History of the Orange and Blue
By: Lindsay Studstill
“Heeeeeeeeere comes the Gators!”, is just one of the many traditions found at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, nicknamed “The Swamp”.
The rich history of the football program at the University of Florida began in 1906 when the team began playing at Fleming Field. Soon after the program began, a new stadium was needed for the team and the widely growing fan population.
The construction began on April 16, 1930, and was completed by October 27,1930. The new stadium could now hold 21,769 Florida fans and was named Florida Field, in honor of the servicemen who lost their lives in World War I.
By 1950, 10,000 bleachers were added on the west side of the stadium. However, this was still not enough seating for the fans. Fifteen years later, 10,000 seats were added to the east side, along with bleachers in the south end zone which, brought the capacity of the stadium to 62,800.
In 1971, the traditionally grass field was replaced with Astroturf, but two decades later was changed back to the original grass turf. 1971 also held another expansion for the stadium, including adding skyboxes and a press box in the south end zone. This development brought the stadium to a capacity of 72,000.
Less than twenty years later, the stadium underwent another large change that did not involve size. In 1989, the stadium was named Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field, after Ben Hill Griffin, a lifetime fan of the Gators and donor to the University of Florida.
Just a few years later, a $17 million addition in the north end zone increased the capacity of the stadium to 83,000. Brand new HD video/scoreboards were added in 2009 in the north and south end zones.
In April of 2011, a new addition to the outside of the stadium was added. It now features statues of the three Florida Heisman winners: Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel, and Tim Tebow.
The stadium recently underwent another change. The university renamed the field at the stadium, Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium after the winningest coach in program history. Although the stadium has gone through many renovations, it will always be a place for fans to cheer on the orange and blue.
Traditions for a Lifetime
At The Swamp, the stadium isn’t the only thing that has a rich history. The traditions that happen from game to game go back numerous years.
George Edmondson (a.k.a. “Mr. Two Bits”), wearing his trademark yellow oxford shirt, blue seersucker trousers, orange-and-blue tie, and black-and-white saddle shoes, traveled around the stands for almost 60 years leading fans in the “Two Bits” cheer. Edmondson began the tradition in 1949 and “retired” to become a regular fan after his fiftieth season in 1998.
However, the field was still calling his name and he continued to lead the cheer in the pre-game festivities. Eventually, Edmondson hung up the yellow oxford shirt, and on November 22, 2008, Mr. Two bits was honored with a retirement ceremony. Although not the original, Mr. Two Bits still lives on today and is part of every pre-game show.
Pre-game entertainment also includes “Pride of the Sunshine”, the University of Florida’s marching band. The band plays on the field for pregame and halftime and also plays an instrumental version of the University of Florida fight song, “The Orange and Blue,” after every Gator score.
Jim Finch, the public address announcer at the stadium from 1966 through 2001, was known for his famously long “Heeeeeeeeeeeeeere come the Gators!” call delivered as the Gators ran onto Florida Field before each game. Finch died in 2002, but an audio recording of his distinctive entrance call has been used on occasion, with the current PA announcer replicating Finch’s call at all other games.
When Steve Spurrier became the Gators’ head football coach in 1990, he revitalized the tradition of fans and players together singing the University of Florida Alma Mater after the conclusion of home football games. Win or loose, this tradition still lives on, long after Spurrier’s reign as head coach.
The Alma Mater isn’t the only song sung during the game. At the end of the third quarter fans stand and sway, while singing “We are the Boys from old Florida”. Those who started the traditions may be gone, but the traditions will still live on forever.