Coach Meyer: Here's a primer on rivalry vs. UT


Published: Tuesday, September 13, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 13, 2005 at 12:00 a.m.
Florida coach Urban Meyer is looking to his players for a primer. He wants them to tell him about the rivalry between Florida and Tennessee. That's fine, but it is also like asking the Olsen Twins for a history of cinema.
The members of the current Florida team were more worried about cooties and bedtimes when this rivalry started to really heat up. Most of them were trying to get the nerve up to ask the prettiest girl in school to the prom when the Vols cost the Gators a shot at the Rose Bowl.
It would be hard to find one of them who knows that Doug Dickey played at Florida, coached at both schools and recently retired as the Tennessee athletic director. I say Reaves-to-Alvarez in the Gator Bowl and they ask if they were wearing facemasks back then.
So instead, allow me: First of all, this is a rivalry that is both young and old. The bad blood started a long time ago when Florida accused Tennessee of watering its field in 1928 to slow down speedy Gator running backs. But it has only been in the last 15 years that the two teams have played on an annual basis.
The reason it is such a rivalry is because of the coach before the coach before you. That guy was a Tennessee son who not only went to Florida, but also coached the Gators to one stretch of seven wins in eight games against the Vols.
He also rubbed it in their faces, joked about their annual game in the Citrus Bowl and once handed me a sheet of paper with the goals for the Tennessee football team in 1996.
They included national champions, SEC champions, SEC East champions, state champions and Knox County champions. All but the last one had been crossed out because Tennessee had not only lost to Florida, but also to Memphis that year.
By then, Tennessee fans already despised Steve Spurrier. They thought he was cheating when a former UT assistant faxed Volunteer plays to the Gator defensive coordinator - a guy named Ron Zook - before the 1991 game. It was called "Faxgate" as if it were as serious as Watergate, which it was in Knoxville.
For older fans of both teams, it goes deeper than simply the Spurrier Era. You'll never believe this, Urban, but in 1969 Florida played Tennessee in the Gator Bowl. Tennessee was coached by Dickey, who agreed before the game to succeed Ray Graves as the Florida coach.
I know, it was hard to believe when it happened. Looking back it seems even more bizarre. And when Florida won, well, you can guess that the Volunteer fans weren't too happy.
You want to know if this is a friendly rivalry or a hatred rivalry. There's a lot of hate on both sides. Tennessee fans hate the toothbrush joke. It goes like this - you know the toothbrush was invented in Knoxville because if it was anywhere else it would have been the teethbrush.
Florida fans hate to hear the story about a fan relieving himself in a cup and throwing it on the wife of UT coach Phil Fulmer because it has never been substantiated. It's kind of an (I promised myself I wouldn't do this) urban legend. It does kind of give new meaning to "You're ... in ... Gator Country."
Florida fans are not fond of Casey Clausen, who twice led the Tennessee band as it played "Rocky Top" after winning in the Swamp. By the way, coach, you're going to learn to hate "Rocky Top." It's kind of like "Macarena" without the dancing.
Gator fans are, however, very fond of Peyton Manning. Believe it or not, Urban, he never beat Florida and it cost him the Heisman twice. One time - you'll love this - Florida was playing in Neyland Stadium and the game had been hyped up even more than this one will be. On the first drive it was fourth-and-11 on the 35 and Spurrier had Danny Wuerffel throw deep for Reidel Anthony. In the rain. It worked, Manning threw four picks and, well, I'm sure someone mentioned to you that the Gators won the national title that year.
A few more things you should know: Florida fans think Bobby Moreau, the side judge who called the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Dallas Baker last year, is a no-good, lying Tennessee fan with checkerboard underwear.
Tennessee fans think Al Matthews, who ruled Jabar Gaffney's drop was a catch for the winning score in 2000, was on the take and is now living on a yacht in the Caribbean.
Florida fans think the orange worn by Tennessee looks like something your dog would throw up.
Tennessee fans think the orange worn by Florida looks like Carrot Top.
Florida fans tell fat jokes about Phil Fulmer.
Tennessee fans tell frat jokes about Ron Zook.
Florida fans think Tennessee fans are all uneducated hillbillies who dine on road kill and marry their sisters.
Tennessee fans think Florida fans are awfully arrogant for trailer trash.
The Gator chomp makes Vols sick to their stomach.
UT's two-game win streak in The Swamp makes Gator fans even more sick.
And, by the way, there is not a Volunteer fan in the world who doesn't believe you hired C.J. Leak to pick his brain.
I could bore you with highlight moments from the series, but I'm sure you've researched them thoroughly. So you know about Lawrence Wright's hit on Joey Kent and Dale Carter's kickoff return and Mike Kelley's blocked punt and Ricky Nattiel's end-around.
All you really need to know is this - in the Gator Nation there is no bigger rivalry than this one.
Until the next one. You can reach sports columnist Pat Dooley by e-mail at dooleyp@gvillesun.com or by calling 374-5053. You can hear The Pat Dooley Hour each weekday from 11 a.m. to noon on The Star 99.5-FM.

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