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Florida Could Have Problems With No Conference Tie

United Press International

The University of Florida wouldn’t be the first school to bail out of an athletic conference because its feelings were hurt.

Two examples which come quickest to mind are Georgia Tech dropping out of the Southeastern Conference in 1963 and South Carolina leaving the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1971.

Both of those schools came to regret their actions and it’s a pretty good bet that if the Gators stomp out of the SEC for denying them their only football championship, they’ll come to regret it too.

Georgia Tech first joined the Metro Conference and then the Atlantic Coast Conference, and South Carolina joined the Metro two years ago. As both found out during a dozen years of independence, not being affiliated with a major conference plays havoc with non-football schedules.

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This is especially true in basketball since most schools have little room on their schedules for non-conference games in January and February.

“Leaving the SEC (primarily because of a dispute over athletic scholarship limits) was a big mistake,” former Georgia Tech Athletic Director Bobby Dodd said 10 years after the fact. “We didn’t realize the impact that decision would have on our overall sports program.”

But the possibility of the Gators going the independent route was raised this week when Florida president Marshall Criser announced he has asked school officials to study “the positive and negative factors in continuing in the SEC.”

Criser is miffed because six of the other nine SEC presidents voted last week to overturn a vote of the SEC Executive Committee which awarded the Gators the 1984 conference football title. He even went so far as to accuse his colleagues of taking that step “to perpetuate a competitive advantage over a traditional rival for their perceived self-interest.”

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Criser, insisting the presidents’ vote was “a nullity,” said, “By law, by any standard of fairness, and in our hearts, 1984 will always be ‘The Year of the Gator.’ As a university, we shall continue to proclaim the 1984 team as the SEC football champions.”

No one questioned the Gators’ ability on the football field, not after they won their last nine games to post a 5-0-1 conference record (the tie was with LSU) and a 9-1-1 record overall (the loss was to Miami). But there were questions about Florida’s ethical claim to the SEC championship after the NCAA found the program guilty on 59 of an originally charged 107 counts of rules violations.

Criser, an attorney who used to be chairman of the Florida Board of Regents, expressed a desire to cooperate with the NCAA when he became the university’s president last fall. He even fired football coach Charlie Pell and several of his assistants. But his position appeared to change when the Gators became the favorites to win their first football title of their 52-year SEC membership.


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