30 years ago, the Miami Hurricanes finished the college football season with the program’s fourth national title while the FSU Seminoles were ranked in the top five and the Florida Gators finished with a respectable No. 7 ranking.
20 seasons ago, the ‘Canes finished the season with their fifth national title while the Gators ended the season ranked third and the Seminoles - just two years removed from the program’s second national title - finished with a No. 15 ranking.
In 2021, the state of Florida’s “Big Three” programs limp into the final weekend of the regular season with a combined record of 16-17 and the ‘Canes being the only program that has reached bowl eligibility.
The Seminoles and Gators? Well, one will become bowl eligible this weekend as one team has to win when the squads - each with a 5-6 record on the season - meet in Gainesville.
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For most causal college football fans in the state of Florida, it may not seem like that big of a deal. But for those who have followed the game for decades, the tide has turned and it may signal the end of the three programs being the ones that dominated the sport in the Sunshine State.
During the 20-season period from 1983 to 2002, the programs combined for eight national titles and zero just one losing season (Miami in 1997 at 5-6).
In the nine seasons from 2013 to 2021, the programs have combined for one national title (FSU in 2013) and seven losing seasons with an eighth one guaranteed after Saturday’s game between the ‘Noles and the Gators.
At this point, the entire state of Florida is a cluster of disaster when it comes to college football. Just two teams, UCF and Miami, enter the final weekend of the regular season with a winning record. The same number of teams, Florida and FIU already know they will have a new coach next season.
Is the problem that programs like UCF and FAU, who have both had reasonable success in the past five seasons, are taking away some of the spotlight? The Knights are the only program other than Miami who have been to a bowl game each of the last five seasons and the Owls and Knights are the only ones to win their conference over that span.
Is it because top players are leaving the state of Florida and choosing other programs? In the latest ranking of recruits from the state of Florida by 247 Sports, just four are either verbally committed to programs from the state or projected to choose a program from Florida (three to FSU, one to Florida).
In reality, it’s not just one thing. College football as a whole has changed, and the state of Florida’s big programs are not catching up. The 2022 season will be the fifth straight that one of the three will have a new head coach – and with that amount of constant chance, you can’t expect constant success.
There will come a time again when the ‘Canes, Gators and ‘Noles will achieve constant success at the same time. At this rate, though, it’s going to be a lot longer of a wait than many fans may want.