Golden anniversary history lesson


Published: Friday, November 28, 2008 at 4:06 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 28, 2008 at 4:06 p.m.

Fifty years. Has it been that long?

Facts

You never forget your first

Here's what some other writers said:

"Florida State got its long-awaited football shot at Florida Saturday and a kick in the pants to boot."
Edwin Pope, Miami Herald

"Treating Florida State like a fresh kid who keeps using naughty words and sassing his elders, the University of Florida Gators took the Seminoles out behind the woodshed and gave them an old-fashioned spanking, 21-7.
"But Papa Woodruff didn't say, 'This hurts me more than it hurts you.' "
Benny Kahn, Daytona Beach News Journal

"Florida State University had a brief glimpse of heaven here Saturday but it was quickly blurred by the Seminoles' own wrong-doing as Florida living right and playing right won the big one, 21-7."
Bill McGrotha, Tallahassee Democrat

"Florida State football coach Tom Nugent learned yesterday that he made a costly mistake three years ago as Florida won the first meeting with the Seminoles, 21-7 before a packed Florida Field audience of 43,000.
"The mistake ... was in not giving Gator quarterback Jimmy Dunn a a full scholarship when he had first crack at the Tampa player."
Joe Halberstein, Gainesville Sun

November 1958.

Gas was 24 cents a gallon, average house price was $30,000, average income was $4,650, a Ford car was $1,967-$3,929, milk was $1.01, bread 19 cents and a postage stamp was four cents.

Yep, 50 years ago, the Golden Anniversary of the first football game between Florida and Florida State University.

And Florida Field (now Ben Hill Griffin Stadium) had 43,000 fans packed in.

First, some history, then how several writers led their stories.

For the history, we go to Jack Hairston, former Jacksonville Journal and Gainesville Sun sports editor.

"You still hear it said that the legislature passed a law that Florida and FSU had to play each other in football every year," he states.

"Not so.

"Dr. J. Wayne Reitz, UF president, called me once after someone had said or written something to that effect. He said: 'That's not exactly what happened. The legislature was on the verge of passing the bill. After a Board of Regents meeting in Tallahassee, Gov. LeeRoy Collins asked me to stop by the governor's mansion on the way home to discuss something. I went there and he said it was fairly certain the legislature was going to pass that bill and it would be better for the schools to go ahead and play without being forced to.'

"Reitz said he told Coach Bob Woodruff, who was also Athletic Director, to get a contract with FSU to start the series and that's what was done," Hairston says.

"Woodruff offered FSU a contract that was heavily weighted in Florida's favor. That first contract said the game would be played in Gainesville each year, SEC officials would be used, and FSU would get $25,000 each game with the rest going to Florida. FSU was so desperate for the game, it accepted Woodruff's terms, rather than wait for the legislature to take action.

"It's a good bet the Seminoles later regretted taking the bird in hand."

The first six games were played at Florida Field with the Gators winning five and one ending in a tie.

"FSU made a strong pitch for the series to become home and home beginning in 1964," Hairston says. "The Seminoles had a contract to increase the seating capacity of Doak Campbell Stadium, and Ray Graves, who had replaced Woodruff as head coach/director of athletics agreed to make it a home-and-home series, provided FSU could get the stadium enlarged by a date in spring, before season tickets went on sale."

Hairston quotes Graves as saying he didn't think they would get the enlargement done in time, but they did.

"In '64 FSU began getting a fair share of the money, but it was a few more years before it demanded (and was successful) in getting rid of the SEC-officials-for-every-game clause, as well as the clause that every game would be played in the afternoon."

Back to that first game, and anybody who was there remembers the electrifying start.

FSU coach Tom Nugent, always the innovator, came up with a startling kickoff return that stunned the Gators.

In those days of very limited substitutions, Seminole quarterback Vic Prinzi was back to receive the kickoff along with halfback Bobby Renn.

Prinzi fielded the kickoff (toward the north endzone, which then had only a few bleacher seats) and ran to his left, in the process, handing the ball to Renn.

What ensued was described in many ways, but Renn took off for the south end zone and raced down the East sidelines, apparently headed for a startling score.

It was so sudden that St. Petersburg sports editor Bill Beck stood up in the press box and bellowed, "Ain't nobody gonna stop him?"

Yes, he was stopped by perhaps the unlikeliest of defenders Jimmy Dunn, the Florida quarterback (remember that substitution rule). FSU set up on the Florida 15.

The Seminoles scored several plays later with back Fred Pickard, who had been the star of the 10-0 victory over Tennessee at Knoxville earlier, slamming it in.

That was the first of the scoring, all of which would be in the first half.

Later in the first quarter, Florida's Dave Hudson blocked an FSU punt, picked it up and ran it in to tie the score at 7-all.

FSU's Prinzi was injured and didn't return, giving way to Joe Majors.

"But Dunn, who had first signed with FSU (there were no binding rules at that time) then opted for Florida after the 1955 High School All Star game in Gainesville.

"The Gators had high hopes for the 5-foot-10, 140-pound Tampan and he delivered."

A few minutes before the half Dunn dropped back to pass, couldn't find an open receiver and ran it in 9 yards for a touchdown.

On FSU's next possession, Florida recovered a Seminole fumble and the previous Gator touchdown was duplicated. Dunn, back to pass, couldn't find anyone open and ran it in, this time 12 yards. That completed the scoring for the day in the first Florida-FSU game ever,

Yes, this is the 50th anniversary of that classic, but don't be confused by the numbers, the team teams met in the Sugar Bowl twice, once in 1997 when the Gators won 52-20 and captured the National Championship behind Heisman winner Danny Wuerffel, and in 1995, when FSU won 23-17.

One final quote from Hairston:

"After the '58 game, Hank Foldberg, Florida's offensive line coach, berated the Gators in the dressing room for letting the Seminoles come so close.

"It wouldn't be long before both teams would celebrate no matter the margin."

Perhaps one Gator who didn't hear Foldberg was end Don Fleming. He went over to the FSU locker room and congratulated the 'Noles with, "You guys played well."

Jim Minter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution was there:

"I do recall that I wasn't all that happy about being sent to Gainesville to cover it," he says. "In those days, all of us on the Atlanta Journal sports staff vied for the BIG games. To us, Florida-FSU was something like Georgia playing Georgia Southern today. Certainly it wasn't in the same league with say, Ga-Ga. Tech, Alabama-Auburn, or LSU-Ole Miss, or Tennessee-Alabama.

"I do recall that Ned West, Georgia Tech's sports publicity man who had come from FSU to Tech, rode down from Atlanta with me. Tech had an off-week. Since I had to be back in Atlanta by noon Sunday to be on Furman Bisher's TV show, we had to drive back after the game. We were caught speeding in little south Georgia town, spent much of the night in the pokey, and I barely made it back to Atlanta in time for Bisher's show.

"In those days, we didn't consider FSU in the college "majors." It never crossed my mind that the two someday would play for national championships, before huge crowds and national TV audiences. We were short-sighted not to have known otherwise, considering the wealth of high school talent on the way in Florida. But college football generally has evolved and changed so much in the past half century that it hardly seems the same game. Look at all the other Florida teams beginning to flex their muscles. The state soon can have a league of it's own.

"How long did it take FSU to beat Florida? I don't recall, but at the time such a thing seemed impossible."

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