- Jeff Barlis, College Football
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Count Will Muschamp among those who want to see the Florida-Miami rivalry continue.
With news this week that the UF and UM athletic directors have talked about the idea of a neutral-site game, there is hope once more of breathing new life into this off-and-on rivalry.
"That'd be really good for us and really good for the state of Florida," Muschamp said on Tuesday night. "That's something Jeremy [Foley] and I have talked about."
As a Gators fan in his youth, Muschamp has fond memories of the Florida-Miami rivalry, once the biggest in the state.
The two programs battled for Sunshine State supremacy in a home-and-away series that started in 1938 and played every year for 49 out of 50 years (Florida didn't field a team during World War II in 1943).
"I think it's a good leadoff game, and that's what it was for a long time," he said. "That's what I grew up with in the 70s and early 80s was Florida-Miami leading the season off."
When the SEC expanded its schedule from six to seven and ultimately to eight league games, the Gators felt it was no longer financially feasible to continue the home-and-home series with the Hurricanes and therefore give up a much-needed home game every other year.
Since the annual games ended in 1987, the schools have played just six times with Miami winning five, including last season's 21-16 win in Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.
"We've been in such a holding pattern scheduling-wise for several years because of the unknowns of what our league was going to do," Muschamp said, "whether it was going to be an eight-game, 6-1-1, 6-0-2, or we're going to go to a nine-game schedule."
When the SEC announced on April 27 that it was sticking with its eight-game schedule, it created clarity for teams like Florida to set up future nonconference opponents.
There's still a long way to go since the two athletic directors were only kicking the tires on a neutral-site game, as Foley cautioned on Wednesday.
"We have not had any definitive conversations except for a 10-second conversation with myself and Blake James in an AD's meeting," he said on WRUF AM-850. "But perhaps down the road a neutral-site contest against Miami [could happen]. So it's not like we're shying away from competition."
Even a 10-second conversation offers a glimmer of hope for the Florida-Miami rivalry to continue in some form, which would make a lot of Floridians, college football fans and Muschamp happy.
"I'm open to it," Muschamp said, "because I think it's a good game."
21hSam Khan Jr.
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