#5 Charlie Bachman (1928-1932)
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Kicking off my list is Hall of Fame coach Charlie Bachman. Between his stints at Kansas State and Michigan State, Bachman served as the eighth coach for the Orange and Blue. He started off with a rock solid 16-3 record his first two seasons (8-1 & 8-2, respectively) before his Gator football teams slowly regressed.
He finished his coaching career at Florida with a record of 27-18-3, zero bowl wins and no conference or national championships. Interesting fact, he had a 2-0-3 record against Georgia with all those ties being 0-0!
Bachman left for Michigan State after a dismal 3-6 (1-6) season in 1932 and in 1978 he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
#4 Doug Dickey (1970-1978)
Doug Dickey kept the Gators average at best when he took over in 1970. His Florida teams went to four straight bowl games from 1973-1976 and did not win any of them. His best season at the helm came in 1975 when he led the Gators to a 9-3 (5-1) record (but finished with a loss in the 1975 Gator Bowl). He finished his coaching career at Florida with a 58-43-2 record in nine years.
The Gators finished as a ranked team just once during the Dickey Era, and that came in 1974 when they finished #15 in the AP polls. Despite the fact that he won no bowl games or conference/national championships at Florida, Dickey's track record still spoke for itself. In 2003, he would be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
#3 Ray Graves (1960-1969)
We start to reach the upper echelon of Gator coaches as we hit Ray Graves at No. 3 on this list. Serving as the university's athletic director while he coached, Ray Graves sported a 70-31-4 record in his 10 years on the sideline for the Orange and Blue. In bowl games, he was nearly perfect as his Florida teams went 4-1 in the postseason.
Graves won no conference or national championships, but he was named the SEC Coach of the Year in 1960 when he led the Gators to a 9-2 (5-1) record and a Gator Bowl victory in his first year. Florida finished in the AP Top 25 polls in Graves' first year (#18) and his last year (#15).
Two Consensus All-Americans came out of Graves' program during his tenure:
- Steve Spurrier in 1966 (how fitting)
- Carlos Alvarez in 1969
Graves retired from coaching in 1969 after a Gator Bowl victory and remained Florida's athletic director up until 1979. He was inducted into the UF Hall of Fame in 1981, the College Football Hall of Fame in 1990, and in 2005 the athletic office at The Swamp was named after him.
#2 Urban Meyer (2005-2010)
Urban Meyer reestablished Florida as a dominant college football powerhouse in just six years with the program. As Florida's head coach, he boasted a 65-15 record, a 5-1 bowl game record, two SEC Championships (2006 & 2008), and two National Championships (2006 & 2008).
Florida won a record 13 games THREE times with Meyer and produced one of the most dominant college football teams in history in 2008. Meyer lost just two games to non-SEC opponents and he beat FSU and Georgia all but once. The Gators were ranked every season except in Meyer's final year in 2010.
During Meyer's reign, seven Consensus All-Americans came out of UF:
- Reggie Nelson in 2006
- Tim Tebow in 2007
- Brandon James in 2008
- Brandon Spikes in 2008 & 2009
- Joe Haden in 2009
- Maurkice Pouncey in 2009
- Chas Henry in 2010
Despite all the championships and winning, Meyer's football program was plagued with criminality, favored treatment of star players, unaccountability, and relaxed punishments. During the Meyer Era, 25 Gator players (possibly even more) were arrested. Not to mention that good ol' Aaron Hernandez was up here in Gainesville punching out bouncers and getting into other sorts of trouble.
A majority of the football team was bad news when Meyer was in charge. Florida was winning, but it definitely came at a price. In my opinion, Meyer was able to bury all the crime and scandal of his players because he had Tim Tebow predominantly diverting media attention away with his outspoken Christian faith and good nature.
Take away a figure like Tebow to hide behind, and Meyer would have been vilified by those even within the Gator Nation for his recruitment of players with questionable character. I could be wrong though. When teams keep winning and having success, people tend to ignore the off the field issues.
I am not one of those people. I believe it is possible to have players of good character and still compete for National Championships year-in and year-out. Back to the subject at hand now. Meyer was a phenomenal coach at Florida and definitely has my respect as a Gator fan.
However, I do not forget his controversial resignation from Florida due to "health and family reasons" and I do not forget how he left the program in shambles after 2010. I also do not forget how he bolted to Ohio State in 2012 as soon as the opportunity arrived. In my opinion, he did not leave UF because of his health or family.
Meyer saw the writing on the wall. He knew Florida had peaked already during his tenure. With guys like Tim Tebow, Brandon Spikes, Aaron Hernandez, Joe Haden, and many others from those loaded Gator teams leaving for the draft, the football program would surely begin its slow spiral into mediocrity. Meyer had the foresight and jumped ship as soon as he could.
Since leaving Florida, Meyer has gone 46-3 at Ohio State with one Big Ten Championship and a National Championship last year. Even though he is a Buckeye and a traitor to some degree, I still thank Urban Meyer for his ushering in of the "second golden age of Gator football".
Taking the top spot on my list is none other than the "Ol' Ball Coach" Steve Spurrier! A Heisman winner and All-American during his playing days at the University of Florida from 1964-1966, Spurrier was the first man to establish the Florida Gators as a legitimate college football program during his 12 years with his alma mater.
He has the best winning percentage in Gator history at .817% and an all-time record of 122-27-1 for the Orange and Blue. He led the Gators to 11 bowl games (nearly all of them New Year's Day bowls) where his teams went 6-5. Florida was ranked in all of his 12 seasons.
The Gators dominated the SEC when Spurrier took over as he won six SEC titles (1991, 1993-1996, 2000). In 1996, it all finally came together when Florida thrashed Florida State 52-20 in the 1997 Sugar Bowl for the first National Championship in program history. It was Spurrier's most significant victory against FSU considering Florida went 4-7-1 against their arch rival during his time on the sidelines.
Spurrier won three SEC Coach of the Year Awards (1990, 1995, 1996) and coached 13 Consensus All-Americans:
- Brad Culpepper in 1991
- Kevin Carter in 1994
- Jack Jackson in 1994
- Jason Odom in 1995
- Danny Wuerffel in 1996
- Reidel Anthony in 1996
- Ike Hilliard in 1996
- Fred Weary in 1997
- Jacquez Green in 1997
- Mike Pearson in 2001
- Jabar Gaffney in 2001
- Alex Brown in 2001
- Rex Grossman in 2001
Spurrier is my pick for No.1 because he was the first one to indoctrinate Florida to its winning ways. I mentioned the "second golden age" with Urban Meyer because the first one occurred with Steve Spurrier! The Gators were a force to be reckoned in the 90s with seven double-digit win seasons during the decade.
The heart-warming tale of the Heisman QB coaching at his alma mater finally came to an end in 2001. After Florida blew out Maryland 56-23 in the 2002 Orange Bowl, Spurrier left the Gators for a head coaching job in the NFL. He would quickly return to college after going 12-20 with the Washington Redskins. Fittingly enough, Spurrier came right back to the SEC East and coached at South Carolina from 2005-2015. He compiled a record of 86-49 while with the Gamecocks.
On October 12, 2015, Steve Spurrier announced his resignation from the position of head coach at South Carolina. Gator fans old and young will never forget what the Ol' Ball Coach did for the Orange and Blue. He will forever be immortalized as the greatest Gator head coach in my opinion, and his teams remind us all of what Florida football is supposed to look like.
Charley Pell (1979-1984), Galen Hall (1984-1989)
I hope you enjoyed this Top 5 article! Tune in later this week as I write my recap on Florida's Homecoming Game against Vanderbilt!
*All stats accredited to collegefootballreference.com & Wikipedia
*Arrest numbers during the Meyer Era accredited to the Orlando Sentinel
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