A rivalry unlike any other

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1969
Florida vs. Miami at Sun Life Stadium in Miami on Sept.7, 2013. (Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun)

There is no shortage of rivalries for the University of Florida, and that doesn’t count Gatorade vs. Powerade and jorts vs. Bama bangs. And then there is the rivalry that is not a rivalry, except it is.

You are now big toe-deep in Miami Week and the hatred will only build until kickoff. Florida-Miami is the weirdest rivalry Florida has and might be the strangest in the country.

(It’s so strange that I’m not even going to get to the time UF scored four points against Miami).

How do you despise another team and its fan base when you hardly ever play?

Here is this rivalry of mean, spitting venom and oozing arrogance as the two teams prepare to play … for only the sixth time in 31 years.

(The report Saturday of a home-and-home means the two teams will play each other three times in six years, or half as many as they played on the previous 31. But I digress).

If nothing else, this is a generational rivalry. You tell me when you were born and when you became a fan of either of these two teams, and I’ll tell you how you feel about the Hurricanes or Gators.

If you watched the rivalry in the 1960s, you sensed there was this kind of bitterness from a baby brother emanating from the south. Miami built up a resentment of Florida, and Florida resented Miami right back.

“It was a pretty good rivalry, a lot like FSU,” said Steve Spurrier. “We had a bunch of guys from Miami on the team. They beat me two out of three.”

One of those beatings came four days after Spurrier was announced as the Heisman Trophy winner for 1966.

Fire, meet fuel.

It was such a good rivalry that Spurrier said at his first presser as Florida’s coach that there were three things Florida needed to do — tear up the artificial turf, go back to blue jerseys and play Miami.

“I said we should play in the Bahamas, so we could play an extra game like teams that go to Hawaii,” Spurrier said.

And a game was scheduled (not in the Bahamas, a home and home to get the series rejuvenated). But the SEC went to 12 teams, and the contract was canceled.

So there were no Florida-Miami games in the 1990s. Nada. Zero-point-zero.

The lack of competition is a major part of why this is such an intense rivalry. It kind of reminds you of that third cousin who only shows up every few years to borrow money.

Miami fans will go to their graves believing Florida has ducked Miami. And Florida has done that to a point, although there are a lot of reasons why it hasn’t worked out that you can’t explain to a guy with orange and green face paint screaming “DA UUUUU!” in your face.

Florida fans believe Miami gets seriously angry about how Miami fans didn’t go to the school (I don’t get it), and they don’t feel motivated to give UM a rare full stadium every other year.

But we are getting way ahead of ourselves here. Trying to explain this bizarre rivalry is like a Tarantino movie. You have to kind of jump around.

Flash to the 2000 season. Spurrier didn’t do well against Miami as a player and only faced them once as a coach.

Florida lost that Sugar Bowl to Miami. The HBC is still angry about a roughing the passer call on Gerard Warren (he even remembers the name of the official) at a crucial point in the game. But get this — the two teams hadn’t played since 1987 and there still was a brawl between the players on Bourbon Street a few days before the game.

Of course, familiarity can breed contempt in different ways and just knowing each team from a distance can do that. But this is deep-seated anger that stems from a lot of incidents you cannot duplicate.

Like The Florida Flop.

Most of you know the story. In 1971, Florida’s players wanted to let Miami score so quarterback John Reaves could set a passing record. All but two of them went to the ground like sea lions on a beach, and Miami didn’t take too kindly to it.

“We flopped because we wanted to get John the record,” said Carlos Alvarez, the All-American Florida receiver. “But we jumped in the Dolphin pool because it was Miami.”

Alvarez was from Miami by way of Cuba. He was recruited by Miami. He’s not a fan.

“I was being recruited there by Charlie Tate and I was in his office,” Alvarez said. “All of a sudden I noticed that there’s a stuffed Gator hanging (by a noose) on his wall. That really upset me, so I knew that if that bothered me that much I probably should go to Florida.”

The 1970s had the Flop early to spray gas all over a bonfire, and it never got any colder.

A year later, Miami students passed out small pamphlets like they were offering two-for-one taco specials. Instead, the writings decried Florida for a lack of class the previous year.

Three years later, Florida won on a punt return when Henry Davis appeared to kneel to catch it, but officials ruled otherwise. Doug Dickey’s last game as Florida’s coach before he was fired, of course, was a one-point loss against the same Miami program he’d dissed seven years earlier.

Then we get to the field goals. The one coach Howard Schnellenberger kicked in 1980 to repay Florida fans for throwing oranges at his team and the one Urban Meyer kicked in 2008 because, well, it was fourth down. So incensed was Miami head coach Randy Shannon that he shook Meyer’s hand like he was contagious.

If there is a poster boy for the weirdness and intensity of this rivalry, it would be Brock Berlin.

He was the No. 1 recruit in the country in 2000 and chose Florida. He was beaten out (rather soundly) by Rex Grossman so he transferred to Miami.

And wouldn’t you know it? Miami just happened to be on Florida’s schedule. Berlin led a stirring comeback in the ratty Orange Bowl in 2003, incensing Gator fans when he did the Chomp followed by a throat slash after a touchdown.

And the following year, who does Florida play in a bowl game? Miami and senior quarterback Brock Berlin.

That was 15 years ago. The two teams have played only twice since then.

The rivalry is now back with two more games — according to reports — set for 2024-25.

It’s only going to ramp up the hard feelings, the ones that make it tougher to lose the game than joyous to win it.

This summer was filled with social media salvos being catapulted over the walls of each fan base after being lit on fire. The players have been involved, too, through texts, phone calls and Twitter demands for respect.

What did Florida’s Lamical Perine say this week? “If the coaches gotta get us up for this game we shouldn’t even be allowed to play in it.”

Certainly, if they didn’t, there would be plenty of volunteers to take their places.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

23 COMMENTS

  1. Maybe Arnold Feliciano can square this, but won’t this be the seventh time they’ve played since 2001? I wonder if they view the rivalry as big of a deal as Pat makes out, given that they’ve won five of the last six, and often fairly easily. I hope we play on a more regular basis, I’ll happily pay to see that versus Towson or Tennessee-Martin.

  2. The FSU rivalry is pretty bad but the Miami rivalry is downright ugly. Two different schools (one private the other public), two different cities, two different conferences, and sometimes two different cultures. When you factor in the history of the series and all that Pat mentioned, you get a pretty volatile rivalry. I am going to the game and sitting on the Gators side of course, with my son who is now a proud UF student, and two co-workers who are Miami fans and are from the city (although as the article points out, never went to Miami). The good news for my co-workers is that they get to tailgate with me at Gator Alumni Headquarters in Orlando and since I am their boss, there will be very limited ribbing if Miami wins. If the Gators win, it will be a rough week for them. Go Gators!

  3. I remember Sports Illustrated once touted the biggest rivalries in college football, and one of them it said was, “Florida and . . . everyone else.” At that time Georgia, Auburn, FSU and Miami were all annual rivalries that had their own distinct personalities. All the while, LSU was on the schedule and had become a pretty healthy rival as well.
    I was pissed when the Miami series came to an end, but I understood it, accepted it and have learned to live with it. Reasonable people get it. I don’t need to play a team every year to hate it or its fanbase — Miami makes that pretty easy . . . sort of like hating greasy tank-top wearing punks from Jersey.

  4. What I remember about the 1971 game and I rarely see it mentioned is that once Florida built up a comfortable lead in the second half Miami abandoned the pass and intentionally tried to run out the clock in order to keep Reaves from having a chance to set the record. Most teams when losing by a sizeable margin will keep throwing the ball to try to salvage a little pride. Not Miami. It was more important to Miami to keep Reaves off the field than it was to be competitive. Florida/Miami has never been a rivalry like Georgia or FSU but more of a kick ’em while they’re down , thumb in the eye, shiv in the back, street thug alley fight.

      • I agree with the overdoing it part. You’ve got to agree, though, for a play that’s not called once a game much less once a century they didn’t do half bad. It’s not a play that’s called very often. Miami fans won’t admit it but I think they were bent more out of shape by the score than by the Gator antics. If I remember Fran Curci’s career he got bent out of shape quite often and had a fairly short head coach career. His time at Kentucky was a disaster.

  5. OK Pat – I now vote that you can keep your job (at least for the time being) – this was a well written article. I was not happy with your evaluation of the current Gator team. We are going to outpeform what was done last year – we will NOT regress, but rather progress. GO GATORS!!!

    • Yeah, but if all three take a friend next Saturday then they can claim they have already doubled their attendance for the 2019 season, Todd. Besides, every one now knows that all they have to do is block a punt or two and we’ll fold like a cheap suit! 🤣

  6. I married my wife and her two kids in 1992. They quickly became Gator fans (thanks Steve!) and understood these southern rivalries and passion for football, but they never really had a chance to “get” the Miami rivalry because of the lack of games. They will get it this time, what with the spotlight, stage and celebration of 150 years of college football.

  7. The college football landscape had been completely remade since the days of a Florida-Miami rivalry. Like FSU, UM exists outside our conference and only complicates a path to a National Championship.

    I agreed with the decision to drop the UM game. It benefited and legitimized a rogue Miami program that did not even try to meet the same academic and moral standard as UF. That was especially true after the disaster of the Pell era, when UF was willing to do nearly anything to thwart the in-state success of Howard Schnellenburger and the UM program.

    Today, the Miami program is not that relevant on the national scene. Once again, they would appear to benefit significantly more than UF by the scheduling of a home and away.

    • I couldnt agree more! Best thing they did was drop that Um game to start the season, it wrecked one of the programs chances for a N.C. each year, usually ours. The 1st 2 games each year are warmups, get the kinks out, build some confidence, get em playing like a team games for the rest of the season. No need to wreck that with scheduling a tough opponent. Lived thru it with miami and dont want to do that again!!!!!!

  8. I became a Gator fan when I was old enough to read the St. Pete Times sports pages. I remember UF and Miami used to be the last game of the season on the first Saturday in December. I remember the left-handed td pass by George Mira that beat the Gators. In the early 70s, the game was moved to mid-season so UF and FSU would play the final game of the season. I remember Nat Moore”s Heisman hopes crushed by an injury vs. Miami. I remember “the flop” that allowed canes to score so John Reaves and Carlos Alvarez could set the total yardage record. I remember James Jones’ catch. I was there for the 28-3 win in Gainesville in 1983. I consider beating the ‘Canes right up there with beating the ‘dawgs. Of course, nothing compares to beating Free Shoes U. Peace and go Gators.

    • That 28 – 3 win was Miami’s only loss that season. They got to play at home vs Nebraska for the NC, and Nebraska went for two and I was so rooting for them to convert, but they passed the ball. I didn’t get that. They had a prolific running game and had just scored on a 20 something yard scamper, too.

      I wish I still had one of those bumper stickers proclaiming Miami national champs in 49 states!

      It was like when Seattle’s Russell Wilson threw the ball when they had Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks were robbed. The Butler did it.

  9. The only times I’ve ever come close to getting in a fight at a football game was 1982 & 1983 vs Miami. And I remember thinking even in the moment how bizarre it was that a boozed up, mid 40s, ex-jock was picking a fight with a skinny teenager. Stay classy, Canes fan. And win your damn basketball conference once-in-a-row, will ya?

  10. since its a rivalry, its possible something crazy will happen. usually every few games something crazy happens anyway, but even more so with rivals. and if it gets crazy, things might get close and nerve wracking. im just glad we are playing, and that the will of the gator fans to resume this is starting to be heard over the number crunchers, who were rapidly crunching things to zero with these games like idaho state etc. plus artificial rivalries that just havent caught on