MIAMI (CBS4) – Wednesday, the Florida Gators football schedule was released and it had the typical cupcakes to start the season. But looking deeper, there’s a proud tradition of the University of Florida of avoiding tough non-conference road games.
Looking at the last 20 years of schedules, the last time the University of Florida set foot outside the state of Florida for a major non-conference game was in 1991 when the Gators traveled to New York to play the Syracuse Orangemen.
This season’s non-conference slate includes home games against Florida Atlantic, UAB, Furman, and Florida State. But, all of those games will be held at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, also known as the Swamp.
It’s true the Gators play in the toughest conference in the country, but that hasn’t stopped other upper echelon SEC teams from shying away from tough out-of-conference games on the road.
The University of Alabama played FSU in Jacksonville in 2007; played Clemson in Atlanta in 2008; played Virginia Tech in Atlanta in 2009; and will travel to Happy Valley in 2011 to take on the Penn State Nittany Lions.
LSU is no stranger to hitting the road for big out-of-conference games. In 2009, the Tigers traveled to Seattle to open the season against the Washington Huskies. In 2010, LSU came to Atlanta and played the North Carolina Tar Heels.
And this season, LSU opens the season against last year’s BCS runner-up, the Oregon Ducks. The game is set to be played in Texas.
Even the Tennessee Volunteers, who haven’t been a major SEC player in several years, traveled to Los Angeles in 2008 to play the University of California Los Angeles.
And you can’t talk about tough out-of-conference games without mentioning the University of Miami. “The U” has made a habit of scheduling some of the toughest non-conference games in the country.
Last year, the Canes traveled to the Horseshoe in Columbus, Ohio to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes. And in 2007, the Canes traveled to Oklahoma and took a beating at the home of the Sooners.
Florida has cited various issues with traveling for non-conference games, including playing a tough SEC schedule and a desire to get in enough home games. But, every other school manages to do it almost every year, which begs the question; what are the Gators afraid of?