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The Historical: Alabama-Florida's Down-Home Conspiracy.

The scheduling of the Alabama-Florida series stinks like rotten chicken liver in a baby's diaper...SEConspiracy, Pawwwl!

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

This weekend Bryant-Denny hosts fellow charter SEC member, Florida: a school which, by all rights, Alabama should have played more than thirty-seven (37) times. The erratic nature of the series, and curious gaps in meetings, rather than game-by-game, are what we have on tap today.

The SEC was founded in 1933 as a thirteen-team mega-conference hipster comprised of: Sewanee, Tulane and Georgia Tech, alongside ten schools which still remain members (Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, LSU, Georgia, and Florida). Most of these institutions "joined" in 1932; however, the present Southeastern Conference was not organized until the following year. Sewanee peaced-out early, leaving the conference in 1940. Georgia Tech, amidst recriminations and bad blood with Auburn, Alabama and UGA (and not more than a few lawsuits) bolted for the ACC in 1964. Tulane, pulling up the sad rear, clung on for dear life until 1966.

Going into the conference's 82nd season of play, then, it's odd that the Tide and Gators have been such infrequent foes. And, looking at the series history, it is almost as if there was always conference (and team) collusion to keep the SEC's East-West monoliths from meeting.

The two first met in 1904, with Alabama securing a 29-0 home victory. It would not be until 1916 until the two played again, this time in Jacksonville -another Alabama win. Another five years would lapse before the two next met. But, once they did, the Gators and Tide would play six times over the next decade, with Florida doing most of the travel to exotic locations like Montgomery and Birmingham. Only once in the ten years between 1921-1931 did Alabama travel to Florida, much less Gainesville proper. So, in 25 years of meetings between the two, Alabama and Florida had only played on-campus once a piece, and Alabama held a 6-3 advantage.

Enter the SEC's founding in 1932/1933. While you'd expect the two to play with a bit more regularity, conference play instead ushered in a staggering pause in the series, with Alabama-Florida not meeting for the next seventeen years, until back-to-back home-and-away series from 1948-1951 (Alabama winning all but the 1951 Tuscaloosa game.) This was not anomalous either, from 1951 to 1963 the series was not played at all. When it was resumed in the 1960s, they met just twice, both games played in Tuscaloosa.

It wasn't until the 1970s that Alabama-Florida played with any degree of regularity; the first time since the 1920s. The Tide and Gators hosted true home and homes from 1970 to 1973, and again in 1978 and 1979. Almost another decade would lapse before the teams met again in 1986-1987 and in 1990-1991. In the twenty-four years since the Spurrier era began, the two have met just six times in regular season play (1990-1991, 2005-2006, 2010-2011.)

By way of comparison, here's the list of Alabama's all-time meetings v. SEC founding member:

  • Auburn, 78 meetings

  • Georgia, 66 meetings

  • Kentucky, 39 meetings

  • LSU, 78 meetings

  • Mississippi State, 97 meetings

  • Ole Miss, 58 meetings

  • Tennessee, 95 meetings

  • Vanderbilt, 82 meetings

  • Florida, 37 meetings...and six of those were the SEC Championship game!

Is this collusive? It seems so, to be sure. And, we can't just poo poo the lack of meetings as "travel difficulties;" the fact the two met nine times, in the first twenty-five years, at the dawn of the 20th century, is telling. Also, it is especially damning that the scheduling became less frequent once the SEC was formed. Even with the advent of big-time football in the 1970s and 1980s, the scheduling was never balanced. Worse, when the SEC went to divisional play in 1992, it didn't improve either.

Alabama fans jokingly say, and conference foes bitterly maintain, that the SEC is a two-team cabal that represents the best interests of Florida and Alabama. Unlike the "Bammer holds, Pawwwl," and the "SEC is in Birmingham" tropes, I'm actually willing to hear this one out. So, when people ask me "where's your Florida Hate Week spirit," I have to say I have a very hard time mustering up hate for one of Alabama's alleged co-conspirators. And, to LSU fans, I can only say that just because you're paranoid doesn't mean that we really aren't out to get you.

Did you know:

  • Alabama leads the series 23-14, and despite both teams dirty-pants actions in the 1990s and 2000s, only one game was vacated by the NCAA?

  • Florida has played surprisingly well in Tuscaloosa, going 5-6?

  • But, Alabama owns the Swamp, with a 9-2 record?

  • That before Steve Spurrier became "a national treasure," he was a man that sold black market baby harp seal pelts to the Russian mafia?