It’s hard to keep changes as big as the one the Florida Gators made this week under wraps for very long in the era of smartphones with cameras.
Florida fan and highlight-reeler extraordinaire got — or produced, it’s not clear — the first wind of the change on Thursday night:
Orange end zones pic.twitter.com/SsdilnyHDZ— NWF (@NaturalWorks_) November 2, 2018
Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin acknowledged the look, but that switch-up to blindingly orange end zones was truly confirmed Friday morning, though, with Florida’s official @GatorTurfStaff account debuting The Swamp’s new look.
With the high potential of rain today, we finished painting @GatorsFB yesterday. Crew did an amazing job finishing a day early. Hopefully the rain will not be too heavy and the paint still look good for homecoming. #GoGators pic.twitter.com/FjA9obdlrD— Gators Turf Staff (@GatorTurfStaff) November 2, 2018
And then @GatorsFB added a hype video ... for paint ... on a field.
#TheSwamp #GoGators pic.twitter.com/bOPoRxr1nd— Gators Football (@GatorsFB) November 2, 2018
Never say college football fans aren’t interested in their team: Some Florida fans spent precious seconds of their life watching paint dry in that video more than once.
Anyway, Florida’s Scott Carter then confirmed that the orange end zones are here to stay through the rest of 2018, marking a throwback to a time when Florida had a wildly different Florida Field.
1988/1989 pic.twitter.com/VnGG46j7GM— Tony Agolini (@tonyagolini) November 2, 2018
As Carter writes:
Florida Field’s look has remained consistent over the years since former head coach Steve Spurrier arrived in 1990 and led the way for the natural grass to be installed, replacing the artificial turf that was put in place in 1971 under then-UF coach Doug Dickey. Based on initial research, it appears the last time the Florida Field end zones were painted orange was the 1989 regular-season finale against Florida State, Emmitt Smith’s final home game.
Mostly, that look has included end zones without significant paint, with Florida consistently painting “Florida” and “Gators” — rendered in various fonts — on end zones that were otherwise left naturally green. This is a departure from that, and while it’s too soon to say for sure how it will look for a full game, or over three straight games, my first impression is that this is a really sharp look.
And that makes me wonder something I’ve wondered before around these parts: What purely sartorial changes would you make to Florida’s program?
I reiterated my No. 1 desire on Twitter — making Homecoming an annual throwback game in various respects — this morning:
The Swamp is looking glorious for Homecoming. Maybe the orange end zones can be a stopgap tradition until @ScottStricklin et al. realize the potential of making Homecoming an annual throwback game. https://t.co/gBiDRyRGr2— Alligator Army (@AlligatorArmy) November 2, 2018
There is no better crowd-pleasing move available to the UAA than deciding to dress Florida in throwbacks and use older marks like the block F for one game a year. It would make Homecoming an anticipated special game, and even a draw. Hope it happens someday.— Alligator Army (@AlligatorArmy) November 2, 2018
Every Florida fan above the age of, like, 15 knows well that there has been no better-received bit of Florida costuming — and, let’s be real: this is all costuming, dressed up (...get it) in the more military verbiage of uniforms and fields — than the gorgeous throwback uniforms donned in 2006 for the Gators’ 100th anniversary game.
Those were just beautiful on television, were gorgeous in person — these sold, and sold well, with one version with (Reggie Nelson’s) No. 1 and another No. 11 with Spurrier on the back offered — and are, in my experience, something that Florida fans who agree on literally nothing else can approve of wholeheartedly.
It would be not be particularly difficult, I think, for Florida to partner with Nike — which made those uniforms, and which is still ultimately the company that the Gators are getting their apparel from, even if Jumpmans have replaced swooshes — to make those throwbacks, or similar ones, an annual feature. (Throwbacks featuring the old “Pell Shield” logo that I still think is the best mark that Florida has ever had — it’s the logo that functions as my avatar here — on helmets would be a huge hit.)
It would be similarly simple for Florida to commit to doing things like painting Florida Field as it was painted previously.
All these changes would require is the courage to deviate from modern marks to old and beloved ones, and the money required to make it happen. Florida should have both.
What calls and changes would you make?