A rivalry so bitter, it was born through brute force after being directed by the state government to play annually.
Florida State, in its early days of a college football program, was looking to establish consistent competition with the University of Florida across all athletics — but the school, long having reaped the benefit of being the only “major” program and public school in the state, wasn’t trying to validate FSU as a football program.
UF had tried to squash any hopes of FSU having an independent athletics program from the get-go, at first even attempting to say that all sports at Florida State were required to be considered “junior varsity” versions of the teams at Florida. At another point, UF athletic director Bob Woodruff tried to offer to set up games between all sports except football if FSU dropped its interest in setting up a game on the gridiron.
From the Florida-Sports Union:
“Coach Woodruff said Florida would be very happy to meet us, beginning in the spring in track, tennis, golf and swimming provided the we would not seek contests with them in any other sports,” FSU athletic director Howard Danford said.
Other sports would include baseball and basketball, in addition to football.
“I was shocked,” Danford continued.
“I told Bob that I felt sure that our athletic committee would not approve such a proposal, and that even if the athletic committee did, I was even more sure that our alumni would not approve.”
Danford said the athletic committee has not met to consider the proposal and indicated there was no plan for such a meeting. He added that he had talked, individually, to several members of the athletic committee and all disapproved.
“I suggested to Woodruff,” Danford said, “that we go ahead and meet in tennis, track, golf and swimming in the spring without any provision. He replied that under no conditions would we meet in these sports unless we agreed to the proposal.”
Danford said he asked Woodruff how many Southeastern Conference games Florida is obliged to play each year.
“He said that the number is six. I pointed out that Miami made seven games and I asked why Florida State could not fill one of the three remaining dates. He repeated that he was not interested in playing FSU in football ever.”
Woodruff explained that most of the others schools in the SEC put most emphasis on their conference games and prefer to play intra-state games at the end of the season as the last game on the schedule. The present schedule arrangement between Miami and Florida is based on that idea.
“I realize that a decision will have to be made whether FSU or Miami will be our traditional rival because I don’t see how Florida can play two big state games, neither of which is in the SEC, and also six traditional SEC foes.”
“I thought I made a liberal offer and told FSU that I thought our athletic board would go along with me,” Woodruff said. “If they are not interested in that, I believe that we have little hope of getting together. There is no hope for the opening of athletic relations between the two schools if football is FSU’s only issue.”
As FSU grew as a school and sports entity, the interest in seeing the Seminoles and Gators grew too large for UF to try and push away. The Florida Senate, frustrated at the stubbornness of the Gators, tried to pass a bill in 1955 (nearly five years after FSU first started actively pursuing a game vs. UF) to force the two schools to play but it failed 19-15. Instead, then-Governor LeRoy Collins had to organize a meeting that finally led to the State Board of Control demanding a scheduled match, one that ended up being set for 1958.
The game would be played in Gainesville for the next three years, with FSU’s stadium having been designated as “too small” to host the series (Jacksonville at one point was proposed as a neutral site location). Renovations to Doak Campbell Stadium were made (partially motivated by keeping the series as a home-and-home), and in 1964, Florida State hosted Florida in Tallahassee for the first time.
From the Tallahassee Democrat that day:
The girls’ school did it!...Oh, did it ever do it!
What it was was like absolutely and positively and emphatically and decisively.
Florida State University, clearly the best football team on the field on this sunny Saturday afternoon, whipped what was supposed to be the University of Florida’s best team ever. The score was 16-7.
Three years later, Florida State won for the first time in Gainesville.
“After years of injustice in Florida Field at the hands of the officials, Gator grid squad and Gator rabble-rousers in general,” wrote Florida Flambeau assistant sports editor Ron Scoggins, “the Tribe football team finally humbled the unbelieving lizards in their own primeval swamp 21-16 Saturday afternoon.”
In the years since, the series has evolved from a scrappy newcomer facing off against a gatekeeping established school to one of equals, each program logging its own major wins and beatdowns en route to national success. The arrival of Bobby Bowden in 1976 helped kick off a new era of the Sunshine Showdown — while Florida leads the overall series 37–26–2, FSU leads 24–22–1 since Bowden’s first year.
The series amped up to its highest level of intensity in 1990, which saw the first of 11 straight top-ten matchups between the schools. Over that time period, the winner of the matchup played for a national title five times.
The 1994-95 season saw FSU and Florida play eight straight consecutive quarters — the miraculous 28-point comeback by the Seminoles to secure a tie during the “Choke at Doak” followed by a 23-17 Seminoles’ win in the Sugar Bowl (the aptly named “Fifth Quarter in the French Quarter”).
Since the 90s, the two programs have traded off on experiencing periods of success, leading to a major drop off in competitiveness in the series. In the last 14 meetings dating back to 2007, only 2 games have been won by single-digit points — last year’s 24-21 win by the Gators and the FSU’s 24-19 win in 2014.
From our 2018 Top 100 Plays in FSU history series — here’s a selection of some major FSU vs. UF highlights:
Our cantankerous comment section king FrankDNole and bearded boots-on-the-ground baller Tommy Mire wanted to take the opportunity to share some memories of their own:
Imagine if you will, a scenario where several longtime Seminole friends drive a Winnebago from South Florida to North Florida for a football game.
By halftime the game is a blow out and several of the friends think it would be best to go ahead and leave to beat the traffic and get a start on the long drive home.
However, a couple of the friends refuse to leave the game, and one of them keeps repeating over and over “This game is far from over. This game is far from over.”
At that point several of the friends decided to leave the game and go party at the Winnebago. The remaining friends decided to stay, because leaving a FSU game early is not an option.
All of the sudden, the team that was being dominated turns it around in the fourth quarter, and the remaining fans in the stands are going crazy.
After every single score during the comeback, that one guy kept repeating “This game is far from over. This game is far from over.”
The friends that left at halftime started hearing all the commotion coming from the stadium and attempted to get back into the game, but security would not let them back in.
The team that was getting crushed at halftime completed one of the greatest comebacks in College Football history.
While the final score may have resulted in a tie, it was considered a WIN by anyone who witnessed it. Eventually, as if you haven’t already figured it out yet, it later became known as the Choke at Doak.
That one guy who kept repeating “This game is far from over, This game is far from over” was one cool, righteous, dudesicle, and a real stud.
As a seven year old kid I did not know the significance of who Derrick Brooks was or how far Bobby Bowden would take the Seminoles in the college football landscape for years to come. I knew a handheld TV with antennas that would hit the people sitting next to us in the stands by accident as me and my dad scrambled the settings to hear Gene Deckerhoff scream “touchdown!” over and over.
It was a year before Frank’s “Choke at the Doak” memory, although, I’m sure he was there selling eight tracks out of a Dodge Dart from his new comedy album, “Casa de la Arby’s”
Admit it, you had a 3 Ninjas poster and played R.B.I. Baseball on Sega.
We were in Gainesville, witnessing a team that made FSU history and would go on to earn their first National Title later that year in an Orange Bowl rematch against Nebraska.
Screaming with the crowd at Dunn during his remarkable touchdown catch and learning how to do “The Wave” for the first time, that game, which ended in a 33-21 FSU win blowing Steve Spurrier's 23-game home-field winning streak out of the water, still holds strong as one of the better memories I have of this classic rivalry.