The Gators’ Agoraphobia
In Monday’s post, The Table Never Lies, I asked what would Florida do if 11 SEC games were played in a 13-game season, leaving two non-conference games—one for a local rival and one for an intersectional game, knowing full well that the Gator Nation has a phobia of out-of-region clashes.
So, I thought I’d look into their history. You know, facts.
What I found was absolutely astounding. Get this…
The last time Florida played a non-conference opponent, on the road, outside the state of Florida, was 1991. That is nearly 20 years ago!
They played at Syracuse on September 21, 1991 and lost 38-21. That was Steve Spurrier’s second season at the helm of the Gators, so I imagine the game was contracted long before the Ol’ Ball Coach was hired. I also imagine that the result had a lot to do with the Gators never playing outside the state’s boundaries for a non-conference game since, except of course for SEC games (including championship games) and bowl games.
Since 1990, the Gators’ only non-conference road games in addition to the 1991 trip to upstate New York to face the Orangemen have been Florida State (every other year, their natural in-state rival) and Miami (once, in 2003). Hard to believe, really, for a program viewed as such a big-time, national program.
I’m sure it has played a role in their success on a national scale.
I’m sure the Florida defenders will point to the talent pool in the Sunshine State as the reason they don’t schedule non-conference ties outside their home borders—they don’t have to recruit outside the South to maintain a program that contends for the national championship.
“So why play outside the state if we don’t have to?” they’ll say.
Because, college football is entertainment.
I’m also sure the Gator Nation will defend themselves with the quality of the competition which is playing at Florida State every other year. Yes. But it’s not quite the same as going to unfamiliar territory, unfamiliar stadia, different hotels, different time zones, and all the rest. Not the same at all.
On the Orange side of the coin, Tennessee has played nine different non-conference foes on the road since 1990, seven of them played outside of the Volunteer state. These seven outside the state have included three trips to Notre Dame and UCLA each; trips to Louisville, Syracuse, Miami, and Cal; and games at neutral sites against Colorado (in Anaheim) and Wyoming (in Nashville).
We like a challenge. Always have.
And, how about what’s coming down the pike for non-conference foes on the road?
Through 2016, Florida has more of the same: Miami and Florida State.
That’s it. Rather pathetic.
Tennessee? Have a look: at North Carolina (2011); NC State in Atlanta (2012); at Oregon (2013); at Oklahoma (2014); at Connecticut (2015); at Nebraska (2016); at Ohio State (2018); at Southern Cal (2021 or 2022).
Hey, Gator Nation—get help for your agoraphobia. Treatments are available.