Owing its roots to East Florida Seminary founded in 1853 in Ocala, the current University of Florida campus was chartered in 1905 and opened its doors in September of 1906. One of the largest universities in the country, The University of Florida is located in Gainesville, FL, in the north-central part of the state. Although the city of Gainesville only has about 114,375, UF boasts over 50,000 students, a sizable gain from 102 that first graced its hallways that first fall. Surprisingly enough, it is still not the state of Florida’s largest university; UF takes second place in that regard to Miami-Dade College.
Even though the state of Florida is a bit different from many other Southern states, it too was affected by the American Civil War. East Florida Seminary was, as were many institutes of higher learning, forced to close its doors at the onset of the War. In 1866, the school relocated to Gainesville, setting up what would become The University of Florida.
In 1905, a state mandate forced all pre-existing state-funded institutions to merge into the new University of the State of Florida. This pulled in The University of Florida at Lake City (formerly Florida Agricultural College), St. Petersburg Normal and Industrial School, and the South Florid Military College. These campuses allowed the university to maintain its policy of segregation with a campus for white men, a campus for white women, and a campus for African American men and women. In 1909, the school officially changed its name to The University of Florida and was fully integrated in 1958.
The school’s mascot, the ‘Gator, was chosen in 1909 after a vendor printed pendants for the university that had an alligator on them for decoration. The school’s colors, Orange and Blue, are believed to be derived from the early days of Florida university mergers; the blue coming from the blue and white of The University of Florida at Lake City and the Orange coming from the black and orange of East Florida Seminary.
The University of Florida is one of the few schools in the country with a traditional class ring design. The “Gator Wrap Ring” was designed in the 1930’s by a former president of the school and features a band with an open mouthed alligator, appearing to hold the gem setting in place and “1853” inscribed on one side.
Offering 17 different academic colleges and over 100 undergraduate majors, today the University of Florida is consistently ranked as one of the top 25 universities in the country and among the top universities in the world.
One of the largest football rivalries, The University of Florida Gators and The University of Tennessee Volunteers have met on the field since 1912. But it wasn’t until 1992 and the addition of The University of Arkansas and The University of South Carolina that the UF-UT rivalry really kicked off because the change in conference placed both UF and UT in the Eastern Division of the SEC. The two teams have faced each other on the third Saturday of September every year since 1992. The one exception to this was 2001, when the game was postponed until December due to the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. After both schools went through low points and staff changes in the early 2000’s, both schools now have programs again on the rise, bringing the rivalry along with it.
While the Vols dominated in the early years, the Gators have taken the lead in the latter. The record, as of this writing, is 21:19 in favor of Florida. One thing the UF-UT rivalry has that the UT-Bama rivalry lacks, UT’s biggest and longest rivalry, is class. While there are always those outlier fans on all sides that take things too far, the UF-UT rivalry is usually one of good sportsmanship and provides a good time for all.