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Florida Gators Countdown to Kickoff 2021: At No. 20, it’s been 20 years since 2001

A round anniversary for a seminal season is usually cause for celebration — but the events of the fall of 2001 make it far more ripe for careful consideration.

Sugar Bowl X Spurrier

It has been 20 years since one of the most fantastic and frustrating seasons in Florida Gators history.

And for Florida fans of a certain age, the 2001 campaign is the season that might spur the most discussion if you bring it up at a bar or a barbecue.

Consider this: Rex Grossman’s Heisman candidacy was so potent that season that Florida fans maintain that he was robbed — and when we do, people listen to us.

Steve Spurrier leaving Florida — and to go be the first big-name coach to fail at the helm of Dan Snyder’s Washington franchise — at the end of the season was a stunner that made over college football practically overnight.

Next Saturday, it will be 20 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 killed thousands, shocked the world, and reshaped global geopolitics — and, though it wasn’t yet known at the time, set off a series of events in college football that gave rise to a quietly-kept but widely-believed theory among Florida fans that those attacks also cost the Gators a national championship, or at least a great chance at one.

The shadow of what the actions of September 11 have done to the world is long and wide, and any discussion of that fall ought to be done delicately. I can promise that I will try to make ours as reverent of the profound losses suffered that day as I can, and keep in mind that whatever Florida lost is so minimally important compared to the lives taken and irrevocably changed that it is inherently absurd to discuss it.

But this matters to Florida fans, too — and I firmly believe that the specter of what might have been if what happened on September 11, 2001 had been averted is a valid idea to investigated, if also a tremendously sad one.

So expect some looks back at 2001 from the prism of 20 years later this fall. Enough time has passed since an unthinkable tragedy to do some respect deep thinking about it — and about everything else that was happening at the same time.