As mentioned in Thursday’s Chomping at Bits, the Florida Gators will officially face the Michigan Wolverines in the 2017 AdvoCare Classic on Saturday, September 2, quelling quiet rumors that the game would be moved to Sunday, September 3 instead of remaining part of college football’s jam-packed opening Saturday.
That seems like a rather minor thing, on its face: A college football game being played on a Saturday rather than a Sunday? Big deal.
Except: For Florida, playing on Sunday would have been a big deal — because, except for bowls, the Gators don’t play on any day but Saturday, as a rule.
It’s not that Florida always plays on Saturdays. The Gators played on days other than Saturday fairly frequently in the relative infancy of college football, doing so more than once during World War II and then again in 1958, 1959, and 1961.
But in the modern era of the sport, Florida has shied away from days ending in something other than “aturday.” And it might have something to do with how Florida’s last regular-season game away from Saturday went.
That game happened in 1992, as Florida traveled to Starkville to play Mississippi State on Thursday. A certain long-time Florida newspaper columnist wrote a column decrying Starkville’s lack of culture on Wednesday, and the Gators strolled into what was then Scott Field off of a loss to Tennessee and maybe took the Bulldogs for granted.
The result: A 30-6 drubbing that gave Steve Spurrier his first two-game losing streak as Florida’s head coach, and which doubled as the fourth-worst loss and second-smallest point total of his Gators coaching career.
One can guess that Spurrier and athletic director Jeremy Foley were none too happy about that Thursday night brownout — and Florida hasn’t played a non-bowl game on any day but Saturday since, likely by design more than luck.
Since then, the explosion of college football as a live television sport has gotten many, many teams to play games on days other than Saturday. The ACC and Big East often played games on weeknights, Florida State and Miami have often staged their annual meeting on Labor Day, and rising programs like Louisville and Boise State have found the national spotlight by playing on days other than Saturday.
And Spurrier, of course, found his South Carolina teams playing on other days quite regularly: The Gamecocks played season openers on days other than Saturday five times in Spurrier’s last six seasons in Columbia.
But Florida simply has not played games on days other than Saturday except for bowl games — contests it has no control over — since that Thursday night in Starkville. Even as the Gators ramp up their non-conference scheduling with creative opening games — Michigan in 2017, Miami in 2019 — I do not expect that fact to change.