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Know Your Foe: The Florida-Georgia Tech Rivalry


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

Before Florida and Georgia played each other, the first inter-state rivalry game played in Jacksonville, saw the Gators face the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech. As a fellow founding member of the SEC, Georgia Tech played Florida regularly until they left the conference in 1963, but have not faced off on the gridiron since 1981. When they last played, Florida had only faced Auburn, Georgia, and Miami more, and they remain the Gators' most tied opponent.


The Georgia Institute of Technology was founded in 1885 to meet the need for a technological school in the south. (Most universities in the south centered around a classical, liberal arts education.) When Georgia Tech opened its doors in 1888, it had two buildings, one degree program (mechanical engineering) and no electives. One of the top engineering schools in the country all of its undergraduate engineering programs rank in the top ten nationally, and US News and World Report ranks it 35th overall. In 2010, Georgia Tech became a member of the Association of American Universities. The 400 acre campus maintains a suburban feel despite being located in downtown Atlanta.


The Yellow Jackets (originally the Blacksmiths) began playing football in 1892, and finished the season 0-3. Their first win came the following year when they beat Georgia 28-6, and Tech fans and players were pelted with rocks and debris by angry Bulldog fans, leading to the rivalry being labeled Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate. After a particularly bad loss to Clemson, Tech hired away their coach, the legendary John Heisman, who built the program to national prominence. His tenure included the legendary 222-0 win over Cumberland College. A founding member of the SEC, the Yellow Jackets left the conference in 1963 over Coach/AD Bobby Dodd's frustrations with the league office (including the SEC's refusal to crack down on oversigning at rival schools), but still hold more SEC titles (five) than five current SEC members (Arkansas 0, Kentucky 2, Mississippi State 1, South Carolina 0, and Vanderbilt 0) combined.


This is normally where I outline the grievances and animosities between Florida and the rival school, however it is difficult to find specific points grievance between Florida and Georgia Tech, since the rivalry essentially died in 1963 when Tech left the SEC, except for the 1967 Orange Bowl and a four game series from 1978-1981. (Although, any tips on that matter would be greatly appreciated.) That is not to say that there isn't history between the two schools that first played in 1912 in Jacksonville. As I mentioned above, Georgia Tech is the Gators' most tied opponent (six, 1923, '24, '38, '53, '57 and '79), and, appropriately, was the one in the disappointing 0-10-1 1979 season.


From a Gator perspective, the biggest game in the series would have to be the 1967 Orange Bowl, where halfback Larry Smith 94 yard touchdown (and 187 yards over all) helped overcome Heisman Trophy winner Steve Spurrier's less than stellar performance to beat Tech 27-12. Georgia Tech dominated the series 23-9-6, but stopped playing the Florida regularly in the early '60s. The four game series from 1978-81, a down period for Florida football, was taken by the Gators 2-1-1. It's likely that, as the Florida program rose to prominence in the 1980s and '90s, the series would have evened out.


Georgia Tech, like Auburn, Florida State, Georgia, and Miami, is geographically a natural rival for the Gators. It is a shame that conference membership, scheduling, and the fiscal realities of major college football keep them from meeting more often. Unfortunately, we won't see this rivalry renewed any time soon unless it's in a bowl game.