Listed by Date. Not overall importance.
1879 - Invention of the Airbrush. Revolutionizes North Florida art and tourism industries. While many people consider Panama City to be the "Beating Heart of the Airbrush Industry," true airbrush historians know that the University of Florida's School of Airbrush Design lead the charge in this field. Today, it is a mainstay of Gator Athletics as anyone who's anyone is airbrushing a Gator onto key game day attire.
If only I could've found a pic of the legendary Gator Hearse.
April 20, 1945 - Birth of Steve Spurrier. Legend has it that Spurrier exited his mother's womb whining and proceeded to throw the umbilical cord to the ground in disgust. The entire Gator Football program's tradition (well the good stuff anyway) is built around his accomplishments. The Heisman Trophy, the SEC Titles, the National Title, the Tank Black Scandal. It's all Stevie.
This is his baby photo. No seriously. He was born this way.
Oct. 1966 - In 1966, Spurrier was en route to winning the Heisman Trophy, and Florida was unbeaten and ranked seventh when it arrived in Jacksonville. However, Georgia whipped the Gators and their star quarterback, Steve Spurrier, 27-10. The loss cost Florida its first ever legitimate SEC Title in Football. Georgia defensive legend Bill Stanfill recalls the game. It was, "a fun day. Steve didn’t like you to get close or touch him. He’d get up complaining, ‘Late hit, late hit!’ I said, ‘Excuse me, Stevie, I didn’t mean to step on your skirt.’" If Florida wins that game, maybe Steve doesn't hate Georgia as much. Maybe his driving desire to destroy our program wouldn't be so strong.
Even to this day, when Spurrier is golfing he looks around before he tees off to make sure Bill Stanfill (above) doesn't sack him again.
January 26, 1979 - Levi Strauss came to San Francisco in 1853, at the age of twenty-four, to open a west coast branch of his brothers' New York dry goods business. Roughly 126 years later, the blue jeans industry's evolution took a quantum leap forward as the Dukes of Hazzard premiered. While the show was based in Georgia, it was residents of the Sunshine State who embraced the fashion aspects of the show more than any other group alive. Most of the country was content to merely fantasize about Daisy Duke's jorts> Not the Gator Nation. No, they lived the dream. Thus beginning a love affair that has lasted to this day.
As if I would ever write something like this without a Jean Shorts reference.
December 31, 1989 - Awakening the Sleeping Giant. Spurrier announced as head coach of the Florida Gators. One of the defining moments of the Southeastern Conference. Spurrier revolutionizes the league offensively and ultimately defensively by virtue of the necessity of competing with him. Can't make too many jokes about this because as a Georgia fan, it simply isn't funny. Spurrier also brings the one liner to the conference as the father of "Free Shoes U" and "Can't spell Citrus without U-T".
Spurrier at Duke before joining the Gators.
1991 - First legal SEC title in Florida history. This article from College Football News sums it up with comments from Spurrier on the '91 team.
"The ‘91 team was our first conference champion. Our first conference game I think was Alabama here. We beat them 35-0. But I got a letter from a Gator fan after the game. He said ‘Coach, you need to calm down on the sidelines. You’re too stressed. You’re too emotional. You need to calm down a bit. Head coaches don’t act like you do and I’m afraid you’ll burn yourself out real fast.’ I read the letter and thought maybe this guy has a point. Maybe I can be successful and act like all the other coaches and let the assistants do all the yelling and so forth. So the next week, I tried to do that. I was very calm at practice, on the road trip and on the sideline. We went up to Syracuse, played like a bunch of zombies, got our butts kicked, 38-21 I think. So I came back home and apologized to the players and said, ‘That style may work for some people, but it doesn’t work for us, doesn’t work for me.’ That’s the only way I think I have a chance to be effective. Coaching is a very individual profession and you’ve got to do it your way, and there’s all kinds of ways to do it. I think our players understand that I’m yelling at them, I’m yelling at everybody. And I’m also trying to praise them at every opportunity I get. That’s my style of coaching and hopefully we can achieve the most we can throughout the season. After that Syracuse game, we bounced back and won all of them and finished the season 10-1 and won our first SEC championship."
That's right. 1991 was the first title. Just like if you rob a bank, you don't get the money back after you do your time. If you get busted cheating, the NCAA doesn't let you claim your SEC titles.
Jan. 1, 1997 - Gators win National Championship while pistol whipping the hated Seminoles. Rather than have me write this one. I'll leave it to Orson Swindle, owner of one of Gatorland's great man crushes:
The Run It Up Arm Wheel - Sugar Bowl 1996. As if redemption against the FSU team who gave Danny Wuerffel a boot party sans officiating in their only loss of the season wasn’t enough…early in the fourth quarter, with Florida up by 18 points, Florida busts a huge hole on shotgun trap, springing Terry Jackson for a TD and extending the lead to a mind-boggling 25 against the vaunted jailhouse D of FSU. The camera goes to Football Lucifer on the sidelines, who is smiling and–we shit you not–pinwheeling his pointed hand in a Pete Townshendesque motion that on the spot determined the international gesture for “run it up.” The glee on his face as his team punched the opponent out of the ring and then went for the folding chair still keeps many a Gator fan warm on those brutal fifty degree nights in north Florida. - Orson
Gators win it all.
Jan. 4th, 2001 - Spurrier resigns - Known as "Black Friday" in Gainesville and "The Greatest Friggin Day Ever" in Athens, this is without question one of the most pivotal moments in Gator Athletics. Spurrier walks away from Camaroville with six legitimate SEC Titles, 8 SEC East Titles, 1 National Title, and the greatest 12 year run by an SEC Coach not named Bryant or Neyland. Jeremy Foley, Florida Athletic Director, quickly begins the magical mystery tour of rejection which ends with Ron Zook's hiring.
Spurrier's resignation sets off legendary fireworks displays in Knoxville and Athens.
Jan. 9, 2001 - Ron Zook Hired. By Jan. 10th, FireRonZook.com is online. My parents were in New Orleans at the time, and all the sports talk guys could talk about that day in NOLA is how excited they were that Zook wouldn't be back coaching the Saints Defense the next year. I was just excited that they never got around to calling Jon Gruden after Stoops and Shanahan rejected Foley. Shockingly, Richt only beats the Zooker once in three tries. That is the biggest fork in the eyeball of that three year period for Georgia.
Zook carried off in style after doing something Spurrier never did. Beat the Noles in Doak.
March 2005 - Meyer points at first person. While Meyer 1.0 was less than perfect, it was overall an improvement from the final year of Zook's tenure. What Meyer has done on the recruiting trail has been even more impressive than his accomplishments on the field. Beating out Notre Dame to bring Meyer on board was solid work. It remains to be scene if he's a super genius or just a good solid coach.
More Spurrier moments from the Gator standpoint from Orson here, here and here.
In the next week or two, I'll do one of these for at least one other rival.