UF's first football game was staged in Porters neighborhood

Author who discovered this fact will hold talk on Monday


Published: Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 8:51 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 8:51 p.m.

Fred Awbrey was conducting research at the Matheson Museum when he stumbled upon an article about a University of Florida football game.

Facts

Porters event set for Monday
What: The Origins of Florida Field: A Historic Event. Members of the community will be honored for their service to the Porter's neighborhood
When: 6 p.m. Monday
Where: Porters Community Center, 512 SW Sixth Ave.

One roll of microfilm led to another, and he was hooked locating the origins of the first UF football field.

"I've always been interested in digging things up," said Awbrey, who is a volunteer at the Matheson.

After searching through Alachua County, George A. Smathers and Matheson library archives for almost three years, Awbrey said he has pinpointed the field where and when the first football game took place. On a fenced field in the Porters Community, UF defeated the Gainesville Athletic Association 16-6 on Oct. 5, 1906.

Ben Hill Griffin Stadium has been home to Heisman Trophy winners, national champions and SEC champions and some seasons Gator fans would like to forget, but the original football field was located well east of campus near downtown Gainesville.

Awbrey said the team played there because the fence allowed the university to charge for the game. He said the profit from the first game was $5.20. But he said the university lost money for the next few games thereafter.

Gigi Simmons, president of the Porters Community Center Organization, said it's a great find for a community that has had "a black cloud" hanging over it because of a history of crime.

"With Fred's finding, we should acknowledge our past (and) bring light to our past," she said.

Before Awbrey's find, most considered the first home game for UF a victory versus Rollins College, 6-0, on Oct. 26, 1906.

Carl Van Ness, UF historian, said it's a great find that has kept him curious and unable to answer the question of where the football team played during those years.

"It's nice to know people out there are interested in the community and willing to do the legwork," he said.

Though researchers and historians knew the first football games were played somewhere in Gainesville, Van Ness said, they just didn't know where. He said because of Awbrey, they now have a pretty definitive location for the first home football game.

Van Ness said during the 1906 season, Jack "Pee Wee" Forsythe was the new coach for the nameless football team. During that time, the Gators weren't known as the Gators. The nickname would come later in Oct. 1911, though the name's reasoning is debated.

Awbrey will discuss his findings at 6 p.m. Monday at the Porters Community Center, where members of the community will be honored for their contributions to the Porters Community.

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