Historical Opportunity in Glendale

When the Gators take to the field against Ohio State on January eighth they will not only be seeking the ultimate prize that every college football player dreams of; the Gators will be seeking to do something no school has ever done.

A win over Ohio State would mean the Gators would be holding both the Men’s Basketball and Football national titles at the same time. Not only has that never been done, the few schools that have captured both crowns have all had significant gaps between the accomplishments. Since 1950 only seven schools have won both an NCAA Basketball Tournament and one of the major polls’ football titles. Interestingly that list includes both Florida and Ohio State. The Gators had ten years between their football and basketball titles while the Buckeyes waited eight years for Woody Hayes’ football team to match their 1960 basketball title.

The other schools to pull off this incredible quinella are Michigan (’97, ’89), UCLA (’54, ’64), Michigan State (’52, ’79), Maryland (’53, ’02) and Syracuse (’59, ’03). (Football year listed first) As you can see, the eight year gap for the Buckeyes is matched by Michigan for the shortest span between titles. UCLA and Florida both won ten years apart. The others had much larger gaps of 27, 44 and 49 years.

Winner Could Have Another Shot

While the Gators are the only football team that has a chance to accomplish this rare double-play of sorts, no matter who wins in Glendale, the winning school will also have a chance to do something that’s never been done before. Both Florida and Ohio State enjoy having one of the best basketball teams in the nation this year. While they get to compare notes Saturday in the O’Connell Center the real test will come in the NCAA Tournament when both are likely to be high seeds and strong contenders to reach the Final Four. If the winner of the football title game reaches the Final Four, that school could be the first to win both major titles in the same school year.

When I wrote my column about the schools with the best coaches in both sports someone asked about ranking the schools and adding baseball to the mix. Well, I’m not going to do that here, but I did get to wondering if any of these seven schools had managed to win the College World Series out in Omaha. Turns out two of them did. Michigan beat Santa Clara 5-4 to win the National Championship in 1962. Four years later, Ohio State posted an e8-2 win over Oklahoma State to claim a title of its own. Of the others, only Florida (2005) ever finished as high as second at Rosenblatt Stadium.

Folks around here are always pointing out that it’s great to be a Florida Gators. Fact of the matter is it’s great to be a Buckeye these days, too.