For the past several weeks, we have been covering Florida's rivalries and regular. Previous installments: Georgia, FSU, Tennessee, LSU, Miami, Auburn, Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina, Georgia Tech, and Vanderbilt.
If you grew up in Florida, you are probably aware that there are other schools in the state of Florida that play football, and on occasion the Gators play them. It is likely that you have friends or relatives who attended these schools*. Florida has generally done well against them, compiling a record of 104-50-2 against other schools in the state. Excluding Florida State and Miami (who we've already covered, links above), Florida is 45-2 against other schools who currently, or have previously played football in the Sunshine State. This week, we'll explore these other teams that the Gators have played and may play again.
Other than the the "big three," four Florida schools currently play in the NCAA's Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A). We will be be focusing on these teams (a collective 0-5 against the Gators), not Florida Southern (1-13 vs Florida), Rollins (0-7), Stetson (1-14), or the University of Tampa (0-5) who have all discontinued their football programs (Rollins and Stetson are in the process of resuming their programs), or Florida A&M, which plays in the Football Championship Subdivision.
University of Central Florida (UCF)
Founded in 1963 as Florida Technological University and built on what was barren farmland, today UCF is the second largest university in the nation in enrollment size. True to its roots as a technological university, UCF's engineering program is highly ranked, but it also has respected programs in Education and Criminology, and its College of Medicine opened its doors in 2009. Overall, US News and World Report ranks UCF 179 nationally. Despite its large student body, it is the fourth most selective college in Florida, behind Florida, FSU and FIU.
UCF began playing football in 1979, and after three years in Division III, the Golden Knights spent the 1980's in Division II. After a successful six year stint in Division I-AA, the Knights made the jump to I-A football. A member of Conference-USA since 2005, where the Knights are the defending conference champions, they had previously been a member of the MAC. From 1979 to 2006, they played their home games in the Citrus Bowl, which they shared with Jones High School. In 2007, UCF built a 45,000 seat, on-campus stadium, Brighthouse Networks Stadium. UCF seems to be a program on the rise, though that rise seems to be marked by fits and starts.
The Knights and Gators have played twice. Both games in Gainesville, and both Gator victories. UCF drew first blood in their first meeting in 1999, but Florida rolled to a 58-27 win. In 2006, the eventual national champion Gators shut out the Knights 42-0. Future meetings may be limited by UCF's insistence on a home-and-home series.
University of South Florida (USF)
In 1956, when USF was founded, it was the southernmost state university, and as such other name suggestions (like Sunshine State University and the University of Florida at Temple Terrace) were eschewed in favor of the directional monicker. Built on the site of World War II airstrip, Henderson Air Field, the 1913 acre campus is located in suburban Tampa. The College of Medicine, established in 1965, was the third in the state (after Florida and Miami). Academically, US News & World Report ranks USF 183 nationally.
The Bulls began playing football in 1997 in Division I-AA, and after four seasons made the leap to Division I-A. After moving to Division I-A, they spent two years as an independent, and two more as a member of C-USA before joining the Big East during the conference realignment of 2004-2005. Their best season came in 2007 when they started 6-0 with wins over Auburn and West Virginia and rose to number 2 in the country, before consecutive losses to Rutgers, U Conn and Cincinnati dropped them out of the polls. In the short history of the program, they have compiled a 12-3 record against the rest of the state of Florida, with the losses coming to Florida and Miami (twice).
Last year's 38-14 Florida win was the first meeting between the Gators and Bulls.
Florida Atlantic University (FAU)
Established in 1961 on the site formerly occupied by the Boca Raton Army Airfield, FAU opened its doors to students in 1964, and conferred its first degree, an honorary doctorate, to President Lyndon Johnson. Today, FAU has grown to include several satellite campuses, and is notable for its Commercial Music Program whose student-run Hoot/Wisdom Recordings has produced music that has landed on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Top 10. It also has one of the nation's largest adult continuing education programs, and was designated by the State of Florida as the lead state university serving Broward County.
In 2001, the Owls began their football program, under the leadership of legendary Miami and Louisville coach Howard Schnellenberger. After five years in Division I-AA, they made the jump to Division I-A and the SunBelt Conference. Their best season was 2007, their second season in Division I-A, when they upset Minnesota, won the Sun Belt Conference, and won their first bowl game, the New Orleans Bowl versus Memphis.
The Owls traveled to Gainesville in 2007, and were soundly beaten by an underperformed Gator squad 59-20. These two teams will face off to open the 2011 season, in what will be Howard Schnellenberger's last trip to the Swamp, where, as Miami's head coach, he once tacked on a meaningless field goal at the end of regulation in a Hurricanes route.
Florida International University (FIU)
FIU is the most selective state university in Florida. (I know, it shocked me too, but it admits slightly less than 40% of applicants, whereas Florida admits slightly more than 40%) Founded in 1965, on the site of the former Tamiami Airport, FIU has grown to include a second campus on Biscayne Bay, as well as a medical school and a law school.
The Golden Panthers were the last college football team to play a home game in the Orange Bowl, which is ironic given the most publicised moment in their program's history came in a game against that stadium's more famous inhabitant. FIU's football program began in 2002, and after four mediocre seasons in Division I-AA, they moved to Division I-A. Under Coach Mario Cristobal, the Panthers won the Sun Belt Conference last year.
In 2009, the Golden Panthers faced off against the Gators for the first and, thus far, only time, a 62-3 Florida win.
*In the interest of full disclosure, my sister received her undergraduate degree from FIU (later she got her Masters at UF) and was a member of their first marching band, my mom received her Doctorate from FAU and teaches at UCF, two of my closest friends attended UCF and USF, and another met his wife at Rollins.