Let my people go (to the Jacksonville Landing)! - Public Domain
Let's get one thing straight: I hate Florida. It's not just a simple dislike, a harmonious discord, or even a deep, latent enmity. I hate Florida with the fire of a thousand suns being fueled by the fire of an additional thousand suns. In a world where my choices were to cheer for Florida or go blind, I'd start learning Braille. Most of the time, I am (relatively) civil while expressing this intense Gator hatred. For one week a year, though, I allow my hate to come out of the closet and be displayed in its raw, naked form. This is that week.
Yesterday, we covered the genesis of the Georgia/Florida rivalry, a storied series that dates back to 1904. Certainly, we have rivalries that are older, but none that generate the fierce competitiveness and hatred of that we currently share with the Great Satan, the Florida Gators.
Today, as the Dawg Sports faithful continue to contribute some top-notch southward-directed venom, we follow the Florida rivalry through the early years, as we wandered through the wilderness to find the land which had been promised to us by our ancestors, but then claimed by the King
s of Canaan Spain.
After the beatdown of 1904, the "boys of the Everglades" decided it might be best to steer clear of their superiors from the north for a while. They (probably correctly) figured they should play against teams that were more their speed, like Mercer, Savannah Athletic Club, Rollins College, and Stetson College. In fact, after 1904, they didn't even play a team that is currently in Division I-A again until 1911, when they scheduled both South Carolina and Clemson. After tangling with the likes of Vedado Club (Cuba) and mighty Wofford, the Gators decided they might be ready to tackle the Georgia Bulldogs again in 1915.
They were wrong.
Georgia thumped the Sunshine State Saurians 39-0 at a game played in Jacksonville at Barrs Field, a minor league baseball ground appropriated for the game. It was the first taste of the promised land for the Dawgs, but it would be many years until they returned.
In 1916, Florida must have figured "third venue's the charm" and decided to invade enemy territory in earnest, making the trip to Athens to take on the Dawgs at Sanford Field. That actually worked pretty well for them, since Georgia only defeated them 21-0, a significant improvement over their previous showings against the Red and Black. The World War I years intervened (in which Georgia did not field a team). Then, in 1919, the 'Gladers brought the series back to the Sunshine State in Tampa, and continued to improve, notching another moral victory against the Dawgs, who only won 16-0. Awww, you were that close, Gator fans! (It's also worthy of note that Georgia replaced its head coach, W.A. Cunningham, after the 1919 season.)
Unfortunately for the itty bitty scaly committee, the 1920 campaign brought them back to Athens and back to earth with a 56-0 thumping, after which the Gators cried, took their ball, and went home for 5 years. (Sad trombone.wav) The 1926 game, however, brought with it a major accomplishment. Returning to Athens to seek redemption, Florida actually did something they'd never done against the Dawgs. They scored. I mean, Georgia still won 32-9, but imagine the celebrations in Gainesville that night! They actually scored against Georgia!
The 1927 season was the beginning of an interesting experiment in venue selection for the Georgia/Florida series. From 1927-1930, the game rotated between Jacksonville, FL (first at Barrs Field, then at the newly-christened Fairfield Stadium, which would become the Gator Bowl), and Savannah, GA. This experiment was actually a huge success for the 'Gladers, who went 2-1-1 during that time and were actually 1-0-1 in Savannah. In spite of that run, however, the two sides opted to stage a home-and-home series in 1931 and '32, both games in which the Dawgs emerged victorious. (Florida has never exactly, shall we say, been fond of making sound strategic decisions, such as not running off their most successful and second-most-successful head coaches in history.)
Finally, in 1933, Georgia and Florida agreed to stage their annual match at Fairfield Stadium in Jacksonville. The stadium, when dedicated in 1928, was called, "The best place in Florida to watch a football game," by then-governor John Martin. The stadium was not, however, without its "special quirks." The playing surface in Fairfield Stadium ran (and still runs) from north to south, but the primary stands for the stadium had been salvaged from a previous facility at that location whose field ran east-to-west. As a result, the vast majority of seating for early crowds in the stadium was located behind the south endzone, with relatively small sets of bleachers attending the remaining three sides of the field.
At any rate, Georgia football had finally arrived in the promised land, and proceeded to establish a firm hold on the outpost that, culturally, resided just as much in south Georgia as it did in north Florida. From 1933-1951, Georgia maintained a 15-3 record in the stadium that, by 1948, had been officially named "Gator Bowl Stadium."
Just as with the Romans and Greeks, however, all good things eventually end, and in 1952, the Gators stormed the banks of the St. Johns River, dealing the Dawgs a stinging 30-0 defeat that would remain their worst in the rivalry for 38 years. From that point, through the nadir of the Wally Butts era and the Johnny Griffith era, the Gators would post a record of 10-2 between 1952 and '63. (To be honest, this is when the rivalry really got clicking, because you can't hate a group of arrogant, navel-gazing jerks if they never beat you.) (Looks at Georgia Tech.)
Finally, in 1964, a new Gator killer arrived. Some measly little assistant coach from Auburn, of all places, showed up in Athens, and after wading through the mire of a 3-3-1 record against the Gators in his first 7 years (including a 27-10 win over future Heisman Trophy winner Steve Spurrer in 1966), Vince Dooley would lead the Dawgs to a 15-5 record in Jacksonville over the next 20 years. Order had been restored, and all was right in the world.
And then the world ended, and everybody was happy.
(Ok, so the world didn't end, but I'm going to deal with that tomorrow.)
Go Dawgs! Beat Florida!