One week before playing their first game against the Miami Hurricanes in six years, news swirled to suggest the Florida Gators would be meeting up with their longtime rivals again before long.
Last week, Edgar Thompson and Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel and Brett McMurphy of Stadium reported that Florida and Miami were in discussions (the Sentinel’s report) and had agreed to (McMurphy’s) a home-and-home series in 2024 and 2025; on Tuesday, the schools confirmed it, announcing the games as scheduled for August 31, 2024 in Gainesville and September 20, 2025 in Miami.
Florida athletics director Scott Stricklin’s quote on the matter is succinct — and makes the point that Florida and Miami will probably be playing “periodically” for some time to come.
“Florida and Miami playing periodically is good for college football in general, but especially in the state of Florida,” said Athletics Director Scott Stricklin. “It is a great rivalry with two storied programs, and in line with our current philosophy of trying to schedule a minimum of 10 Power Five opponents annually.”
At the end of these two meetings, Florida and Miami will have played six regular season games since 2000, with meetings in 2003, 2004, 2008, 2013, and now 2024 and 2025. While that’s obviously not the same as meeting (almost) annually from 1938 to 1988, it’s also a better frequency for the rivalry for fans who care about it than the zero meetings from 1989 to 2001.
(And there’s a tenable argument that the rivalry being on hiatus helped both teams in the 1990s and early 2000s, when Florida reached what was then its apex and Miami echoed some of its most dynastic years. Do the Gators stay in the national championship picture in 1994 through 1996 if they swap out a non-conference pushover for Miami? Does Miami — which played two games against Ron Zook’s Gators and got its only shot at a Steve Spurrier-coached team after the infamous Bourbon Street Brawl — follow a different arc at the turn of the century if it runs into the last great Spurrier teams early in the season rather than in a relatively meaningless bowl?)
But it’s also true, no matter how much Miami fans often wish it weren’t, that Florida is the program controlling how this series unfolds — and it’s Florida serving its shifting interests that has this rivalry toggling back to infrequent meetings.
Florida’s release on this home-and-home series, despite clumsily suggesting these two games are part of a three-game series that includes Saturday’s meeting in Orlando, is pretty skeletal, with only a few sentences from Stricklin and “periodically” sticking out among them. Miami’s is styled as a behind-the-scenes look at how the series came together — spoiler: Stricklin called Miami and indicated Florida would play Miami, and Miami jumped at the chance — and features Miami athletic director Blake James saying a lot of things, including that he’d like to see the teams play “on a more regular basis.”
That won’t happen, I feel confident in saying, because Florida is putting Miami on the level of nearly other Power Five school — an opponent worth playing as a home-and-home foe. For the Gators, leaving the door open to more games with Miami is a concession to the rivalry, rather than a commitment to its renewal.
This announcement isn’t Florida’s first one of a major home-and-road series under Stricklin, after all, but its fourth, following previous announcements of a two-for-one arrangement with USF and home-and-home series with Colorado and Texas. Florida traveling to Miami after avoiding road non-conference games for decades would be more exciting, one imagines, if Florida were not also set to travel to Raymond James Stadium, or to Boulder and Austin.
Here’s what Florida’s non-conference slate now looks like from 2020 to 2030, with the caveats that the Gators’ stated goal is scheduling a minimum of 10 Power Five opponents annually and that Florida’s annual game with Florida State isn’t going anywhere, despite technically only being set in ink through 2022.
Florida Gators Non-Conference Football Schedule, 2020-2031
|2020||Eastern Washington, New Mexico State, South Alabama||Florida State|
|2021||Samford, Florida State||USF|
|2025||Florida State, USF||Miami|
A couple of patterns clearly emerge: Florida is scheduling marquee home opponents for years in which it does not host FSU (read: years with a maximum of six home games and no top-liner to drive season ticket sales), and the Gators are showing a preference for two-year home-and-home series. This new Florida-Miami series fits both patterns, and is thus in line with Florida’s scheduling philosophy, rather than any attempt to resuscitate the Florida-Miami rivalry.
And I would expect that those patterns are also likely to mean that Florida will eventually schedule a home-and-home series with a Power Five team for 2026 and 2027 — and might be more compelled to venture out for neutral-site games in 2021 or 2023, years in which it has conspicuous holes in its schedule but can fall back on FSU home games to help buttress ticket sales and gameday revenue — but will not put another such series on a schedule prior to 2032’s.
There’s also another wrinkle to this, which is that the rotating SEC schedule is currently fixed through 2025 — a year in which Florida is now set to host USF and FSU and travel to Miami — but unknown beyond that. If the SEC maintains its 6-1-1 scheduling format and keeps LSU as Florida’s permanent SEC West rival, the Gators’ scheduling might not change much after the SEC decides on its future; if the SEC blows that scheduling system up, Florida might end up playing 10 Power Five foes per year solely by playing a nine-game SEC schedule and Florida State.
It’s Stricklin’s job to see the future as best as he can, and prepare Florida for all possibilities when it comes to the vicissitudes of the SEC and the national college football landscape. And he appears to be stocking Florida’s schedule with higher-profile teams — if sparingly — as a result.
But I would caution anyone seeing another installment of the Florida-Miami series as an entree to a more regular cadence to meetings between the teams to look at the bigger picture, and realize that Florida is looking out for Florida far more than it is attempting to rekindle any rivalry.