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 firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.