. If UM wanted to kill the clock they could have simply taken a knee or decided not to score just like Gators decided to let them score. The truth is that I don't think that Miami players knew what was going on with the record. They may have had an inkling before the game began but I don't think they knew, in-game, whether he was close or had already surpassed it or not. It was 35 years ago and the coverage was not what it is today, especially for those two programs.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget, as a student, you really hate Miami and their fans because they go to your school. So many kids that have lived in Miami all their life, such as Hispanic kids and smart rich kids, come to UF only because they have the best law school or accounting program in the state. That's fine. The problem is that they are not Gator fans. As a matter of fact, they HATE the Gators. Instead, they're always talking about how much better Miami is, wearing Hurricanes shirts and stupid lanyards. And the only home games that they have ever been to? Where we lost to Miami in back to back years of course! While most of the student body was celebrating all season long, our "Canes" fans did not celebrate until Coker was fired. Oh, and did I mention the Orange Bowl is the worst shithole stadium? Never full of their fans (those who are there aren't their students), and never full at all.

Floridan said...

Machete & Gomez: I'm guessing neither of you were born when this game was played. Although I wasn't at the game, I was a student at UF at the time.

That John Reaves had an opportunity to set the NCAA record was not some obscure fact. The local papers ran stories on his passing and the prospects of setting the record. Reaves may not be well-known today, but at the time he was one of the premier QBs in college football, b eing named All-American and was a first round NFL pick. The Hurricane players could not have been unaware.

Plus, Miami's coach that year was the mercurial Fran Curci -- a hothead who was always at odds with opposing coaches. Instructing his players to stall (or at least sending in plays to that effect)in the final minutes of a game that was out of reach would not be beyond him.

The Gators could have been more subtile, but the Hurricanes (or Curci) were the first transgressors.

Henry Louis Gomez said...

Duck, I don't know if "transgressors" is the right word. I don't think that a team that's getting blown out has an obligation to play quickly so that the opponent that is blowing them out can achieve a record.

That said, I don't think letting the other team score is always an unsportsmanlike act. I have participated in games (of flag football) where we let the other team score so that we could get the ball back. The difference is that we were losing by 1 or 2 points and time was running out. By giving up the score (and making it look convincing) we actually put ourselves in a better position to win the game. I certainly could see a similar scenario in college football.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect to the blogging author, I disagree entirely with a central theme of this article.

Gators don't hate scUM as a rival, we have, however, come to disdain scUM.

As a lifelong gator fan who has attended probably 200 Gator games, I can tell one cared about them up to and including 1983. I grew up in Gainesville. No one got particularly excited about the 'Cane game, playing Kentucky was a bigger deal.

Why the disdain?

First, historically UM is a substandard school for the throwaway scions of New Jersey noveau riche and their big-haired, firebird driving molls.*

Second, they are an embarassment to the Great State of Florida. Both in general behavior and lack of contribution. Quick, name me one Great Floridian who is a scUM alum? Reuben Askew, Bob Graham, Bill Nelson, Spessard Holland, George Smathers, etc. ad nauseam. What they've give us are fatigues, Pell Grant scandals, Randal "Thrill" Hill and a battalion of other low level miscreants.

Third, they can't fill the Orange Bowl even when they're winning. It's pathetic. End of story. scUM fans are so apathetic that they don't support the team whether they're winning or they're losing.

Fourth, a point brought up by the blogger. They have no alumni base. Though I must respectfully disagree with the blogger's contention that the fan base is comprised of FIU graduates. On the contrary, that is the upper crust scUM fan. The vast majority didn't go to college and have never even attended a scUM game. Therefore, they have no idea what a college football game is all about from the pomp and pageantry, to tailgating, to healthy rivalry and opponent baiting.

They've won football games and championships and are to be commended on that limited level. However, the only thing about scUM that even approaches a COLLEGIATE tradition is their baseball team.
The Orange Bowl itself is the correct metaphor for the entire fan base: cheap, dilapidated, low rent.

* Editor's note: Overprotective Cuban fathers have sometimes been known to forbid their daughters from leaving town for college to prevent them from giving in to their lustful natures when beyond the paternal influence and require them to attend UM.

machete said...

"substandard" "embarassment" "pathetic" "cheap"

I was going to post a full rebuttal of your nonsense, but I figured I'd take the high road and simply offer you some tissue. Though being a bitter a--hole, I imagine offering you toilet paper would be more appropriate.

...guess not much of a high road after all. Oh well.

1985: Almost a quarter century...

Anonymous said...

by the way Miami did beat a Spurrier coached team at the Suger Bowl

Henry Louis Gomez said...

I don't think I said anything that would contradict that.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article that was good read with a lot of truths but many missing truths.

Let me be clear that I am from the northeast and a Hurricane alumnus and proud of it. Attended Miami from 82 to 86 and saw/attended many of the games referenced in your article. Even attended the Miami-Florida game in 1983 where Miami lost 28-3 and saw the season a year earlier here Jim Kelly separated his shoulder and was replaced by Mark Richt (we all know who he is now) so I can appreciate where they were.

The resentment between Miami and Florida is very squarely based on the 2 points you make, "the play" you reference and Florida dropping Miami from their schedule. Let me also point out that they hate Florida because of their arrogance and their whiney reaction (from recruiting to player reaction to fans) to anything that doesn't go their way. Being a Miami native, you of all people should be aware of that.

You also reference nicely how Miami, an independent at the time, needed the Florida on their schedule. The significance here was to gain income to support (all) their sports programs and gain credibility. What was the impact to Miami for Florida dropping them from the schedule? Ironically, it happened once Miami raised to prominence and needed support as it was starting their basketball program back up. My personal thought is that Florida thought it could stick it to Miami and they would drop out of sight as a result. This also highlighted the reason why Miami needed to join a conference. The Big East later proved beneficial on the Basketball front although it did not help much for football.

The revenue details you reference lack merit. That game was nationally televised each year (except when UF NCAA sanctions prevented it) similar to Miami-FSU and UF-FSU games. Those games net each school millions of dollars so please do not play the card. Florida could have maintained both FSU and UM on their non-conference schedule if they wanted but chose not to. Dragging the SEC vote into the equation is weak.

Your failure to also reference the recruiting scandals under Charlie Pell and Galen Hall was also telling. Miami is no saint on this front either but none of Miami's violations ever compared on this level in terms of numbers and breadth although the press may want you to think so. Florida's infractions were a major cause for many of the NCAA recruiting regulations we have in place today.

I did really like your summary statement of Miami sentiment though. "No town loves a winner more (and is more apathetic about a loser) than Miami." I could not believe the (brutal) press coverage of the Dolphins during my tenure in Miami. This sentiment was particularly true of the local population and press but not the "on campus" University students. Remember Miami is a school of 16 thousand, 8 undergrad and 8 graduates. Half of that population is local commuter. UF is what, 50,000? Tough to compare the two on that front particularly when it came to attendance.

Henry Louis Gomez said...


I have to disagree with your major assertions. FIrst of all with regards to dropping Miami from the schedule. The fact is Miami was on the rise when it was dropped from the Florida schedule. That perhaps made it an easier choice but either FSU or Miami was going to be dropped. The financial ramifications of losing a home game every other year are well established. As far the TV money goes, that money goes to the conference (and split evenly among the teams in the conference) and almost all UF games were/are televised so there was no financial downside to dropping Miami from the schedule.

Not only that, last year I heard Paul Dee essentially making the same arguments about schedule flexibility and revenue on his radio call in show "Hurricane Hotline". I immediately called in and told him that when Gator fans make that argument about the drop of the hurricanes it's rejected. He didn't have an answer and Joe Zagacki chimed in with the argument that you put forward (that the Gators were afraid).

No, I reject that argument completely. The fact is the Gators would have surely beaten the Canes when Miami had it's own probation trouble and was down. We would have surely beaten Miami this last year and I full expect them to beat Miami next year. If Florida were afraid of Miami they would not have agreed to play Miami when feasible. Fact is we've had 4 meetings in the last 7 or seasons. Two in bowls and 2 during the regular season.

Secondly, I don't understand why I needed to reference Florida's probation troubles in my article. It wasn't germane to the rivalry.

And lastly, Florida's stadium seats more than 90,000. And while certainly we have a much larger student population they only represent about half of the attendees. As an alumnus I can testify to the difficulty of getting tickets. If we had 110,000 seat stadium it would probably sell out for most games.

While Miami is a smaller school they also play in a market (Miami-Ft. Lauderdale) of more than 4 million people. Much larger than Gainesville. And the small size of the school didn't deter fans from filling the stadium when the team was winning. Of course that has to do with the fact that most UM fans (not talking about the alums or students) are not die-hard at all. They are fans of convenience and love a winner and are apathetic about a loser.

When Florida suffered under Zook, Gator fans didn't become apathetic, they became angry.

Anyway, thanks for reading.

Unknown said...

although i do find it a bit odd that while spurrier was there that the only time miami played florida was in a bowl game two years after he leaves they are playing again things that make you go hmmmm...
the fact is that spurrier couldn't win a national title playing miami, and the reason why on bobby's headstone it will read "but he had to play miami"

Henry Louis Gomez said...

Jeremiah, don't kid yourself, Miami went through some tough times when Spurrier was coach at Florida. The reason they played Miami twice after Spurrier left is because of the advent of the 12th game. Those games were on the books before Spurrier left. If he had stayed the he would have faced Miami, and don't tell me he left because he was afraid of Miami.

Anonymous said...

Correct on the 12th game - it has given UF more flexibility to schdeule quality opponents like Miami.

UF and UGA are at a bigger disadvantage on the scheduling front than any other SEC school because of the Worlds Largest Cocktail Party in Jacksonville every year. That means that every other year, those 2 schools are playing one of their "home" games in a neutral site and lose out on the concessions, and other game day profits.

On top of that, both schools largest in-state rival (Georgia Tech and FSU) are out-of-conference games, which takes up another flex game on the schedule. That is why those 2 traditionally have a couple non-conference patsy home games each year.

Schools like Auburn/Alabama; Miss ST./Ole miss; Vandy and Tennessee at least have their in-state rival as a conference game, so that frees up another spot to play a quality team.

Henry Louis Gomez said...

Yeah you are a fucking idiot if you have to prove your superiority (what school did you get your degree from anyway?) by posting idiotic comments on a blog about about a school you hate so much.

Unknown said...

i was actually surfing through things because i wanted to show someone who didn't believe me about the gator flop, i came across your site and in all it was a good piece, of course skewed to the way you see things, but as always when it comes down to it all of your education and fanatics go away when you show exactly how classless you are when you can't have a civil discussion about top tier rival schools. instead of competitive banter you proceed to go to grade school name calling. and you write professionally i take it, and yet you still revert to those kinds of actions. you actually have done a great job in showing how stupid and closed minded you are go ahead and give yourself a big pat on the back. i sure am glad or at least i hope your fellow alumni have more class than yourself. but i don't expect a perenial loser have to such a postive outlook on things. hey maybe you guys might beat us this year, i doubt it but anything is possible.

Henry Louis Gomez said...

Let's remember how you started this highbrow debate, by making a statement that implied that our beloved coach was a chicken. We can have a debate about football but how am I to respond to that? Seriously. Get ahold of yourself.

You never told me which school you got your degree from. I mean I can tell you're a Hurrican fan but that doesn't tell me anything except that when you were growing up you were a front running phony. I bet you like the Yankees and Cowboys too.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but the Canes did get to play a Spurrier team. Back in 2000... The result 37-20 Miami. Both teams were good so there was no excuse that one team was going through hard times or w/e...

Anonymous said...

I guess the rivalries you think are important depend on when you started following your team. The first Gator game I ever listened to on the radio was the Flop, but other than that, Miami never meant anything much to me or others I knew. They just weren't that good. I attended every other home game while at school, but I never saw Miami because the game was played on Thanksgiving weekend back then and it just wasn't worth coming back to campus for Miami. If we had to drop either FSU or Miami, the decision was a no-brainer.

Another couple of reasons why the hatred has built up since then is 1) the Schnellenberger in-your-face field goal, and 2) The Catch by James Jones that to my eyes was clearly not a touchdown. Just want to keep the anger levels up!

And about the Flop, I have searched assiduously for decent photos of the event, and all I have ever found are the same two lousy newspaper shots. Surely somebody must have the originals. Anyone?

Anonymous said...

The Swamp will never have as much history as the OB did, and the gaytor nation will crumble after your jesus poster child tim teblow fails to make it in the NFL
all you gaytor fans can die slow, n i'll see you n 2013 when your gettting jumped in the parking lot of dolphin stadium
let the comments come bitches

AMM said...

When I moved to Gainesville in 2002 from Miami, Miami were the National champs. I didn't care about the Gators. FSU was the in-state team the Canes loved to beat. I was shocked to how I was treated by the GatorNation! I was told by a woman, "you should take your U hat off", because I was in "GaytorCuntry" now. I drove to my brother's house to watch the UM-UF game. Driving right past the UF campus, I could hear the sound of that woman in my head in a creepy raspy southern drawl "Take off that U hat!" She hated me just because of my hat! I looked at a tail gate party and to my surprise, it was Canes fans wearing shirts that read, "Welcome to Cainesville"...I got to my brother's house and told him about this. We had a good laugh. The first game that I watched in Gville as a Canes fan was awesome. Miami came from behind to win the game with the Gators' Ex-QB, Brock Berlin! I Loved watching Berlin killing the chomp that night. If I could have seen the look on that woman's face now! That started the rivalry for me...and the 28-25 wins is all I need for the water cooler argument at work. It's just the ammo I was looking for when I came across this article. Thanks!Look out Gators, the Hurricanes are young and hungry, and not to mention more experienced at being National Champs. We know how hard it is to gain and maintain the crystal ball, as it stands it's 5-3 and thats a huge lead for Miami. Happy hunting Gators. (Go 'Bama!)