Rehabbing UF fight song’s first stanza

“For Dixie’s rightly proud of you” is a relic whose time has passed

 One of the curiosities for me as a University of Florida undergraduate who  loved all things Gator was this question: Why aren’t we singing the fight song? Why are we just rhythmically clapping along to the tune? Urban Meyer, to his everlasting credit, apparently asked the same question and changed that glaring error.

To a degree.

Now, we sing the chorus. Which obviously makes no real sense standing on its own, thus begging the question – why the heck can’t we, and don’t we, sing the first stanza? And please, who decided to claim the chorus as our fight song? And title it as such? The chorus of “The Orange and Blue” is not our fight song, notwithstanding the fact that the GatorZone website presents it as such.

Why must the University of Florida go through these types of forced contortions when none of it is necessary?

Years ago, as an alumnus, I became intrigued with the fight song when Urban Meyer showed up on campus and pointed out our lack of focus on something that should be central to Gator athletics. I thereafter had to find a version of it sung with full gusto. So, I hunted the thing down, targeted my prey via the Smathers Libraries, and found an old recording of a Gator glee club or some such group singing the bad boy. I can still remember listening to it for the first time. Luckily, I don’t have a problem listening to old songs and can appreciate the musicality of many old classics. For instance, I love Nat King Cole and how incredibly “clean” and professional everything was with him.

So, what follows is something of a re-creation of me listening to The Orange and Blue, our fight song (not the chorus of our fight song) performed for the first time:

Onnnn, brave old Flor-i-da,

Okay, this is . . . good. This is damn good. Militaristic. As an Army man, I likes, I likes.

just keep on marching on your way!

Cool, cool.

Onnnn, brave old Flor-i-da,

Now we’ve set the pattern with the repeated first line. Good.

and we will cheer you on your play! Rah! Rah! Rah!

Ohhhhh! The rah, rah, rah stuff – that’s a classic old touch. Good, good, good.

Annnnd as you march a-long,

Good. This is reming me of that “Charge hard, soldier” stuff. Good, good, good.

we’ll sing our victory song anew,

Ohhhh! I like how they kind of soared in a higher and elongated tone with “anew” – this fight song is really working for me!

With all your might,

Charge hard, Gators!

Go on and Fight, Gators, Fight!

Yeah, yeah, yeah!

For Dixie’s rightly proud of you.

Wait, what?


Dixie !?!


No, no, no. Florida. Florida’s rightly proud of you !!!

And you know, of course, the rest of the fight song. You know it because that’s all that’s pushed, that’s all that’s sung.


So give a cheer for the Orange and Blue,
Wa-ving for-ev-er,
Forever pride of old Flor-i-da,
May she droop nev-er
We’ll sing a song for the flag to-day,
Cheer for the team at play!
On to the goal we’ll fight our way for Flor-i-da.

 Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay, okay, okay. That chorus is fine. It’s especially fine as an attachment to the “fight” song. But standing alone? No. Check it out for yourself; you can hear a symphonic performance of The Orange and Blue:

What I want to know is this: who the heck made the decision to use that as the primary and singularly focused aspect of our fight song? And name it the Gator Fight Song?

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Just go switch out “Florida’s rightly proud of you” for “Dixie’s rightly proud of you” and that fight song is a classic. It’s one of the crazy odd things about the University of Florida. Why would you ditch that stanza instead of simply doing the obvious fix ???

This Memorial Day weekend, however, I may have had something of a revelation. Our fight song is clearly copied from West Point’s “On, Brave Old Army Team” – their chorus serves as the basis for our primary stanza. If you listen to it, the similarity is unmistakable. The revelation this weekend, however, was that “Dixie” wasn’t the only reason we stopped singing the fight song. The unapologetically proud and militaristic nature of the song must have also loomed large.

Which is ridiculous, in a politically correct kind of way.

General John Logan, Commanding General of the Grand Army of the Republic issued General Orders Number 11 in Washington, D.C. on May 5, 1868. This order is the basis for today’s Memorial Day holiday. In the aftermath of the Civil War, however, feelings and sentiments were still understandably raw. In his general order on that historic day General Logan wrote, in part, as follows:

We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.” What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms.

To white Southerners who had only recently lost thousands of troops in a lost cause, those words would naturally sting. According to the Tidewater Review in West Point, Virginia, New York was the first state to recognize and celebrate Memorial Day (then known as Decoration Day), followed by all Northern states.  The white South did not officially begin observing the holiday until after World War I, when all fallen soldiers were acknowledged.

The point is this: the nation as a whole has moved beyond that huge division to quite rightly embrace the tradition of Memorial Day. As a National Park Service website proudly displays, and Americans seem to have universally adopted this sentiment –  four million freed, 750,000 dead, one nation saved. The differences that divided us then have certainly not been forgotten. But we as a nation have moved on. Whatever 1960s or 1970s sentiments that may have led Gator Nation to stop singing the “fight” part of our fight song, it’s high time we moved beyond that and re-embrace our fight song in toto.

What clearly needs rehabilitation, however, is the Dixie component of the fight song.

The Washington Redskins, for decades the professional football team of the South (yes, Washington D.C. is definitely in the South – no matter how many Americans from other regions have moved there), had a line in their fight song that charged the team to “Fight for old Dixie” (later changed to “Fight for old D.C.”).

Change the word, Gators. It’s not a big deal, it isn’t problematic, and I’m amazed it hasn‘t been done already.

Of course Dixie, the word and the song, are an integral part of Southern history. The University of Miami band didn’t stop playing Dixie until ordered to do so by the University president in 1968. Florida State University was a founding member of the Dixie Conference and their band regularly played Dixie as well. And at UF, of course, Dixie was a staple. In fact, by performing a basic search of the Smathers Libraries website I found proof that as late as 1975 the Florida Marching Band was still performing Dixie during halftime performances. It would only be a few years later that I arrived on campus and I have no memory of any of that kind of stuff happening.

Of course, I also don’t remember any singing of the fight song, either. It had apparently fallen out of favor.

I do remember, however, cruising the Smathers Libraries website and stumbling upon a rousing and really well-done Dixie Medley that combined the iconic tune with one of U.F.’s own (I don’t remember at the moment if it was the Fight Song or We Are the Boys. Whatever it was, it worked musically).

But man oh man was it problematic in my mind.

Unlike many and perhaps most African Americans, I don’t have a visceral response to the symbols of the Confederacy that have been adopted and sometimes abused down through history. The Stars and Bars don’t bother me, neither does Dixie, and I fondly remember singing (and loving) Swanee River as a kid in school. But there are time, place and manner restrictions in American law and under moral or ethical rules. So it should be with “Dixie” in The Orange and Blue fight song. Take it out, and re-adopt that tune as our fight song.

Why we didn’t simply do what the Washington Redskins did, I don’t know, but now is the time to correct that error. Surely there are some Gator Boosters who have the ear of our athletic director and university president. As Bernie Machen prepares to exit his UF presidency and Jeremy Foley winds down his historic tenure, shouldn’t we put the question to them? Shouldn’t we, whether as an alumnus or a Gator fan or simply a fan site dedicated to University of Florida athletics, make a push to restore our fight song?

Have I barked up the wrong tree on this issue?

 On, brave old Florida,
just keep on marching on your way!
On, brave old Florida,
and we will cheer you on your play!
Rah! Rah! Rah!
And as you march along,
we’ll sing our victory song anew,
With all your might
Go on and Fight Gators Fight
for Florida’s rightly proud of you.

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J.B. White
J.B. White is a native Floridian who describes himself as a Florida-Georgia boy; both parents were born and raised in Georgia, but he is 100% Floridian. After graduating from Orange Park High School, he served a tour in the United States Army and in the Active Reserves while a student at U.F., graduating with a Political Science degree in 1985. He then graduated from the FSU College of Law. With two siblings who are practicing attorneys, he laughs off his abject failure on the Florida Bar Exam as a painful gift from God. He is currently on the Board of Directors for CREOLE, Inc., a nonprofit heavily influenced by the University of Florida.


  1. Thank you for sharing this history with us. I always thought our fight song sounded a little rushed at the beginning. I wish Urban had taken advantage of his focus on the song and the tradition and asked the band to bring back the first verse with Dixie changed to Florida. Of course people aren’t going to want to listen to a new song that they don’t recognize but Urban might have made it happen.

  2. Love old classics and the point you have made. They played the original melody(the one you pointed out) at the end of the 100 years of Florida Football DVD. But if we are going to keep a tradition i don’t see why Dixie has to be removed. Dixie in no way is a racist or even politically incorrect word, even in today’s age. Ole Miss still Plays the tune “Dixieland”, and most of the SEC schools played a form of Dixieland up until the Late 90’s and early 2000’s. Saturday’s down in Dixie including those games played in the Swamp, are possibly the South’s finest example of togetherness. With that said, there are examples of where Dixie is used out of context and should be removed. HOWEVER, at a place where 90,000 fans…. Black/White/Hispanic/Asian/etc. all come together as ONE. Well in that case i’d agree that not only Florida, but DIXIE should be and would be rightly proud. Bring back tradition. And bring it back right. Keep the words.

  3. This is why they scrapped the first verse altogether. For every person that says, “just change Dixie to Florida” there is another that says,”Keep it the way it is.” So they just sweep the whole verse under the rug to avoid the controversy and we are all the poorer.

    My last thought is that the word Dixie in that context doesn’t make sense. The whole south isn’t proud of UF, but the state of Florida is. We’re not the Atlanta Braves, a team with strong support throughout the South. We’re Florida, the state in the south that is the least Southern in culture. The only time “Dixie” is proud of Florida is when we win a national championship against a team from the Big Ten.

    I say scrap Dixie and bring back a first verse that we can all unite behind.