Tigert understood the significance of sports


Published: Wednesday, January 26, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 25, 2005 at 10:03 p.m.
In his Jan. 23 column, "It's the faculty, stupid," Ron Cunningham states that University of Florida President Dr. John Tigert "understood what it took to build a modern state university - a graduate school would be a nice start, for instance - but he apparently didn't know beans about football."
Apparently, Cunningham doesn't know beans about Tigert.
Prior to arriving at UF after serving seven years as U.S. commissioner of education, Tigert was the chairman of the philosophy department at the University of Kentucky, where he also served as both head of the athletic department and head football coach.
When he arrived at UF in September 1928, the Gators were about to embark on the greatest football season in school history, winning their first eight games before a 13-12 loss in the season finale at Tennessee cost UF its claim to the national title.
Not only did Tigert understand football, he knew the impact it could have on a university.
That's why as soon as he arrived at UF, he began discussing ideas for a new stadium to replace Fleming Field.
"The stadium has become the means of unifying the best in American college life," Tigert said in 1928. "No American university can grow in numbers or spirit, as it should, without a stadium as an adequate forum for the expression of its community of effort, spirit and activity."
Tigert's efforts were the driving force behind the building of Florida Field, which was completed in 1930 with a seating capacity of 20,000.
It's certainly true that Tigert's greatest accomplishments at the University of Florida centered on his vision of putting the school squarely on the path to becoming a great university. But having a winning football team and a new stadium to showcase that team were part of the vision as well.
David Stirt, author, "Saturdays at the Swamp,"
Gainesville

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