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Why Did The FSU Seminoles Let UF Take Credit For The Gatorade Formula?

Question:  Did researchers at Florida State University develop the formula for a sports drink similar to what later became known as Gatorade, and was it tested and used by the FSU football team years before it was patented by the University of Florida?  FACT OR FICTION?

Answer: FACT

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Picture this. It's the Super Bowl, the clock is winding down and time is about to expire. The players on the winning team start to form a circle around their head coach and then they shower him with Seminole Fluid, all over his head and his body. On second thought, never mind. It kind of sounds like a scene from a gay porno, huh? 

Instead, how about if they dump Seminole Firewater all over him? Sounds a little better, but kinda racist if you ask me.

While Seminole Fluid is a name I invented for this story, Seminole Firewater was the real deal.

In a recent thread, the subject of who really invented Gatorade, FSU or UF, came up once again.  While I am by no means a expert on this issue, it is one that in the past I did a little research on and wrote about a few years ago. Regardless of the correct answer to this debate, this subject is one that I take great pleasure in bringing up and enjoy using to torment my Gator friends unmercifully with, just to get their panties all wadded up in a bunch. Whenever I proclaim to them that FSU was the first to invent the formula for Gatorade, and that the Gators stole the formula from us, it never fails to increase their blood pressure and turn their faces red with rage.  It's really fun. I urge everyone to give it a try and I will give you some ammunition to use to help you make your case, just to screw with them, after you hit the jump.

There is no question that the 4 researchers at the University of Florida, SPEARHEADED by Dr. Robert Cade, patented what is today commonly known as Gatorade. But who really came up with the formula first?

There has been considerable debate over this subject for the past few years.  Ever since Al Gore invented these series of tubes he named the inter webs, information can now be disseminated and passed along at a much faster rate than doing research at the library and sending your findings via the US mail.  But at the same time, misinformation and rumors can also be spread faster than a crack whore will go down on you for a rock.

As far as I can tell, much of the controversy came to light with a series of post on blogs, and websites specifically created solely to give FSU credit for developing the formula. The same basic formula which UF would later name Gatorade.

In fact, this attack on origin of Gatorade was so successful, that during the FSU/UF game in November of 2008, the ABC/ESPN announcing team (despite Keith Jackson's commercial claims to the contrary), during their Did You Know (a phrase they stole from me, I knew I should have copyrighted that phrase) segment of the game, they incensed Gator fans across America by plastering this graphic over every screen tuned in to the game: 

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Was ABC/ESPN duped by some FSU pranksters or did they open up a 46 year old conspiracy against the Noles by the Turds?  Remember that just prior to this time the filthy swamp dwellers had done everything in their power to avoid playing the up and coming former girls college.

Apparently, ESPN felt they should issue a retraction.

When contacted by e-mail, Michael Humes, spokesman for ESPN, which produces ABC's sports programming, admitted the station made a mistake in airing the segment.

"While we had multiple sources for the information," Humes wrote, "we did not research that information thoroughly enough to put it on the air."

Fair enough, but what does ESPN really know about the origins of Gatorade? Could the fact that they receive millions of dollars every year in advertising money from Quaker Oats (a division of PepsiCo) have possibly played a fact in this quick retraction?

Let's take a moment and dig a little further into the conspiracy angle, while working our way backwards, before the ABC "Did You Know" segment was aired, to try to figure this whole thing out.

As far as I was able to tell, it all started somewhere early in 2007 with a very official looking website that is no longer accessible called "History of Branding.com/Gatorade."   The following is an excerpt from this now defunct site  

Contrary to popular belief, the University of Florida did not come up with the sports drink that is now known as Gatorade. The team doctor for the FSU football team, Dr. R.A. Johnson, began producing a sports drink that he called "Seminole Firewater" as early as 1962. Dr. Johnson blended sugar and lime flavoring with electrolytes (salts) to help keep the players hydrated and to prevent cramping. In 1964 at an annual Seminar of Collegiate sports physicians and athletic trainers held in Tallahassee, Fl., a representative from the University of Florida found out about the discovery that sodium and potassium keeps athletes better hydrated because it gives back to the body what is lost through sweat. They returned to Gainesville and, after being tested on the UF football players, the name "Gatorade" was given. The University of Florida requested a certified patent in 1967 for the drink that Dr. Johnson had freely shared with the public.

That website was used as verification for an entry made in Wikipedia, which as we all know checks and double checks the facts to assure accuracy.  That Wiki entry also claimed that UF stole the formula for Gatorade from FSU. From there it was posted on several blogs, such as this one, and FSU even received a thank you from the very interesting Tennesse Vol blog "Losers with Socks" who probably despise the Turds as much as we do (actually, who doesn't).  Well from there, as happens so often on the GoggleWeb, it spread like wildfire, was posted on too many blogs to mention here (especially UF's rivals and SEC blogs), then all of a sudden these rumors turn to fact, and before you know it, everyone knows everything about everything and everyone.

Now we all know that if something is posted on the internet, it must be true. So this case is closed, right?  FSU should sue UF for the over $150 million that the University of Florida has fraudulently made off our Seminole Firewater.  Anyone know a lawyer?

But hold on just a minute.  "What's All This About FSU "Inventing" Gatorade?" ask self proclaimed Gatorade know-it-all expert Darren Rovell.

So the e-mails started pouring in over the weekend after the factoid was posted on the air.

During ABC’s broadcast of the Florida-Florida State game, the announcing team revealed that the University of Florida doctors didn’t invent Gatorade. That the sports drink was invented by rival Florida State, three years prior in 1962, and it was called "Seminole Firewater."

The e-mails came into me because I’m, after all, Gatorade’s unofficial historian. Three years ago, I wrote the book on Gatorade called "First In Thirst."

If I don’t know everything about the drink, I, at least, think I do. The man who has spent more hours of his life thinking about Gatorade, going through thousands of documents and thousands of newspaper stories had never even seen the words "Seminole" and "Firewater" together.

And,

Having done more research than anyone in the world on the history of Gatorade, I called it myth, since I had never heard of anything of the sort. Neither had the University of Florida officials I've been in touch with or one of the Gatorade inventors.

Well now, I guess that settles it once and for all.  After all, Mr. Rovell wrote the book on Gatorade, has obviously done his due diligence, and has never seen the words "Seminole" and "Firewater" in the same sentence.

With all due respect Mr. Rovell, what if I were to tell you that former FSU football player and former FSU President T.K. Wetherell, who played football for FSU from 1963 to 1967, said he remembers drinking a Kool-Aid flavored drink called "Seminole Firewater" when he was on the team. Not only that but Wetherell also said players were also given an orange slice, an ice cube to suck on and salt pills to keep dehydration at bay. This is the recently retired President of FSU we're talking about here. So now are you convinced?  Come to think of it, knowing his track record, me neither.

Better yet, and with no disrespect intended Mr. Rovell, what if I told you that somewhere there exist a newspaper article dated 5 years before the University of Florida applied for a patent for Gatorade,  which proves that Seminole Firewater did indeed exist, that it was the same basic formula that was patented for Gatorade, and that it was being tested on the FSU football team. Would that have any bearing on your expert opinion?  

Even better yet, and with all the respect due someone of your stature and expertise, how about if I actually show you the newspaper clipping from the Tampa Tribune dated September 25, 1962 that states:

"To combat the deadly combination of high temperature coupled with high humidity, Dr. Johnson came up with a concoction known as "Seminole Firewater," which consists of a lime drink fortified with sugar and salt."

Would this be enough to put some doubts in your mind, or would you simply counter with something like this, from here;

I'm definitely surprised that I never saw this in all of my research. But I think it's a stretch to say it was Gatorade. Before FSU fans say the Gatorade doctors stole this, I should mention that these guys from the University of Florida weren't necessarily the first. The idea of essentially sweetening a salt pill in water and giving it to athletes was not, in fact, novel. At the time, Rutgers was drinking a concoction called Sportade, but it failed partly because the team wasn't good.

Wow, really?  Oh, so it was Rutgers that the Gators stole the formula from, not FSU.  Please tell us what else you think?

The reason Gatorade was successful was because the year it was invented the Gators were as good as they've ever been—that added to the mystique of it all. Guess what Florida State's record was in 1962? 4-3-3. Who'd want to use that product? It didn't have the aspirational qualities of the drink that was given to the Florida Gators and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Steve Spurrier (who actually liked Coca-Cola instead).

So, because FSU had only been playing football for a few years and we sucked, we could not have come up with the formula. That is what you're saying right?

So now you see why it turned out that the trademark of "Gatorade" was more important than the patent of the idea of salt and sugar in a drink for athletes. Finally, if this R.A. Johnson really did invent what became Gatorade, why didn't he ever sue? Did he ever even speak up? The University of Florida did for what it believed was its fair share, given that the doctors were school employees. And they got their piece of the business.

And how long were the Seminoles using this stuff? It couldn't have been for a long time since references to it are so rare. 

So that settles that.  I guess you won't be rewriting your book anytime soon.

Well I guess, just as you can never really trust what you read on the internet, and you can not trust what you read in newspapers, you shouldn't believe what you read in books either.  But what the hell, I will go ahead and post this anyway.  You may have to use the zoom feature of your browser.

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Again, all I know is that UF obtained the patent for Gatorade in 1967?  Did their researchers, on their own and independent of FSU's Seminole Firewater, come up with the same formula?

Knowing what the slimy reptiles are capable of, I choose to believe they stole it.  However, why FSU never patented it or made a claim against them, that is the $150 million dollar question that we will probably never have an answer for.  What I do know, is that Seminole Firewater existed 5 years before Gatorade was patented. THAT IS A FACT.

In conclusion, whether you believe FSU formula was the predecessor to Gatorade or not, next time you see a Gator, be sure to tell them that Seminole Firewater was around 5 years before they patented it, and you suspect they stole the formula. It should be good for some laughs.

Are you sure I can't interest anyone in some Seminole Fluid?

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