The Florida Gators football team represents the University of Florida in the Southeastern Conference's Eastern division. They play their home games at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (also known as Florida Field and "The Swamp") in Gainesville, Florida. In 100 years of play, Florida has been recognized as SEC champions seven times (finishing first in the conference an additional three times), were national champions of the 1996 and 2006 college football seasons, and went undefeated in the 1995 regular season, surviving a tough SEC schedule and vaunted rival, Florida State University.
Urban Meyer, in his fourth season in 2008, is the current head coach of the Gators.
Florida plays an eight-game Southeastern Conference schedule. Five of these contests pit the Gators against the other members of the SEC's Eastern division: Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt. The conference slate is rounded out with an annual game against LSU and two additional foes from the SEC's western division on a rotating basis. (Until 2003, the Gators also played Auburn every season with only one western conference team in rotation.)
Key conference rivalries include "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" in which Florida and Georgia play annually in Jacksonville, Florida (usually around Halloween), the matchup with Tennessee (usually in mid-September), and the game with South Carolina (usually in November). The later contest became a rivalry in 2005, when former Gator coach and player Steve Spurrier took over the Gamecock program after a coaching stint in the NFL.
In addition to the conference foes, the Gators face in-state rival Florida State at the end of the regular season. The two teams' emergence as perennial football powers in the 1980s and 90s helped build the contest into a game that has often held national title implications. Prior to 1988, in-state rival Miami was also an annual opponent. But due to expansions in conference schedules, Florida and Miami have met only 3 times in the regular season since then. The remaining dates on Florida's regular season schedule are filled in with various non-conference foes which vary from year to year.
Unlike many other teams at the college and pro level, the Gators do not currently have any retired numbers from former players. The numbers of Gator Football Ring of Honor players Steve Spurrier (11) and Jack Youngblood (74) had been retired in the past, but the numbers were re-issued to players during Spurrier's time as Florida head coach.
Sometimes referred to as "The Battle for the Governor's Cup", the yearly meeting of Florida State has, since 1964, alternated yearly between the Gators’ field and the Seminole’s home turf of Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee.
Commonly known as "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party", the official name of the rivalry with Georgia is the "Florida-Georgia/Georgia-Florida Game" due to a reluctance to promote alcohol consumption. Currently, the game is held at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida, usually on the last Saturday in October or the first in November. The designated "home" team alternates from year to year, with ticket distribution split evenly between the two schools. In past years, fans from Florida and Georgia were assigned seats grouped in alternating sections of the stadium, and the contrasting colors worn by the fans created a "beach ball" visual effect in the stands. Recently the seating arrangement has split the stadium lengthwise and fans sit on the side corresponding to the sideline their team occupies.
The teams' first meeting was in Jacksonville in 1915. In the early days of the rivalry, games rotated through neutral site locations in Savannah, Georgia and Tampa, Florida along with Jacksonville and, occasionally, Gainesville and Athens. Since 1933, however, the contest has been held in Jacksonville every year except 1994 and 1995, when renovations to rebuild Jacksonville Municipal Stadium for the NFL's new Jacksonville Jaguars temporarily moved the game back to on-campus sites.
Sometimes called the "Third Saturday in September," Florida and Tennessee have faced off in September every season since 1990, except 2001, when the game was rescheduled to December due to the September 11th terrorist attacks. In addition, they met 21 times prior to 1991. Under the old, 10 team SEC, the teams would play on a rotation of two years on, two years off. With the SEC splitting into two divisions in 1992, the teams now play each season. Both are members of the SEC's East Division, and until 2002, were the only teams to represent that division in the SEC Championship Game.
When Florida and Miami play each other, the War Canoe Trophy is up for grabs. The one-time annual rivalry halted after the 1987 season, and the two schools wouldn't play each other again until the 2001 Sugar Bowl. Florida and Miami would play a home-and-home series in 2002 and 2003, and again in the 2004 Chick-Fil-A Bowl. Florida won the first leg of a home-and-home series in 2008, ending a six game losing streak against the Hurricanes. Their next scheduled regular season meeting will be in 2012. The Hurricanes lead the all time record against the Gators 28–26.
Florida Gators football - Wikipedia