The Fall of 1961 was the beginning of my FR year at UF and I was so happy to be in the Gator Band. The first game was against Clemson and I didn't have to look that up or be told. I remember that game so well. Remember seeing the Clemson cheerleaders getting out of a car in a parking spot on the street on the south side of Florida Field before the game. Gators won 21-17. Of the 3 years I was in the Gator Band, the uniform of 1961 (which was the last year for it) was a better design than 1962-63 or any year since for that matter. Of course that's what this slightly
older guy thinks.
I remember 3 games also very well in the 1960 season and 5 in 1961. I was in my Senior year at the brand new Southwest Miami Senior High School and the Royal Lancer Band in the Fall of 1960. As usual the UF - Georgia Tech game was on the Gator Radio Network. In Miami that was on WIOD 610 AM at the time. NCAA restrictions were so strict back then on how many college football games could be on. There was no ESPN and ABC usually had just 2 games on TV, Saturday only. That was it. What makes the Gators-Yellow Jackets so memorable, and I'm sure for so many Gators from back then, was that 1960 was the first year teams could go for 2 points after a TD. And Coach Ray Graves made the decision to do it late in the game after the Gators had come from behind to score a TD, in the South Endzone. Tech was was the favorite in the game and was rated higher than UF. And Gators got the 2 points! First game we ever went for 2! We won the game 18-17. I was so happy I almost busted my radio in excitement!
And there is another game in the Fall of 1960 that is not on here but I will never, ever forget. And I have to mention it. It was on my Dad's birthday, Nov. 26th, in the good old Orange Bowl! Which I loved! So many great memories there! And me and Dad went to the game. Anyway, the Gators were there to play the team from the NJ/NY rich kids school in Coral Gables. As I mentioned, I was in the SW high school band and I wanted so bad to go to UF and hoped to make the cut there for the Gator Band! The Gator Band had a new, young director, Richard W. Bowles. He was from Wisconsin and already had an awesome reputation amongst high school bands in Florida with what he was doing at UF. So it was an evening kickoff which was often back then in the old Orange Bowl. My Dad and I sat on the South Side (the old Orange Bowl went east-west not north-south) which was the visitors side. It was the best side of the Orange Bowl stadium to be on because it was larger back then than the north side. And of course there would be more Gator fans than than Hurricane fans. UM always liked to to be on the north side because if by chance they had a game on TV it would look like they had more attendance at the game!
So anyhow me and my Dad were on about the 30 toward the East End Zone, about 30 rows up. Which was perfect because at halftime the Gator Band was going to enter from our right, at the East End Zone. So about 6 minutes before Halftime the Gator Band was getting ready to line up by the Goal Posts in the East End Zone. I told my Dad, I gotta go down there behind the Goal Post fence and watch the guys in the Gator Band getting lined up. He said (like all Dads would) OK son but be careful. Don't get in trouble. So I went down to the East End Zone and stood behind the fence by the Goal Posts. Getting chills watching the Gator Band lining up, getting ready. Thinking, I'm going to be at UF next near and in the Gator Band! So the Gator Band started to take the field at Halftime and I hurried back to my seat beside my Dad.
Now, Paul Harvey, use to have a great line of saying "Now, you know the rest of the story" after he gave a little inside info on what many may think they knew all there was to know about a well known figure or event. So if I put anyone to sleep, you better wake up, or you are going to miss it!
So the Gator Band did their great performance at Halftime and exited the field toward the West End Zone. Then it was time for the UM "Band of the Hour" to take the field and put everyone to sleep. So they are starting to enter the field from my right, the East End Zone. Just as they reached about the 10 maybe 15 yard line, 2 guys on our side of the field, near the benches where the Gator team was seated during the game, ran out to the center of the field right on the 50 yard line. The had a big sack. The cops didn't stop them. And frankly back then I don't think there were that many cops at a game because one big thing is that fans didn't storm a field as much as they are likely to do now. Although I can think of a a very big "storming" the field at UF in a 1961 game, but that's another story. So anyway, I think the cops that were there thought the same thing most of all of us sitting in the Orange Bowl thought that night. Those 2 guys had something to do with the halftime show that the UM band was getting ready to do. As I said, they had what looked like a very big sack. In the middle of the 50 one of them stuck a sign in the turf. Couldn't make out what the sign said from where my Dad and I were sitting. Then they both dumped out of the bag what at first looked like just a big log. They they then ran off the filed very fast toward the North side! Everything was happening very fast! There was no movement by the "log". And again everyone thought it was something to do with the UM band's halftime show. Well, that only lasted about 2 or 3 minutes! The UM Band had been marching, slow as usual, all that time and their drum major was now at about the the 35. Suddenly, the "log" came alive and it turned out to be a big Alligator! The Gator did the usual "Gator thing", opened its jaws and swished its tail! The UM drum major saw the Gator threatening him, turned around and started hurrying back to the East Zone and the rest of the UM band followed suit!. Now the cops came out to the middle of the 50 trying to figure out how to remove the Alligator from the middle of the field. They finally got a pick-up truck out there and and a lot of them finally were able to get it on the bed of the truck and shut the tailgate! Probably delayed the start of the 2nd half for about 20 minutes or so.
The next morning in The Miami Herald, on the front page, was a picture of the alligator on the field with its jaws open beside that sign those 2 guys had stuck in the ground. On the sign was the 3 Greek letters of the Fraternity that those 2 guys must have belonged to at UF. Now that's something I can't remember. What the Fraternity was. Remember, I was in HS back then and knew next to nothing about college Fraternities etc. Wish I could remember those 3 Greek letters on the sign so after all these years I could give those guys and their Fraternity the credit they deserved!
Oh yeah, the Gators won the game 18-0. They had 3 TDs but not a very good XP kicker! I remember saying to my Dad, if Graves went for 2 against Georgia Tech and got it, why didn't he do the same each time against UM?