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USF Libraries Exhibits

College Sports in Florida

47th annual sports awards banquet

47th Annual Sports Awards Banquet, 2008/02/22.

While professional sports teams based in Florida have only emerged in more recent decades, college sports have had a major presence in Florida for much longer. The college sport that Florida has become most known for is football.  The first in-state college game was played in 1901 between Stetson and Florida Agricultural College. Prior to this, various universities had teams, but did not play against other teams. Some of Florida’s most prominent college teams began to emerge during the first half of the 20th century with the University of Florida beginning its football program in 1906 and the University of Miami starting its program in 1926. These schools, along with Florida State who began play in 1947, formed the “Big Three” that would make Florida a college football hotbed in the latter half of the century. As Florida college teams grew more successful, they also began to draw increasingly more talented players, with seven players from Florida schools winning Heisman Trophies as the best all-around player in college football. The state has also been the site of many iconic coaches, such as Bobby Bowden, Steve Spurrier, and Urban Meyer. Florida schools have dominated college football during the last thirty years, with either Florida, Florida State, or Miami being ranked in the top twenty-five every week from 1982 to 2011. Along with having their own teams dominate the rankings, Florida has also become an end-of-season  site for many other teams, hosting six college bowl games at the end of each season.

Football fans painted green and gold

USF football fans, [Date unknown].