Why Do We Hate "The Gator"?

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

It started with Walter Kichefski and the 1938 Hurricanes team beating the Gators......and after 53 more meetings filled with epic comebacks, contempt and bush league flops, the rivalry has been venomous ever since.

Geographic rivalries are the biggest no-brainers in college football. Some tend to be more toxic than others. Some decide conference championships. Others decide national championships. You'll find some carry a mutual respect for one another.

Then you have the rivalry between the Florida Gators and the Miami Hurricanes.

No love lost there.

Miami Hurricanes fans loathe and carry such an overwhelming disdain for Florida's university in Gainesville. Gators second that emotion.

Why?

What is it about the Florida Gators that brings out so much hatred from those loyal to the orange and green?

Some point to their first meeting in 1938, when the Hurricanes traveled to Gainesville and marched off with a 19-7 victory. Walter Kichefski, a.k.a The Gator Hater played on that team. With that game began the annual tradition between the two schools which lasted until 1987, when the Hurricanes beat Florida, 31-4.

Kichefski's 56 year association with the Hurricanes was highlighted every year by the Florida/Miami game, where his claim to fame was his obvious contempt toward "The Gator", as he referred to the University of Florida.

In 1970, Kichefski served as the interim head coach of the University of Miami after then head coach Charlie Tate resigned two games into the season. He won his first game as coach.

He lost six straight games after that, leading into the Florida game.

"The Gator has always been a big game for us ever since the fall of 1938, when I personally played on a football team that went up to fight the Gator," said Kichefski in a television interview prior to that 1970 game. "Since then it's always been the big game here at the University of Miami."

That November evening proved to be Kichefski's shining moment as a Hurricane. It took a missed extra point, a dropped touchdown pass and a missed 25 yard field goal by Gators kicker Jim Getzen, but the Hurricanes pulled off the improbable victory in Gainesville, 14-13.

Kichefski had himself some Gator meat.

That victory fueled the Gators for their 1971 game, which would be forever remembered as "The Florida Flop".

Florida quarterback John Reaves came into the game looking to break the all-time career NCAA passing record. Reaves was on the cusp of doing just that as the Gators were pouncing the Hurricanes, 45-8 late in the fourth quarter. Reaves threw an interception and his hopes of accomplishing the feat were slipping fast.

Florida called two timeouts to prevent Miami from running out the clock. Knowing it would take more, "The Gator" defense on a second and 7 from the eight yard line flopped to the ground allowing John Hornibrook to score.

The "Florida Flop", as it was later named, allowed the Gators to get the ball back with time for Reaves to break the record. Reaves completed a pass to receiver Carlos Alvarez for a 15-yard completion and subsequently broke the record.

To add insult to injury, once the game ended, the entire Gators team jumped into the fountain in the east end of The Orange Bowl to celebrate. Although Gator head coach Doug Dickey claimed to not know of the defenses' plan, he justified it during a post game interview.

"We had no choice," said Dickey. "After our timeouts were all gone, if we wanted to get the record...but to let Miami score. The way it was done was not by my instructions, but the players chose to do that."

Hurricanes head coach Fran Curci refused to shake hands with Dickey after that game, saying he would live to regret the day he pulled such "a bush league stunt."

The vitriol grew.

In 1980, Gators fans in Gainesville threw oranges at the Miami players on their sideline after the Hurricanes had all but wrapped up their rout against Florida.

The Gators handed the 1983 National Champion Miami Hurricanes their only loss of that season, a 28-3 rout in Gainesville. We know what happened after that game.

It seemed to all come to an end in 1987 after the Hurricanes, who went on that year to win their second National Championship, trounced "The Gator" on a sweltering September afternoon in The Orange Bowl.

"I went up there 49 years ago when we played the first football game, and that's where I first began to dislike the Gator a little bit. Then, for 30 years I coached against the Gator and I got to dislike them a little bit more each year. It hasn't been a love affair, but it's been fun," said Kichefski after that game.

They stopped playing the game on a yearly basis after that. That only added more fuel to the fire.

Everyone remembers 2003, when Miami quarterback Brock Berlin, a transfer from the University of Florida, led the Hurricanes from a 33-10 deficit midway through the third quarter and threw four touchdown passes to lead them past "The Gator", 38-33.

When the game ended, Berlin calmly ran over towards the makeshift bleachers assembled for visiting Florida fans. Those bleachers were erected in the same spot in the east end zone of The Orange Bowl where the fountain the Gators jumped into after proudly flopping to an NCAA passing record was.

Berlin then forever left his mark on the rivalry and shoved the sweet taste of victory right in Gainesville's nose. He did his version of the Gator Chomp.

Walter Kichefski had to be smiling from above that night.

In 2008, then Florida head coach Urban Meyer proved to be nearly as bush league as Doug Dickey by kicking a late game field goal in order for "The Gator" to cover a 22 point spread in Gainesville and beat Miami, 26-3.

After all these years, the reason Hurricanes fans hate "The Gator" goes beyond the reproach exemplified by Kichefski. It comes down to the University of Florida's basket of excuses against continuing the rivalry.

No matter what, the Florida State Seminoles keep the Canes on their schedule. They do this for a reason.

No guts, no glory.

Florida State understands the importance of the rivalry. This is why the Seminoles are respected by Miami faithful. This is also the reason why Hurricanes fans everywhere loathe "The Gator".

Kichefski was rather light hearted about Florida, comparatively speaking.

Miami will have to go into Saturday's contest knowing that they may go another decade before playing them again. Because of that, a victory would be that much sweeter. A taste of Gator meat, as Kichefski would say, would be the sweetest meat of all.

After all, it hasn't been a love affair, but it sure is fun, isn't it?

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