The Florida Gators represent the University of Florida in the NCAA Division I as part of the Southeastern Conference (SEC). The team plays all their home games in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville that is best known as “The Swamp”.
From humble origins in 1906, the team has played hard to represent their university. But things became fierce after the team took on the “Gators” nickname in 1911. They began playing in the then newly constructed Florida Field in 1930 and joined the SEC as one of its founding members in 1932. The team has since found fast success on the field, including their 1928 season that ended 8-1 and led the nation in scoring.
Rivalry vs Florida State
Of all of the rivalries the Gators have, one of the most intense has to be their rivalry with Florida State. It began when the Florida State Seminoles graduated from playing against smaller colleges to competing against more established major-colleges in 1955. Almost immediately, fans of both the Seminoles and the Gators called for the two teams to compete.
This spawned an annual tradition where both teams will play a game against one another. While a bill was introduced mandating that the teams play against one another, the bill was rejected by the Florida Senate. But Florida Governor LeRoy Collins prodded the universities to make an agreement that both teams would play against one another. This annual series started in 1958.
The series has alternated games between their two campuses since 1964, as the first six games were played at Florida Field. Florida leads the all-time series 36–26–2 through the 2019 season.
About Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, known by fans as “The Swamp” is a football stadium on the campus of the University of Florida in Gainesville. It serves as the home for the campus Florida Gators football team.
When the stadium was first opened as a 22,000 seat facility in 1930, it was known as Florida Field. It has since expanded into the current stadium that is known and loved today. It also houses most of the university’s athletics administrative offices as well as training areas.
The stadium has the distinction of being the largest stadium in Florida as well as the 12th largest stadium in the US and the 18th largest stadium in the world. And it often surpasses the seating capacity for Florida’s home football games.
One stadium, many names
You would think that with “The Swamp” nickname, that would be enough. But the Florida Gators home has gone by many names over the years. For instance, from 1930 until 1989, the facility was simply called “Florida Field”. It then took on the name of Ben Hill Griffin, Jr. who was an alumnus and benefactor of the university and its sports programs. But the field itself retained the name “”Florida Field”. So technically, the Gators play at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Flordia Field.
At least they did so until 2016.
On September 3, 2016, the playing field was renamed “Steve Spurrier-Florida Field” in honor of the influence held by legendary Florida quarterback and head coach Steve Spurrier. Athletic director Jeremy Foley explained that, “Coach Sp;urrier did more than win a Heisman Trophy, a national championship, and a bunch of games. Coach Spurrier changed the culture of Florida Athletics.”
In fact, Spurrier has been credited with coining the nickname “The Swamp” in 1992. He explained that “A Swamp is where Gators live. We feel comfortable there, but we hope our opponents feel tentative. A swamp is hot and sticky and can be dangerous. We feel like it’s an appropriate nickname for our stadium.”
This has led to the tagline “Only Gators get out Alive” that has since appeared in Gators merchandise ever since.
When the team was first established, the Florida Gators football team played at a Gainesville municipal park known simply as “The Baseball Park” or “The Ballpark”. The university later began development of its first on-campus sports field in 1910, when it purchased and cleared open land just west of the campus. Wooden bleachers were installed and a football gridiron and baseball diamond were laid out by the end of the year. This field, known as University Athletic Field, made its debut in January 1911. This was also the year that the Gators took on that nickname.
The field had primitive amenities compared to what stadiums are known for today and only offered seating for 5000 persons with standing room included. But as Florida began playing against more established teams from across the country, it became clear that this wouldn’t be enough.
Construction of the current stadium began on April 16, 1930 and was later completed and opened to the public on November 8, 1930.
Capacity and Attendance Records
Ben HIll Griffin Stadium has been through several rounds of expansions, renovations, and updates. These changes made the stadium even better for all involved whether fans, players, or the press. But here’s a brief rundown of the capacity today and how it grew over time.
- 88,548 (2003–present)
- 83,000 (1991–2002)
- 72,000 (1982–1990)
- 62,800 (1966–1981)
- 46,164 (1960–1965)
- 40,116 (1950–1959)
- 21,769 (1930–1949)
The Florida Gators have tallied up an impressive record since the program first took the field. With a win record of 745-424-40 (.633), the team has certainly earned fame for intense football action.
This record includes a .522 percent Bowl game record (24-22), 3 claimed national titles (1996, 2006, 2008), 8 conference titles (1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2006, 2008), and 15 Division Titles (1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2020).
But you can’t talk about the team’s records and achievements without recognizing some of the star players and coaches that have worn the team colors. This includes 13 players and coaches associated with Florida that have ended up in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Besides those legends, here are just a few of the individual honors and awards players have received.
- Steve Spurrier (1966)
- Danny Wuerffel (1996)
- Tim Tebow (2007)
- Danny Wuerffel (1996)
- Tim Tebow (2007, 2008)
Walter Camp Award
- Danny Wuerffel (1996)
Sammy Baugh Trophy
- John Reaves (1971)
- Danny Wuerffel (1995)