Dr. Gary R. Mormino one of our Festival of Reading authors holds the Frank E. Duckwell Professorship in Florida Studies at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, where he also co-directs the Florida Studies Program. He is author of several award-winning books dealing with Florida, among them The Immigrant World of Ybor City (1987; coauthored with George Pozzetta), and most recently, Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams: A Social History of Modern Florida (2005). The following is material excerpted from his essay: Sand-Lots, Fields of Dreams, and Pleasure Domes: Florida Sport World, an article published in Florida Trend Magazine, 11/1/07. To view the complete article, click on the link.
'Sand-Lots, Fields of Dreams and Pleasure Domes'
Collegiate football began in Florida in 1899.
Floridians loved baseball. Football, however, evoked a primal need in Floridians’ lives, fostering a passion and intensity unequaled in any enterprise short of war or religious revivals. Baseball had borne populist antecedents, the game spread by workers, farmers, and brainstorming teams across the South. Football, however, traces its roots to students enrolled at prestigious universities in the Northeast during the last decades of the nineteenth century. Nationally and regionally, football advanced in spite of critics (inside and outside the academy) who branded the game barbaric. By the turn of the century, southern colleges competed against one another, taking advantage of regional rivalries. Collegiate football began in Florida in 1899, when players organized a team at Florida Agricultural College in Lake City. The school’s president, T.H. Taliaferro, doubled as football coach. Florida’s first intercollegiate game was played 22 November 1901, as squads from Florida Agricultural College and Stetson squared off. A crowd of two thousand cheered wildly. The following year, East Florida Seminary at Gainesville faced West Florida Seminary at Tallahassee, a rivalry to reemerge a half century later, under different names.