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Thursday, December 09, 2021

Florida has some hardware missing from its trophy case, and the UF Student Government has taken notice.

In 1955, the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the city of Hollywood donated an authentic, hand-painted war canoe to be awarded to the winner of the annual Florida-Miami football game. The canoe was carved from a 200-year-old cypress tree that was struck by lightning.

According to the Miami’s athletics website, “The canoe symbolized the magnificent spirit and fighting determination traditional of the independent Florida Seminole tribe that was displayed annually between the Hurricanes and Gators.”

When the schools last met Sept. 6, 2008, UF won 26-3 in front of a Ben Hill Griffin Stadium-record 90,833 fans. The win snapped a six-game losing streak to Miami dating back to 1985, but the trophy remained on display at UM’s Sports Hall of Fame in Coral Gables.

Student Senators Andrew Hart and Jon Ossip authored a resolution requesting that UM return the Seminole War Canoe trophy “to UF soil as soon as possible.”

It passed through the Student Senate by a unanimous vote Aug. 31. Four weeks later, Hart has yet to receive a response from UM’s SG.

Hart said when he presented the resolution, his peers thought he was talking about the 10-foot-long Okefenokee Oar trophy awarded to the winner of the Florida-Georgia football game already sitting in the SG office.

Nobody had even heard of the Seminole War Canoe, he said.

“During the summer, when they were talking about playoffs in college football, in-state rivals wouldn’t be playing each other much,” Hart said. “I was procrastinating from my homework and came across the trophy online.” 

It’s not clear why the trophy exchange stopped. Its importance diminished during the 1970s, and a former Hurricane player, Don Mariutto, recovered the canoe from a trash pile.

Hart said the schools felt the trophy took up too much room to be passed back and forth on temporary display. 

The annual rivalry ended after the 1987 season.

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Copies of the resolution were sent to the universities’ presidents and athletic directors. ESPN, The Miami Herald, The Gainesville Sun, The Miami Hurricane and The Alligator also received copies.

Hart launched a Facebook group to rally support among the network of current and former UF students. Hart said he also wants input from the Seminole Tribe and the city of Hollywood on their trophy.

UM SG President Christina Farmer told the school’s student newspaper, The Miami Hurricane, that she would be happy to work with UF’s SG and the universities’ athletic departments to start new traditions, but that the students don’t have the authority to return the canoe.

UF athletic director Jeremy Foley could not be reached for comment.

Though the Hurricanes lead the all-time series 28-26, the Gators are 19-12 against their South Florida rival since the trophy’s inception. The only remaining scheduled meeting between the schools is in 2013, and Hart said he does not want to see one of college football’s great rivalries die then.

“It’s something we should bring back,” Hart said. “People talk about the good old days. We have tradition keepers to glorify Florida traditions; it’s silly that we’ve forgotten about this one.”

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