Seminole War Canoe

The Florida–Miami football rivalry is an American college football rivalry between the Florida Gators football team of the University of Florida and the Miami Hurricanes football team of the University of Miami. The game was previously played annually from 1938 until 1987, and is now played intermittently. The winning team was formerly awarded the Seminole War Canoe Trophy. Today, the round robin winner of the three biggest schools in the state of Florida (either the Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles or Miami Hurricanes) receives the Florida Cup for beating the other two schools in the same season. Miami leads the series, 29-26, and has won 7 of the past 8 matchups including a 21-16 'Canes victory in the most recent game played in 2013.

Series history

The Gators and Hurricanes played on an annual "home-and-away" basis until the end of the 1987 season, when the requirements of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) for member schools to play eight conference games induced the University of Florida to fill out the non-conference portion of its schedule with teams that do not require a home-and-home arrangement (except for Florida State). Since that time the Gators and Hurricanes have met on the gridiron just six times (Miami winning 5 and Florida winning 1) with no future games scheduled.[1]

Before the annual series was canceled, the rivalry used to be regarded by many as the biggest in the state of Florida. The Miami–Florida rivalry series began ten years before future powerhouse Florida State fielded its first team. Given the explanation at the time of cancellation, many Canes fans remain skeptical, accusing the Gators of being afraid of losing,[2] even though, at the time, the two teams each won 3 of the previous 6 match-ups and the Hurricanes' only loss in their 1983 national championship season was to Florida. Current University of Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley has reiterated financial concerns as well as SEC expansion as reason for not renewing the series. Which is patently absurd because Florida has three non-conference games each year and can schedule whoever they like. [3]

The Seminole War Canoe Trophy was hand carved by Seminole Indians from a 200-year-old cypress tree that was struck by lightning. Donated on the behalf of Hollywood, Florida in 1950, it has been an award given to the winner of football games between the schools. The canoe is a representation of the fighting spirit of the Seminoles that was displayed during play between the Florida Gators and Miami Hurricanes. The trophy stopped being passed from school to school in the early 1970s; both schools had trouble displaying the large wooden trophy. After the final game in the "home and home" series in 1987, the Seminole War Canoe Trophy was put on permanent display at the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame.[4] In 2011, the UF Student Government approved a resolution, which was sent to UM student body president Christina Farmer, ESPN and the head football coaches at each school, requesting the War Canoe's return to UF since they had won the 2008 contest. In response, Brandon Mitchell, president of UM's Category 5 spirit club, replied: "The War Canoe was intended for the yearly rivalry and . . . Miami won the final game of that yearly rivalry." Miami kept the trophy and it remains at the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame.[5] The teams share a 19-19 record during the 38 game stretch of the War Canoe Trophy from 1950-1987.

Florida won the yearly rivalry series from 1938 to 1987 with 25 wins to Miami's 24. Miami leads the all-time series from 1938 to 2013 with 29 wins to Florida's 26. Florida holds the all-time longest win streak with seven consecutive wins. Miami holds a 12–9 advantage at Florida Field and Florida holds a 14-13 advantage at the former Orange Bowl. The teams share a 3-3 record on neutral fields at Jacksonville (2), Tampa (1), New Orleans (1), Atlanta (1) and Orlando (1). Miami won the last game between the two schools, 21–16 on September 7, 2013 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens. Of the 55 total meetings, 26 have been decided by a touchdown or less. Florida holds the largest margin of victory with a 46-6 victory on November 16, 1940. Florida and Miami have played each other three times during a combined eight national championship seasons. Florida gave Miami its only loss on the way to Miami's first national championship title with a score of 28-3 on September 3, 1983. Miami beat Florida 31-4 on September 5, 1987 on the way to Miami's second national championship. Florida defeated Miami 26-3 on September 6, 2008 on Florida's way to its third national championship.

Game results

Florida victories are colored ██ blue. Miami victories are colored ██ green. Ties are white.

A 2001 Sugar Bowl
B 2004 Peach Bowl

Sources: 2011 Florida Gators Football Media Guide,[6],[7] and College Football Data Warehouse.[8]

Notable games

1971: The Florida Flop

The end of the 1971 game rankled Hurricanes fans for years to come in the series. Florida quarterback John Reaves entered the game looking to break Jim Plunkett's NCAA record for all-time passing yardage in his last regular season game. The Gators led the game throughout, and were up by the score of 45-8 when Reaves threw an interception to Miami's defense with little time left in the game and 14 yards separating Reaves from the record. After calling timeouts to prevent the Hurricanes from running out the clock, nearly the entire defense dropped down in unison and allowed Hurricanes back John Hornibrook to score. Dubbed the "Florida Flop" or "Gator Flop", the play allowed the Gators to get the ball back so Reaves could break the record. On the next drive Reaves would find Carlos Alvarez for a 15-yard gain to break the record, and after the game the entire Gators team jumped into the fountain at Miami Orange Bowl that was formerly used for the Miami Dolphins' live mascot. Hurricanes coach Fran Curci refused to shake the hand of Gators coach Doug Dickey after the game for pulling "a bush league stunt", though Dickey denied knowledge the flop was coming.[9]

1980: Why the field goal?

Toward the end of the 1980 game, which had turned into a rout, Miami players began celebrating on the sideline. Florida fans responded by pelting them with oranges. Their behavior so incensed UM Coach Schnellenberger, then in his second year, that he called a time out to tack on a meaningless 25-yard field goal on the game's final play in a 31-7 victory. Said Schnellenberger, "I did that because I wanted the press to come and ask me why I kicked the field goal."

"How are you supposed to like somebody when they're sitting in the stands and you're on the field and they're chucking oranges at you," remarked Miami player Don Bailey. "The crowd was beyond anything that I had ever seen.[10]

1983: Gators defeat eventual national champions

Miami entered the 1983 game as a 3.5 point underdog to Florida. The Gators routed Miami 28-3 in Gainesville, to give the Canes their only loss during their 1983 national championship season.[11]

1984: First ESPN telecast

The 1984 game at Tampa Stadium was the first college football game televised live on ESPN. Trailing 20-19 after a Florida score with 41 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Bernie Kosar led the Hurricanes downfield to a touchdown with six seconds left in the game. With the score 26-20, Miami kicked off to the Gators; having only a second on the clock, Florida's last pass was intercepted by Tolbert Bain and returned for another touchdown as time expired, giving Miami a 32-20 victory, and miraculously covering the spread of Canes -6.5 points.[11]

1985: Gators defeat Canes in Orange Bowl

Florida entered the game as a rare road favorite in the Orange Bowl, over a young Canes team. The Gators were giving 5.5 points in Las Vegas. The Gators played inspired football in a 35-23 win over Miami on September 7. The Canes did not lose at home again until September 24, 1994 (38-20 to Washington), an NCAA record winning streak of 58 games.[11]

2003: Ex-Gator leads Canes to win

Much of the main story line revolved around Hurricanes quarterback Brock Berlin. Berlin, who committed to play for Steve Spurrier as part of Florida's recruiting class in 2000, transferred to Miami in the spring of 2002 after Ron Zook took over as head coach. Berlin stumbled early on and threw two costly interceptions, and Florida capitalized to take a 33-10 lead by midway through the third quarter. Berlin was even booed by the Miami faithful after his poor play.[12] The Gators looked poised to win their first game against the Hurricanes since 1985. However, Berlin rebounded to complete 18 of his next 20 passes with two touchdown passes, setting up 4 Miami touchdowns in the final quarter and a half. Following the game, Berlin then performed a mocking version of the Gator Chomp to the fans, who vowed revenge.[13] The Hurricanes ended up winners by the score 38-33.

2008: Again, why the field goal?

In the 2008 renewal of the rivalry, Florida entered the game as a 22-point favorite. But Florida wide receiver Louis Murphy created controversy by suggesting that the University of Florida was "the new U", sparking a firestorm from both teams and their fans. This handed the 'Canes some bulletin board material heading into the game.

With 25 seconds left on the game clock, and leading 23-3, Florida kicked a fourth-down field goal to take the lead 26-3 rather than taking a knee and turning the ball over on downs. Many Miami fans still accuse Meyer of kicking the field goal to allow the Gators to beat the 22 point spread. In the post-game handshake, Miami's Randy Shannon barely touched his hand to Florida coach Urban Meyer without looking at him.

Shannon did not directly talk about Meyer by name. He also hinted the Gators' trying to score will help UM recruiting. Florida threw a deep pass late in the game to try to score. Jonathan Phillips kicked a 29-yard field goal with 25 seconds to play.

"I'll just say this one statement," Shannon said on Sunday. "Sometimes when you do things, and people see what type of person you really are, you turn a lot of people off. Now, whatever you want to get out of that, I won't say it again. But it helped us. It helped us more than you'll ever know."

Meyer did not take any shots back at the Hurricanes' coach.

"It was a great football game," Meyer said. "Why don't we talk about the players that played a great, hard-nosed football game and quit measuring up to worrying about Florida. I learned a long time ago just coach your team and take care of yourself. Special teams, offense and defense occupies all our time. So I'm good, we've got to move on." [14]

Future games

There are no more games planned for the near future, due to Florida AD Jeremy Foley expressing no interest in scheduling Miami. Foley cited financial concerns, noting the fact that Florida had to set aside $700,000 out of its budget the last four years just to make up for the lost home game in 2013. The 2013 game was the last one between the teams unless they meet in a bowl game.

See also

American football portal
College football portal
Florida portal



  • 2011 Florida Gators Football Media Guide, University Athletic Association, Gainesville, Florida, pp. 116–125 (2011).
  • Carlson, Norm, University of Florida Football Vault: The History of the Florida Gators, Whitman Publishing, LLC, Atlanta, Georgia (2007). ISBN 0-7948-2298-3.
  • Golenbock, Peter, Go Gators! An Oral History of Florida's Pursuit of Gridiron Glory, Legends Publishing, LLC, St. Petersburg, Florida (2002). ISBN 0-9650782-1-3.
  • Hairston, Jack, Tales from the Gator Swamp: A Collection of the Greatest Gator Stories Ever Told, Sports Publishing, LLC, Champaign, Illinois (2002). ISBN 1-58261-514-4.
  • McCarthy, Kevin M., ISBN 978-0-7385-0559-6.
  • McEwen, Tom, The Gators: A Story of Florida Football, The Strode Publishers, Huntsville, Alabama (1974). ISBN 0-87397-025-X.
  • Nash, Noel, ed., The Gainesville Sun Presents The Greatest Moments in Florida Gators Football, Sports Publishing, Inc., Champaign, Illinois (1998). ISBN 1-57167-196-X.
  • Proctor, Samuel, & Wright Langley, Gator History: A Pictorial History of the University of Florida, South Star Publishing Company, Gainesville, Florida (1986). ISBN 0-938637-00-2.
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