The year was 1971 and the awful 3-7 Florida Gators coached by Doug Dickey traveled south to take on the almost equally terrible 4-5 Miami Hurricanes coached by Fran Curci. Florida played in the SEC and they had never won a conference championship up to this point. Miami was an independent and the school talked from time to time about dropping football.
Florida’s Defensive Back and return man Harvin Clark had a somewhat impressive punt return to put the visiting Gators up by 45-8 which was more than enough to humiliate the home team Hurricanes. But, what the Hurricanes did not know was that Florida’s Quarterback John Reaves only needed 343 passing yards going into the game to break Jim Plunkett’s career passing record and he was now 10 yards short.
After the Gators got the ball back, Reaves went back to pass and Miami Linebacker Gary Altheide
picked it off and ran it back to the Florida 23 yard line.
I wasn’t there, but supposedly Florida Gator fans at the game yelled ‘let them score, let them score, let them score’. Miami was taking too much time to score and the Gator players and coaches really wanted Reaves to get that passing record. A year later, freshmen would become eligible and the record would be irrelevant anyway, but they didn’t know that at the time.
With time running out, Miami had the ball on the Florida 8 yard line. It was 2nd and 7 for the Canes and suddenly, the entire Florida defense just lays on the field and Miami Quarterback John Hornibrook took the ball around his left end to score. Obviously, he did not even see the Gator players on the ground, he was just trying to play ball.
If the Miami players had known ahead of time about the record, they probably wouldn’t have scored to let Florida Quarterback John Reaves break it. The hate runs deep between these two programs and they stopped playing after the 2013 season which might help things cool off a bit. They resume playing each other in the 2019 season and that game could be really good with the talent that Miami is accumulating and Florida always seems to grab.
The Hurricanes went for 2 points and made the score 45-16.
With the ball back, Florida’s Reaves completed a pass to Carlos Alvarez for 15 yards, breaking the recent record set by Jim Plunkett of Stanford at 7,544 yards.
Miami head coach Fran Curci was furious about the flop calling it ‘bush league’ and saying that ‘Doug Dickey would live to regret it’ whatever that meant.
The record was really big to Doug Dickey, apparently, and talked about it in his post game press conference. He seemed mad that Florida Defensive Back Harvin Clark returned the punt for a Touchdown because that would have given them about 80 yards to work with and they wouldn’t have had to flop.
Florida players didn’t care. They all ran to take a dip in the Orange Bowl fountain.
Doug Dickey took a lot of heat for the Gator Flop and not from just fans. He also had to meet with the
NCAA Ethics Committee, but nothing ever came of it.
Doug Dickey was a great coach at Tennessee leading them to a 46-15-4 record in 6 seasons. The Gators stole him away from their rivals, but he didn’t have similar success in Gainesville leading Florida to an overall 58-43-2 record.
Fran Curci only coached the Hurricanes for 2 seasons before moving on to Kentucky. He did lead the Wildcats to one of their best seasons ever in 1977 when they went 10-1. 1977 Kentucky Wildcats
If the name John Hornibrook sounds familiar, he is a great uncle to Wisconsin Quarterback Alex Hornibrook.
The Hurricanes should have been more competitive on this particular night in 1971. Running Back Chuck Foreman was a future 1st round draft pick by the Minnesota Vikings and he was a 5 time Pro Bowler.
Plus, Defensive Lineman Tony Cristiani was a future consensus All American. Circus Family
Cristiani grew up in a circus family and is an interesting story.
Growing up in a circus family, Cristiani surely saw nothing as strange as the Gator Flop of 1971.