The Florida-Tennessee Relationship

Florida and Tennessee have more in common than you might think. People have been going back and forth between the two and making big impacts for a while now. The most famous is probably Steve Spurrier, who grew up in Tennessee, but I’ll get back to him later. The most complicated ties are probably that of Bob Woodruff and Doug Dickey.

Bob Woodruff attended the University of Tennessee and played under General Robert Neyland, of Neyland Stadium fame. After a brief stop at Baylor, Woodruff became the head coach at the University of Florida for the entire decade of the 1950s. After finishing coaching, he returned to the University of Tennessee to become Men’s Athletic Director from 1963 to 1985. He was replaced in 1960 by Ray Graves, another Tennessee-born, UT-educated coach who also played under Neyland. Graves, incidentally, would stay at Florida and become athletic director for UF.

While the athletic director at Tennessee, Woodruff hired Doug Dickey as head coach. Dickey was born in South Dakota but grew up in Gainesville. He attended UF and played quarterback from 1951 to 1953 under Woodruff. He was the Vols’ head coach from 1964 to 1969, and many say he rejuvenated the program. After a rough first season, his teams never won fewer than 8 games, and he twice won the SEC Championship and twice won SEC Coach of the Year. He also started the traditions of having a T on the helmets, having the band making a T on the field for the team to run out through during pregame, and painting the endzones in that stupid checkerboard pattern. He was hired to coach UF in 1970 where coached until 1978, but he didn’t have the same success and would later return to Tennessee. He served as AD at UT from 1986 to 2002 where he enjoyed great success.

Now, I mentioned Gen. Neyland previously, and one of his famous things aside from his coaching record is setting forth his 7 Football Maxims. They are, as follows:

  1. The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win.
  2. Play for and make the breaks and when one comes your way – SCORE.
  3. If at first the game – or the breaks – go against you, don’t let up… put on more steam.
  4. Protect our kickers, our QB, our lead and our ball game.
  5. Ball, oskie, cover, block, cut and slice, pursue and gang tackle… for this is the WINNING EDGE.
  6. Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made.
  7. Carry the fight to our opponent and keep it there for 60 minutes.

A plain language translation of them is as follows:

  1. Minimize turnovers and penalties
  2. When the other team makes a mistake, attack
  3. Don’t give up
  4. Block well and don’t give up leads
  5. Be aggressive on defense (I don’t know what ball as a verb and oskie mean, but the rest seem to point this way)
  6. Block kicks
  7. Be the aggressor

Now, all of these point to playing smart and being aggressive. Sound like anyone to you? I don’t know if Steve Spurrier had heard of these maxims, though I would think it’d be likely since he played football while growing up in Tennessee and considering Neyland’s stature in the state. I think it could be possible that some of his coaching philosophy stems from this list, especially #2. Spurrier was famous for going for a touchdown pass immediately after turnovers. Of course, he probably put his own spin on some of them, such as with shortening #3 to just “Don’t let up… put on more steam” in all situations.

All in all, Florida and Tennessee have a lot of ties. There have been a lot more relationships involving players too, with the Leak brothers each being at one of the schools and Lee Humphrey leaving Maryville, Tennessee to come to UF being more recent examples. Of course, Tennessee fans naturally hate Florida fans and vice versa, so it’s yet more proof that familiarity does indeed breed contempt.

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