Franz Beard: Thoughts of the Day



Nothing in this world suggested the Florida Gators had even a remote chance to score an upset over 3rd-ranked Alabama October 12, 1963 in Tuscaloosa. Florida came into the game 1-1-1. In the 9-0 loss to Georgia Tech in the season opener the Gators managed all of 32 offensive yards. That was followed by a 9-9 tie with a mediocre Mississippi State team and a 35-28 squeaker over Richmond in game three.

Alabama had rolled over three opponents by an 81-13 margin. The Crimson Tide had Bear Bryant coaching and Joe Namath playing quarterback. This promised to be ugly but someone must have forgotten to tell the Gators.

In the Florida locker room before the game, Gene Ellenson gave the final pep talk after which Jack Katz stood up, walked over to the chalkboard and smashed his helmet all the way through it. What followed next was a scene straight out of Animal House. The Gators leapt to their feet and bull rushed the door but it was locked.

That fiasco out of the way, the Gators took the field, lost the coin toss and kicked off to Benny Nelson, Bama’s two-way All-American running back/corner. Nelson muffed Bobby Lyle’s kickoff at the five but found the ball quickly. Before he could take a step, however, Hagood Clarke launched like a human torpedo, decleating Nelson with a face first hit that landed between the numbers. Nelson went down like a sack of potatoes.

That set the tone for the entire day. The Florida defense stuffed Alabama three straight plays forcing a punt that Bruce Bennett gathered in at the Bama 40 and returned to the 30. Alabama’s defense didn’t budge so Lyle came on to drill a 42-yard field goal.

That 3-0 lead held up until the fourth quarter because Florida’s defense kept the vaunted Crimson Tide running game from gaining any traction and Namath struggled to find open receivers. The Gators scored the clinching touchdown on a 42-yard run by Dick Kirk. Kirk took a Tommy Shannon handoff over the right side, then about the 35 cut back against the grain and outran everyone to the end zone.

Trailing 10-0, Alabama put together a 14-play, 67-yard drive that culminated with a 1-yard sneak for the only Crimson Tide TD of the day. Bama went for two, hoping to get the ball back and then win with a field goal, but Jim Bernhardt broke up Namath’s pass in the end zone. When the Gators got the ball back they ran out the clock.

About an hour after the game had ended, the Gators boarded the buses that would take them to the airport. They got a surprise visit from Namath, who told them they played a great game and deserved to win.

“I always thought that was one of the classiest things I’ve ever seen,” Hagood Clarke told me a few years ago when I was interviewing him before a Gator Gathering in Fort Lauderdale. “It made us feel very special about what we had done that day.”

This was Florida’s biggest win over a ranked opponent since a 13-12 win over 5th-ranked Georgia Tech in 1953. This was just one more sign that Ray Graves had the Florida football program moving in the right direction. A year later, the Gators would unveil a hotshot sophomore quarterback named Steven Orr Spurrier and Florida football changed forever.

The Gators went on to finish 6-3-1, 3-3-1 in the SEC. There were only a handful of bowl games in those days. Six wins gets you a trip to an exotic locale like Shreveport for a bowl game these days and times but there only nine in existence in 1963.


Decades of Excellence in the SEC

The Southeastern Conference had its origins in the Southern Conference. In 1932, 13 Southern Conference members left to form their own league: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Louisiana State, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Sewanee, Tennessee, Tulane and Vanderbilt. Sewanee left the league in 1940. Georgia Tech left in 1964. Tulane left in 1966. The league operated with 10 teams until 1992 when South Carolina and Arkansas joined. In 2012, Texas A&M and Missouri were added.

THE THIRTIES (1932-39): Tennessee won a national championship in 1939, finishing 11-0 while allowing only 16 points all season. Alabama went unbeaten (10-0) in 1934 and earned a piece of a national title while LSU got a piece of two (9-2 in 1935, 9-1-1 in 1936).

(1) Tennessee 61-16-4; (2) Alabama 60-10-5; (3) LSU 57-19-7; (4) Tulane 54-20-6; (5) Ole Miss 49-31-6; (6) Auburn 46-29-8; (7) Georgia 44-31-6; (8) Mississippi State 42-35-3; (9) Vanderbilt 41-27-7; (10) Kentucky 37-38-1; (11) Georgia Tech 37-38-6; (12) Florida 34-43-4; (13) Sewanee 15-53-2

THE FORTIES (1940-49): Georgia claimed titles in 1941 (11-1) and 1946 (11-0). Tennessee claimed a title in 1940 (10-1) while Alabama claimed titles in 1941 (9-2) and 1945 (10-0).

(1) Georgia 78-27-4; (2) Georgia Tech 68-36; (3) Tennessee 67-19-5; (4) Alabama 66-23-4; (5) Mississippi State 57-25-4; (6) LSU 57-35-5; (7) Vanderbilt 52-33-3; (8) Kentucky 47-39-5; (9) Ole Miss 46-37-2; (10) Tulane 44-41-4; (11) Auburn 34-47-7; (12) Florida 33-50-3

THE FIFTIES (1950-59): Kentucky (11-1) claimed a title in 1950. Georgia Tech claimed titles in 1951 (11-0-1), 1952 (12-0) and 1956 (10-1). Tennessee claimed titles in 1950 (11-1), 1951 (10-1) and 1956 (10-1). The 1951 title was awarded by the AP. Auburn (10-0) won the AP title in 1957 while LSU (11-0) won it in 1958. Ole Miss (10-1) claimed one in 1959.

(1) Ole Miss 80-21-5; (2) Georgia Tech 79-26-6; (3) Tennessee 72-31-4; (4) Auburn 67-31-3; (5) Kentucky 62-38-5; (6) LSU 55-43-8; (7) Florida 53-42-6; (8) Georgia 51-49-5; (9) Alabama 50-48-10; (10) Vanderbilt 49-44-9; (11) Mississippi State 45-45-4; (12) Tulane 36-56-7

THE SIXTIES (1960-69): Alabama won the AP title in 1961 (11-0), 1964 (10-1) and 1965 (9-1-1). Alabama also claims a title in 1966 (11-0). Ole Miss (10-0-1) won the Football Writers national title in 1960 and claimed another one in 1962 (10-0). Tennessee (9-2) claimed a title in 1967 and Georgia (8-1-2) claimed one in 1968.

(1) Alabama 90-16-4; (2) Ole Miss 77-25-6; (3) LSU 76-26-5; (4) Florida 70-31-4; (5) Tennessee 67-32-6; (6) Auburn 65-37-2; (7) Georgia 59-38-8; (8) Kentucky 37-58-5; (9) Mississippi State 31-69-1; (10) Vanderbilt 24-70-6

Georgia Tech (1960-63): 26-15-1

Tulane (1960-65): 11-47-2

THE SEVENTIES (1970-79): Alabama won the UPI title in 1973 (11-1) and won AP titles in 1978 (11-1) and 1979 (12-0). Alabama also claims a 1977 (11-1) title.

(1) Alabama 103-16-1; (2) LSU 76-38-3; (3) Georgia 75-38-2; (4) Tennessee 75-39-3; (5) Auburn 72-38-2; (6) Ole Miss 58-52; (7) Florida 58-53-3; (8) Kentucky 49-60-3; (9) Vanderbilt 37-71-3; (10) Mississippi State 36-73-2

THE EIGHTIES (1980-89): Georgia won the AP title in 1980 (12-0). Auburn (11-1) won a New York Times title in 1983 while Florida (9-1-1) won the New York Times title in 1984.

(1) Georgia 89-27-4; (2) Auburn 86-31-2; (3) Alabama 85-33-2; (4) Tennessee 77-37-5; (5) Florida 76-38-3; (6) LSU 70-41-5; (7) Mississippi State 50-62-2; (8) Ole Miss 50-59-4; (9) Kentucky 47-62-3; (10) Vanderbilt 33-77-1

THE NINETIES (1990-99): Alabama (13-0) won the AP title in 1992 while Florida (12-1) won the AP title in 1996. Tennessee won the 1998 (13-0) AP title. Auburn (11-0) won a national title awarded by something called NCF in 1993.

(1) Florida 102-22-1; (2) Tennessee 99-22-2; (3) Alabama 81-31-1; (4) Auburn 72-40-3; (5) Georgia 72-43-1; (6) Ole Miss 67-48; (7) Mississippi State 63-50-2; (8) LSU 54-58-1; (9) Kentucky 44-69; (10) Vanderbilt 34-76

Arkansas (1992-99) 46-44-2

South Carolina (1992-99) 33-55-1

THE 21STCENTURY BEGINS (2000-09): LSU won the BCS title in 2003 (13-1) and again in 2007 (12-2). Florida won BCS titles in 2006 (13-1) and 2008 (13-1) while Alabama won the BCS in 2009 (14-0).

(1) Florida 100-30; (2) LSU 99-31; (3) Georgia 98-31; (4) Auburn 88-39; (5) Tennessee 83-44; (6) Alabama 79-48; (7) Arkansas 71-54; (8) South Carolina 68-54; (9) Ole Miss 63-58; (10) Kentucky 50-70; (11) Mississippi State 42-76; (12) Vanderbilt 34-83

THE CURRENT DECADE (2010-18): Alabama won BCS national titles in 2011 (12-1) and 2012 (13-1) and won the College Football Playoff in 2015 (14-1) and 2017 (13-1). Auburn won the BCS national title in 2010 (14-0). LSU got one in 2012 (13-1) from a couple of odd sources.

(1) Alabama 113-13; (2) LSU 88-28; (3) Georgia 88-34; (4) Auburn 78-41; (5) South Carolina 74-43; (6) Mississippi State 73-44; (7) Florida 70-44; (8) Arkansas 56-57; (9) Ole Miss 56-56; (10) Tennessee 55-57; (11) Vanderbilt 50-63; (12) Kentucky 49-63

Texas A&M (2012-18) 60-31

Missouri (2012-18) 52-38

Friday: Stuff from Florida’s media day.


From Andy Staples of The Athletic on the events that triggered Texas A&M’s departure from the Big 12 and its move to the Southeastern Conference:

“What finally sent the Texas A&M leadership over the edge was the attempt by ESPN to convince Texas Tech to allow its 2011 game against Texas to be broadcast on the Longhorn Network. This, to Texas A&M officials and leaders at other Big 12 schools, was beyond the pale. They all were allowed to sell one non-conference game. There had been no discussion about conference games on an institutional network. The Big 12 member schools had given an inch, yet the conference office was willing to let Texas and ESPN take a mile.”

More from Staples on the Aggies (and Missouri) joining the SEC:

“By adding Texas A&M (and later Missouri), the SEC could expand its conference footprint. That way, when it launched its network on ESPN (which finally happened in 2014), the league would have millions more cable subscribers (hopefully) paying $1.50 or more per month. The Aggies would pay for themselves and help everyone else get richer. The SEC wanted Texas A&M and Texas A&M wanted the SEC, so why did it take months to get the happy couple down the aisle? … Because neither wanted to get sued by Baylor.”

Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher offered this solution at the Texas High School Coaches Association Convention to the problems that have been created by the early signing period, which means nearly every weekend in the summer is a recruiting weekend:

“The early signing period, I do think is a good thing. I really do, but my suggestion was to have it at the end of July. When you’re coming into the season, it takes a heck of a weight off your coaches. You’re taking a big weight of actual phone calls off your assistant coaches and you can really hone down on the guys who aren’t signed in your class. That gives you a bit of time to recover during the season if you’re behind.”


Upon seeing LSU’s new football locker room, mass communications professor Robert Mann tweeted, “Meanwhile, across campus, I vacuum my faculty office with a Dust Devil that I bought at Walmart.”

Former Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, now the head coach at Colorado State was asked Wednesday what is the biggest difference between football at UGa and Colorado State. Bobo’s answer was a single word: “Money.”

Former Aggie running back Charles Strong, a native of Lake Butler, Florida, was denied a waiver to play immediately at Troy.

Former Mississippi State walkon Sean Barrette has been accused of a shooting spree that left three dead in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana.

RANDOM THOUGHTS: Zedrick Woods, who ran a 4.29 40 at the NFL Combine back in February, has retired from the Jacksonville Jaguars before ever playing a game. Woods played in 49 games at Ole Miss in his college career … Zion Williamson has signed a shoe deal with Jordan Brand, the largest deal for a rookie in NBA history … Qwuantrezz Knight’s appeal for an NCAA waiver that would make him immediately eligible at Kent State has been accepted. The NCAA originally denied the waiver request from Knight, who cited depression as the reason he transferred out of Maryland … Tim Tebow has been placed on the injured list he cut his hand while making a play in the outfield for the AAA Syracuse Mets. Tebow needed eight stitches to close the cut.