The Florida Gators football team, in American college football, which represents the University of Florida (UF), is a participant in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and competes within the SEC’s Eastern Division.
They play home games at Steve Spurrier-Florida Field in Gainesville. Established in 1906, the program adopted the “Gators” nickname in 1911 and began playing at Florida Field in 1930. They were a founding member of the SEC in 1932.
Success was sporadic in the early 20th century, but the 1960s brought sustained success under coach Ray Graves. In 1966, Steve Spurrier became the school’s first Heisman Trophy winner.
Spurrier returned as head coach in 1990, ushering in a period of excellence. Since then, Florida has won three national championships (1996, 2006, 2008), eight conference titles, fifteen SEC East division titles, and sixteen bowl games.
Florida has achieved national top-10 rankings on fifteen occasions. Notably, quarterbacks Danny Wuerffel and Tim Tebow secured Heisman Trophies in 1996 and 2007, respectively.
Table of Contents
Florida Gators History
The University of Florida, founded in Gainesville in 1906, fielded its first official varsity football team that year. Since that time, the Florida Gators football program has left an indelible mark on the college football landscape. Their accomplishments include:
- Participation in over 40 bowl games.
- The acquisition of three national championships (in 1996, 2006, and 2008).
- The attainment of eight Southeastern Conference championships (in 1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2006, and 2008).
Florida Gators take pride in their record of producing three Heisman Trophy winners, over 90 first-team All-Americans, and 50 NFL first-round draft selections.
Throughout its history, the program has been led by 25 head coaches, including three College Football Hall of Fame inductees for their coaching success. The inaugural head coach was Pee Wee Forsythe, and the current coach is Billy Napier.
Florida Gators’s football history began with its status as an independent team before it joined the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association in 1912. Subsequently, in 1922, they moved to the Southern Conference, and they were among the vital founding institutions that contributed to the formation of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) in 1932.
As part of the SEC, Florida is one of fourteen member institutions. Since the inception of divisional play in 1992, their football team has participated in the SEC Eastern Division.
Florida Gators play an eight-game SEC schedule, with six games against fellow Eastern Division teams: Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, and Vanderbilt. Their schedule includes an annual showdown against Louisiana State and a rotating opponent from the SEC Western Division.
In the past, Florida had a steadfast rivalry with Auburn until 2003, when its regularity decreased due to the SEC’s rotating opponent system.
Notable conference rivalries comprise the annual Florida–Georgia matchup in Jacksonville, Florida (typically held around Halloween), the Florida–Tennessee rivalry (usually occurring in mid-September), and the inter-divisional Florida–LSU clash with their permanent SEC Western Division adversary (typically scheduled for October).
Florida has maintained a continuous tradition of facing their in-state rival, Florida State, each year since 1958, except for the 2020 season when the pandemic disrupted their scheduled matchup.
The game against Florida State has typically marked the end of the regular season since the 1970s, and both teams’ success during the 1990s elevated this rivalry to one with national title implications.
The in-state rivalry with Miami was once an annual occurrence but waned when the SEC expanded its yearly schedule in the late 1980s. The Florida–Miami rivalry has seen sporadic renewals since then.
The remaining slots on Florida’s regular schedule are filled with non-conference opponents that vary from year to year.
Florida Gators’s Home fields
When the University of Florida opened its campus in 1906, it lacked sports facilities. Consequently, the early football and baseball teams played their home games at The Ballpark, an essential municipal venue near downtown Gainesville.
In 1911, the university acquired bleachers from the city and relocated them to University Athletic Field, a freshly cleared area on the west side of campus along University Avenue.
This location was later renamed Fleming Field after installing larger bleachers in 1915. The football program started to gain national recognition in the late 1920s, leading UF President John J. Tigert to formulate plans for a contemporary stadium.
The chosen site was a shallow ravine just south of Fleming Field, and in 1930, Florida Field, with a seating capacity of 20,000, became the university’s new home.
Over the years, significant expansions took place in the mid-1960s, early 1980s, and early 1990s, gradually increasing the stadium’s capacity to approximately 90,000, making it the largest in the state.
In 1989, the stadium was formally designated as “Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium” as a tribute to UF benefactor Ben Hill Griffin.
Furthermore, in 2016, the field was renamed “Steve Spurrier-Florida Field” to pay tribute to Gator player and coach Steve Spurrier. It was during Spurrier’s tenure as head football coach that he coined the stadium’s nickname, “The Swamp,” in 1992.
Florida Gators’s Conference affiliations
Florida Gators’s football program holds the distinction of being the Southeastern Conference charter member, which commenced play in 1933.
Before their SEC affiliation, the Florida Gators were associated with two different conferences following the establishment of the program, which initially had no conference affiliation:
- Independent (1906–1911)
- Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (1912–1921)
- Southern Conference (1922–1932)
- Southeastern Conference (1933–present)
Florida Gators’s Championships
Florida Gators’s National Championships
The Florida Gators have been recognized as national champions five times by NCAA-designated significant selectors.
Florida Gators’s Recognized National Championships
Florida boasts three national championships for the 1996, 2006, and 2008 seasons.
During these seasons, the Gators attained the top spot in the final AP and Coaches polls, earning consensus national championship status following victories in designated national championship bowl games.
Florida Gators’s Unclaimed National Championships
Additionally, Florida has been bestowed with the title of national champion by NCAA-designated “major selectors” in two other years, 1984 and 1985.
However, the university has refrained from claiming a share of the national championship for either season, partially due to the football program’s NCAA probation in the mid-1980s.
Florida Gators’s Conference Championships
Florida boasts eight officially recognized SEC football championships. They clinched their first championship with a conference record of 5–0–1 in 1984, but this title was later vacated due to NCAA infractions by the Florida coaching staff under Charley Pell.
The 1985 and 1990 teams similarly clinched the top positions in the standings with conference records of 5–1 and 6–1, respectively.
However, they were ineligible for the championship due to NCAA probation stemming from rule violations by previous coaching staff. The Gators secured their first official SEC football championship in 1991.
Florida Gators’s Division Championships
The introduction of Arkansas and South Carolina to the Southeastern Conference in 1992 brought about a divisional structure, with the SEC champion determined by a match between the division winners.
Florida has participated in the SEC Championship Game thirteen times, a record in the SEC, with their most recent appearance in 2020.
Their record in SEC Championship Games stands at 7–6 as of 2020. In 2024, with the addition of Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC, the conference will eliminate divisions.
(Note: Florida tied with Georgia for the SEC East in 1992 and 2012, but Georgia advanced to the SEC Championship Game based on head-to-head victories.
In 2003, despite a three-way tie, Georgia advanced to the SEC Championship Game due to its higher BCS ranking.
Florida Gators’s Bowl Games
Florida has participated in 48 NCAA-sanctioned bowl games, maintaining a record of 24–24. This remarkable streak includes 22 consecutive bowl-game appearances from 1991 through 2012, ranking fifth-longest in college football history.
Four of these bowl games were for a National Championship, with two in the Bowl Alliance and two in the Bowl Championship Series. Florida holds a 3–1 record in national championship games.
It’s worth highlighting that the 1912 Bacardi Bowl, which took place in Havana, Cuba, was not officially recognized by the NCAA and is, therefore, not part of the Gators’ official bowl record. Records against SEC and in-state opponents
Florida Gators’s Records Against SEC and In-State Opponents
The University of Florida’s football program, as of the end of the 2019 season, holds an overall record of 729 wins, 37 ties, and 437 losses encompassing post-season bowl games, as recorded by the university’s athletic association.
Florida consistently faces SEC East opponents such as Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Missouri, and South Carolina, with an annual showdown against SEC West rival LSU.
The other SEC West teams are scheduled on a six-year rotation, with the possibility of meeting in the SEC Championship Game.
Florida Gators’s Record Against In-State Opponents
In its early years, the University of Florida’s athletic program operated with a limited budget and played a small slate of games, mainly against nearby schools, to reduce travel costs.
This local scheduling led to gridiron rivalries with several in-state private colleges, notably Stetson, Florida Southern, and Rollins.
Over time, Florida Southern and Rollins ceased sponsoring intercollegiate football programs, while Stetson competed in a lower division of college football.
The Gators intermittently played games against teams organized by nearby military bases during the first half of the 20th century or local athletic clubs, particularly during the two World Wars.
However, Florida has not faced non-collegiate squads since 1945. In more contemporary history, Florida established an annual rivalry in 1938 with the University of Miami Hurricanes, which continued until 1987.
Although the teams have met sporadically since then, they are still considered rivals.
Florida State (FSU) introduced its football program in 1947 and first faced Florida in 1958, commencing an uninterrupted series affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 when both schools adopted conference-only schedules.
The Gators have also scheduled occasional matchups against several Florida schools with newer football programs, typically in Gainesville.
Florida Gators’s Rivalries
Historically, the most intense and passionate rivalry for Florida has been against the Georgia Bulldogs.
Initially known as “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” and now commonly referred to as the “Florida–Georgia game,” this rivalry often has significant SEC East and national implications.
The game is held at Florida Ever Bank Stadium in Jacksonville, usually on the first Saturday in November or the last Saturday in October. The designation of the “home” team alternates, with ticket distribution evenly divided between the schools.
Since 2009, the Okefenokee Or has been awarded to the winner of the Florida-Georgia game. The rivalry’s early years saw games rotate among various locations, including Savannah, Tampa, Jacksonville, Gainesville, and Athens.
Starting in 1933, the game has been consistently played except for 994 and 1995 in Jacksonville, when the teams held a pair of home-and-home games at their respective stadiums.
While Georgia enjoyed early success in the rivalry, Florida has since won 21 out of the most recent 29 games, leading 38–30–1 in the series since 1950. As of 2022, Georgia holds a series lead of 54–44–2.
Although both Florida and Tennessee are charter members of the SEC, irregular conference scheduling meant they met infrequently for many years.
Tennessee dominated the first ten games from 1916 to 1954 when Florida finally secured its first victory over the Volunteers.
The rivalry reached its peak in the 1990s, a period coinciding with the expansion of the SEC to twelve schools and the introduction of two divisions in 1992.
Florida and Tennessee, both in the Eastern Division, have faced off annually since then, usually in mid-September as both teams’ first conference game.
Led by coaches Phillip Fulmer and Steve Spurrier, featuring players like Danny Wuerffel and Peyton Manning, the rivalry had conference and national title implications.
In the 1990s, Florida and Tennessee jointly secured six SEC titles and two national championships.
Following their status as annual opponents from 1992, the Gators and Volunteers have collectively represented the Eastern Division in the SEC Championship Game on 16 occasions.
Florida held an 11-game winning streak against Tennessee from 2005 to 2015 and led the series 31–20 as of the 2021 season.
The University of Florida and the Florida State College for Women transitioned to co-educational institutions in 1947.
The newly established Florida State Seminoles football team initially competed against small colleges, eventually ascending to the significant college ranks in 1955.
Almost immediately, students and supporters of Florida State called for an annual series with Florida’s two largest universities.
It’s important to note that Florida’s state legislature did not mandate the Florida-Florida State matchup on the field; the Florida Senate rejected a bill proposing the game.
Encouraged by Florida Governor LeRoy Collins, the two universities agreed to begin an annual series in 1958.
Owing to Florida State’s more minor stadium, the first six games took place at Florida Field.
Since 1964, the series has alternated between the two campuses following the expansion of Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee.
The Florida-Florida State game has carried a national
Championship implications since 1990, with both teams entering the game with top-10 rankings thirteen times.
Among these games was the Sugar Bowl rematch at the end of the 1996 season, where Florida avenged its only regular-season loss and claimed its first national championship with a 52–20 victory. Initially, Florida held a dominant position in the series with a 16–2–1 record through 1976.
However, the rivalry has witnessed periods where both teams experienced substantial winning streaks. Over the past four decades, the series is nearly tied, with Florida State holding a 21–20–1 advantage since 1980.
Since 2000, both teams share a 10-10 record against each other. Through the 2021 season, Florida leads the all-time series 37–26–2.
Florida and LSU first crossed paths on the football field in 1937, and since 1971, they’ve been annual opponents.
In 1992, LSU became Florida’s permanent inter-divisional rival within the SEC Western Division. During the 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2019 seasons, the victor of the Florida–LSU matchup went on to clinch the national championship in the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) title game.
This rivalry is characterized by recent close games, often featuring both teams with high rankings. As of the 2021 season, Florida holds a narrow lead in the all-time series at 33–32–3.
Florida and Auburn engaged in an annual matchup from 1945 to 2002. Regarding the series won-lost record, Auburn stands out as Florida’s most evenly-matched SEC opponent.
During the 1980s, one or both teams were frequently highly ranked heading into the game, and the contest had implications for conference and national titles.
The series includes several memorable upsets, with Auburn defeating previously unbeaten Florida teams in 1993, 1994, 2001, 2006, and 2007, although the Gators claimed SEC championships in 1993, 1994, and 2006.
The annual series ceased in 2002 when the SEC adjusted its football schedules, altering the format to one permanent and two rotating opponents from the opposite SEC division each year.
Following that, the schedule underwent further adjustments when Texas A&M and Missouri became part of the conference in 2012.
In this realignment, LSU was designated as Florida’s consistent SEC Western Division opponent, resulting in Florida and Auburn facing each other in two regular-season games once every 12 years. Through the 2021 season, Auburn holds a series lead at 43–39–2.
Miami represents Florida’s sole pre-World War II in-state rival that continues to compete in major college football. These institutions initially collided on the football field in 1938.
They maintained an annual rivalry until 1987 when the SEC’s decision to expand its conference schedule to seven games disrupted this yearly tradition.
Efforts to renew the annual rivalry in the 1990s were thwarted when the SEC expanded its schedule to eight games. Florida and Miami met again in the 2001 Sugar Bowl.
The series saw a brief resumption in 2002 and 2003, and they faced each other again in the 2004 Peach Bowl. Following that, these universities have engaged in occasional matchups during the regular season, featuring a home-and-home series extending for several years.
Miami holds a 29–27 series lead through the 2021 season. The next scheduled matchup between these schools will occur in Gainesville on August 31, 2024.
The Florida-Alabama series, which originated in 1916, is often considered to have officially begun in 1992 with the inception of the SEC Championship Game.
Florida has made 13 appearances in conference championship games, while Alabama has taken part in 14. These two teams have squared off against each other in 10 championship games, making it the most frequent matchup in this context.
In the conference championship battle, Alabama has a 6–4 lead. Their most recent encounter in the 2020 SEC Championship Game resulted in Alabama defeating Florida 52–46. Through the end of the 2021 season, Alabama maintains a series lead at 27–14.
The University of South Carolina Gamecocks was one of Florida’s permanent SEC East opponents until the 2024 conference expansion.
They were part of South Carolina’s “Orange Crush” schedule along with two other teams. Between 1993 and 2000, South Carolina concluded their schedule with games against Tennessee, Florida, and Clemson.
This trend continued in 2022. South Carolina and Florida faced each other annually from 1993 to 2023 as rivals within the SEC East, and 2024 marks the inaugural year without this contest in their schedule.
The Gamecocks and the Gators had the experience of having Steve Spurrier as a head coach.
In 2010, under Spurrier’s leadership, the Gamecocks secured a triumph over Florida, which propelled them to the 2010 SEC Championship Game as champions of the East Division.
- Florida Gators football – Wikipedia
- Florida Gators football – Wikimili
- Florida Gators football – db0nus869y26v.cloudfront.net
- Oh, the SEC is getting crazy – The Sports Daily
- Derek Mason – AP News
- Steve Spurrier – Wikipedia
- Colleges with Arkansas Football Teams – Classroom | Synonym
- Ben Hill Griffin Stadium Facts – Stadium Freak