Miami-Florida series in limbo

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida’s game at Miami on Sept. 7 will be the 55th meeting between the in-state rivals.

It could be a long time before we see No. 56.

Barring a meeting in a bowl game or the impending four-team college football playoff, this season’s matchup is the last between the Gators and Hurricanes for the foreseeable future. Officials at both schools have said there have been no talks about resuming the series and it will be several years before the Gators would be able to consider another meeting with the Hurricanes because of the uncertainty surrounding the SEC’s future scheduling.

"There’s nothing in the books for the future," said Chip Howard, UF’s executive associate athletics director for internal affairs. "I won’t say it won’t ever happen. You never know."

This season’s matchup with Miami is the second game of a home-and-home series that began in 2008 in Gainesville. It’s a departure from Florida’s normal scheduling formula, which is devised to ensure that the school plays seven home games annually for financial reasons. UF prefers to play smaller FBS or FCS schools in the early non-conference games and play a Division I-AA school in the week between the final SEC game and the annual Florida State game. It’s done that way to ensure that the Gators will get the revenue from seven home games every year, which roughly comes out to $18-21 million annually ($2.5-$3 million per game).

That formula might need to be adjusted in the future, though, depending on whether the SEC decides to add a ninth conference game. The league is expected to make that decision in time for the 2016 schedule, but Howard said the Gators have already lined up non-conference opponents through that season.

With rival Florida State on the schedule each year, Howard said it would be tough for UF to justify adding Miami on a semi-regular basis. However, he did add that the school understands that fans want to see better games. Plus, there’s television to consider as well, he said.

"Our model may not necessarily work the way it has specifically in the past, although it has worked pretty good for us," Howard said. "Certainly playing in the SEC is a challenge,” Howard said. “Playing FSU every year, that creates even more of a challenge. But moving forward with the new schedule and the expansion of the league, we know that the league and television is going to want to look for matchups from the first week to the last week.

"Also we want to try to get the best matchup we can going forward because our fans are asking for that. It’s a balance. We want to be able to give them what they would like and still maintain a competitive balance."

It’s a shame the series, which Miami leads 28-26, is ending. The schools played every year from 1938-1987 (except for 1943, when UF didn’t field a team) and there have been some memorable moments from those games, including:

• In 1971, Florida’s defensive players dropped on the field to allow Miami to score a touchdown late in the game so Gators quarterback John Reaves could get back on the field and set the NCAA career passing record. That became known as the Florida Flop.

• Florida fans pelted Miami players with oranges late in the Hurricanes’ 31-7 victory in 1980. Miami coach Howard Schnellenberger got so mad he called a timeout to kick a 25-yard field goal on the game’s final play.

• In 2003, former UF quarterback Brock Berlin rallied Miami from a 33-10 deficit to a 38-33 victory by leading the Hurricanes to four touchdowns in a 17-minute span in the third and fourth quarters.

Miami has won seven of the last night meetings, with the only UF victories in that span coming in 1985 and 2008. That last meeting ended with some hard feelings on the part of Miami coach Randy Shannon, who was upset that UF coach Urban Meyer elected to kick a field goal with 25 seconds to play and the Gators leading 23-3.

The Hurricanes got some payback three years later, however. In 2011, the UF student government approved a resolution asking Miami to return the Seminole War Canoe Trophy, which is a canoe carved from a 200-year-old cypress tree and given to the winner of the game between the schools since 1955, since the Gators had won the most recent game. The resolution was sent to the head of Miami’s student body. It was passed along until it reached Brandon Mitchell, then the president of Miami’s Category 5 spirit club, who said the Gators don’t deserve the trophy -- which quit being passed between the schools in the 1970s -- because the schools no longer play annually.

His response, according to the Miami Herald: "The War Canoe was intended for the yearly rivalry and ... Miami won the final game of that yearly rivalry."

Sept. 7 may be the last chance for either school to stake a claim to the trophy.