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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

“The year is 2007. After debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with his album “T.I. vs. T.I.P.,” southern hip-hop star T.I. performs a triumphant set as the headlining artist at UF’s annual Gator Growl event. Backed by a strong setlist consisting of Atlanta trap classics such as “Big Things Poppin’ (Do It),” “Rubber Band Man” and “Bring Em Out,” the overwhelmingly positive response to the show not only cements T.I.’s self-proclaimed status as the “King of the South” but reaffirms Gator Growl as a top-notch event that brings consistently exciting, relevant artists to The Swamp.”

We have taken the liberty of placing quotation marks around the above paragraph, since unfortunately it has no basis whatsoever in UF history. The headlining artist for 2007’s Gator Growl was actually Lynyrd Skynyrd, who delivered their biggest hit, “Sweet Home Alabama,” back in 1974. Not exactly the caliber of artist that gets college students excited.

As we covered Tuesday, the announcement of this year’s Gator Growl artists was met with a collective shrug, followed directly by a Google search to find out who the hell Echosmith and Jana Kramer are. This year’s disappointing lineup is the latest in a long line of safe and boring Gator Growl picks. The Gator Growl Wikipedia page is littered with instances of headlining performers who either stopped being relevant long before becoming a Gator Growl act or were likely chosen to be as inoffensive as possible. Of course, this isn’t the case across the board; we’re sure whoever booked Mitch Hedberg back in 2000 was fired for that blunder.

But that’s the point: We need more Mitch Hedberg types in Gator Growl lineups, as well as Student Government Productions events. 

UF is a college filled with vibrant, creative young people, not a casino populated by chain-smoking grandmothers. Meaning, when artists come to campus, we want more than just “the hits.” The acts that come to campus ought to be compelling, innovative and, as much as I loathe using the word, cool.

Without having an inside peek at the inner workings of Gator Growl and SGP, it’s hard to say exactly where the problem stems from. Is it a consequence of organizers and producers having a warped notion of what constitutes good music or simply not caring all that much? It certainly can’t be a money problem, since SGP coughed up a combined $160,000 for this year’s acts.

We can say with certainty that it’s not a money problem. We’re the University of Florida: We’re prestigious as hell and have the money that prestige entails. If Florida Gulf Coast University — a significantly smaller college than UF — could afford Kendrick Lamar in 2013 after his breakthrough release “good kid, m.A.A.d city,” there is no reason to believe that a lack of funds is stopping Gator Growl and SGP from arranging quality acts.

The most upsetting thing about all of this — and the detail that should upset the UF Student Body the most — is that Florida State University’s student production organization, Union Productions, trounces us in every conceivable way when it comes to booking talent. We have it on good authority that in two weeks there will be a mass exodus from Gainesville to Tallahassee to see iLoveMakonnen, an artist who needs no introduction.

We’re the University of Florida: We have the best city, the best students and the best faculty because we’re the most kick-ass college in Florida. Let’s work on getting the best talent.

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