UM-UF rivalry may divide families, fans, but they love their traditional rivalry

Posted September 19, 2013


The UM-UF rivalry has spawned many “house-divideds” and, while many fans feel intense rage towards the opposing team, many others are disinterested or don’t feel the rivalry so strongly.

The biggest thing on everyone’s mind this week is the UM vs. UF game on Saturday. It is a much buzzed-about game for a couple of reasons: the two teams haven’t played since 2008 and they share a rivalry that is rooted in a long tradition.

The rivalry began by default: two major football teams within Florida, each with distinct fan bases, burst onto the gridiron. But it was in 1971 with the infamous Gator Flop that the rivalry truly found its hateful spark.

“Florida put their defense to the ground and let Miami score just so that their quarterback, John Reaves, could break the NCAA’s record for all-time passing yardage,” said Stephan Schlauch, Hurricane Club member, longtime Cane fan and donor of the school.

But it wasn’t just the Gator Flop that intensified the conflict.

After playing annual home-to-home games for almost 50 years, the University of Miami Hurricanes were taken off the Florida Gators’ regular season schedule and now the teams have only played each other five times since 1987 (not including Saturday’s game).

In 1987, the teams played their last annual game when the Southeastern Conference’s requirements required member schools play eight conference games. Thus, the University of Florida picked teams that do not require the “home-and-away” set-up for the non-conference schools also scheduled.

Even with this explanation, Cane fans argue that the Gators took them off their schedule because of UM’s wins. Miami won that last 1987 game and the one the year before as well. They believe Florida wants to avoid losing and UM fans remain offended that UM doesn’t get scheduled to play UF annually like Florida State does.

“Florida continues to refuse to play UM each year, unlike FSU. They can schedule us for any of the three non-conference games they play each year but they come up with bogus reasons not to. It’s because Miami leads the series. They don’t want to lose,” explained Schlauch.

David Lang, a sports producer at ABC’s local affiliate WPLG-TV, adds that UM feels slighted.

“In UM’s perspective, they feel ducked by the Gators,” he said. “But because UF has won many games recently, they’ve quieted the trash talk that has come from both sides throughout the history of their rivalry.”

The numbers indicate Miami leads the overall series 28-26 and the Canes have won every game since 1986 excluding the one in 2008. Canes use these statistics as their ammunition against the Gators and definitely believe the situation has fueled the rivalry even more.

“UF just took us off their schedule. After our six straight wins, they don’t want to play us annually because they’re scared. Absolutely,” said Tom Weaver, who was graduated from the University of Miami in 1981 and added that the tradition of being a “Gator Hater” goes way back.

His daughter, Kristen, who was graduated from UM in 2010, agrees.

“It’s a long tradition and this has always been seen as the most important game so it’s a shame that we don’t get to play every year.”

But is it seen as the most important game to the Gators? It is not fair to say that the rivalry between UM and UF is just one-sided, with the Canes being the team who truly cares and hates the Gators passionately. But many UF fans can agree that the rivalry isn’t as intensely felt for them as it is for UM fans.

Christine Plasencia, a Miami native and sophomore at the University of Florida, came down for the weekend to attend the game. But said she is one of the few.

“No one at school really cares about this game. The only students who came down for the game are from Miami. I guess we feel the rivalry more because we’re from Miami but most people care much more about teams like Florida State.”

UF graduate Connie Ogle, who works at The Miami Herald, described her alma mater’s relationship to UM less like an arch nemesis and more akin to a “pesky little brother,” citing other schools such as Georgia, Alabama and, of course Florida State, as their true and hated rivals. Though it’s true UF certainly doesn’t like the Hurricanes, she explains it is a case of having “bigger fish to fry.”

Born and raised a Canes fan until she left to the University of Florida for college, sophomore Diana Rodriguez has equally experienced both sides of the rivalry.

“My dad went to UM and so I grew up a hardcore Canes fan, attending every game and sporting UM cheer costumes with authentic pompoms because my cousin used to be a cheerleader at the school.” She came to UF and started rooting for the opposing team (against her will at the beginning) but realized after being a Canes fan first that “UM is way more concerned with UF than UF is with UM.”

Kyle Green, a senior at Auburn University-Montgomery and a testament that the rivalry goes beyond Florida, flew in to Miami for the pep rally as he has always been a loyal Hurricanes fan. He shares Rodriguez’s sentiment:

“UF always rags on the Canes for being part of the ACC. But besides that, Florida doesn’t think it’s such a huge rivalry like Miami does,” he said.

Despite UF’s lack of importance given to the game on Saturday, the antagonism is felt strongly throughout most of the school and was evident at the pep rally on Friday. The rivalry is so intense, in fact, that the school’s many international students feel hatred towards UF as well, though they never grew up with it nor know much about it.

Christoph Klinger, an exchange student from Austria, is feeling some of the excitement and is developing his loyalty.

“I hate the Gators! Go Miami!” he said, explaining that after being at UM for just a few short weeks he already despises UF and wants them to lose badly.

Klinger said he feels this way after constantly being around classmates who declare their negative opinions towards UF. Klinger’s sentiments could also be a result of the humongous sign on top of the new Student Center that reads “BEAT THE GATORS.”

Still, not all Hurricane fans and people affiliated with the school are full-on Gator Haters.

Burt Rosenberg, a professor of computer science who has worked at UM for 20 years, engages the rivalry, “I think it’s great that Florida has two great schools, academically and athletically, that have a healthy and competitive relationship and bring so many people together to root for their team.”

Fortunately, when it finally came to the game on Saturday sentiments such as these seemed to be prevalent.

Bianca Velikopoljski, a UM sophomore and Miami native, attended the game and didn’t quite feel that intense rivalry that was so built up over the past couple of weeks.

“UM and UF fans alike tailgated together. Nobody was really bad-mouthing each other or starting fights. A lot of my friends go to UF, and that’s the case for a lot of my classmates too. We all just had a good time together and were excited to watch the game,” she stated.

As both UF and UM are interstate schools, there’s bound to be some overlapping resulting in divided houses and the squashing of feelings that could’ve otherwise stayed harsh.

“I used to cheer the Canes, but little by little, I became more loyal to my alma mater, and I am a full-on Gator fan and am cheering for UF all the way. Nonetheless, because of my background I could never truly hate UM,” said Larry Fernandez, who was graduated from the University of Florida in 1982.

“I think the in-state rivalry is fun. Both the University of Florida and the University of Miami are huge athletic schools that have so much pride that many other universities lack,” explained Rodriguez. “Students and alumni from both are proud to say where they came from and I’m proud to say I got to experience both.”

It’s not clear when UF and UM will play again, but it probably won’t be any time soon. The friction between the two teams that settled down when it came time for the game shows that people may actually be more concerned with getting along and having a good time than engaging in the hostile rivalry, at least when it comes to the students.

Despite a long of history of a back-and-forth bitterness between the teams, there may be a game day in the future when the colors orange, green and blue aren’t streaked with bad blood.

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