Know Your Foe: The Florida-Kentucky Rivalry

For the past several weeks, we have been covering Florida's rivalries. Previous installments: Georgia, FSU, Tennessee, LSU, Miami, Auburn, and Alabama.

 

If I mention Kentucky as one of Florida's rivals, your first thought might be about basketball. But Florida's 61 games versus Kentucky make the Wildcats the Gators third-most common foe. While the Gators' 30-1 mark since 1980 makes the rivalry look decidedly one-sided, it belies the fact that the Wildcats held a 16-14 edge prior, with the Gators holding the advantage in the series for the first time in 1982.

Founded in 1865 (to capitalize on the Morrill Act), the University of Kentucky is situated on 784 acres in Lexington, in the heart of Kentucky's bluegrass region. Ranked No. 128 by U.S. News and World Report, UK boasts several "Top 20" programs, including geography, nursing, and entomology. Kentucky was co-educational by 1904, and racially integrated in 1949. In fact, despite the notorious racism of fabled basketball coach Adolph Rupp, Kentucky became the first SEC school to have African-American athletes on its football team.

 

Commonwealth Stadium (Kentucky is officially the "Commonwealth of Kentucky") was built in 1973, and has been enlarged to seat 67,000. Located on campus, but away from the concentration of academic buildings, the stadium offers picturesque views of Kentucky's horse country. The horse racing culture heavily influences the Wildcats' game day traditions.

 

It is difficult to find a reason for Florida fans to "hate" Kentucky football. Other than a 52-0 shutout in the teams' first meeting, a handful of close calls (e.g., 1993, 2002 and 2003), and Tim Tebow's concussion, there isn't much that the Wildcats have done to earn the ire of Gators fans.

 

Florida, on the other hand, has provided ample reason for Kentucky fans (at least those that care about football) to hate the annual match-up with the Gators. In the last three decades, the Wildcats have managed just one win over the Gators. From blowouts to last-second comebacks, the Gators have had their number.

 

The fact is, aside from its longevity, the only remarkable things about the Florida-Kentucky rivalry are the current 24-game win streak, and Florida's first SEC Championship being clinched by a 1984 win at Kentucky. (It was later stripped due to NCAA rule violations. Charley Pell, y'all.) The Wildcats' football program has been on the rise lately, with five straight bowl appearances, and as a divisional rival, it will remain an important part of the Gators' schedule.

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