Interview: former Governor Jeb Bush talks Florida-Miami rivalry, Florida Cup trophy

With one day before the Gators and Canes are set to do battle in the 2019 Camping World Classic, I decided to save the best content I had up my sleeve for last.

I was blessed, honored and privileged to have spoken with Jeb Bush, the 43rd Governor of the state of Florida, in a one hundred percent non-political interview about tomorrow night’s showdown in Orlando (shoutout to his former employee Erin Gaetz for connecting us!). More specifically, we discuss the old trophy the two schools used to play for, the new, yet nearly totally unknown trophy the two schools compete for along with FSU, the future of the rivalry, and what exactly this game means for the state of Florida.

So I’ve wasted enough words teasing it, so let’s just get right to the interview. Governor Bush’s responses are in italics.

-Neil Shulman: First things first. Who initially came up with the idea for the Florida Cup, and how did its creation ultimately come about?

-Jeb Bush: Here is what I remember. The idea came from the Florida Sports Foundation. It was at a time when the football programs of FSU, Florida and Miami were dominant nationally, in 2002. All three teams entered the season ranked in the top seven. 

-NS: Why were you so passionately behind the idea of this trophy, and what does it mean to you to have Florida, FSU and Miami all playing each other this year for just the third time in the last decade and a half?

-JB: I absolutely loved the idea of a piece of hardware to crown a state champ since it gave me a chance to brag about college football in the state of Florida. And I think it’s great that Florida and Miami are playing again. There has certainly been a lot of trash talking on talk radio and offices all around the state leading up the game.

-NS: The Florida Cup has its own Wikipedia page, and there are a couple of primary articles about it spread out across the internet, but generally speaking, it’s an extremely esoteric piece of hardware. How do you think we could bring awareness of its existence up to the level it deserves given the rich history of these schools?

-JB: The problem with the Florida Cup now is that Central Florida is as good as the traditional big three teams- and as it appears right now, appreciably better than two of them. That complicates things. So, TBD. Ask me again in four or five years.

-Going off that, there’s been a lot of chirping from Central Florida fans about how their program is on par with Florida, FSU and Miami. Do you think they deserve to fight for the Cup along with those other three schools, or are they a few rungs below for a reason?

JB: It’s called the Big Three, right? Beyond that, no comment. (shrug)

-Florida and Miami used to play every year, but the annual rivalry died after the 1987 game and now the schools only play intermittently. So, the question that Gators and Canes fans bicker over on a daily basis: do you think they should play every year?

-JB: Of course. That shouldn’t even be a question, and I’m sad that we’re at a point where you have to ask it. As I said earlier, it’s great for all involved when they play. That includes Florida, that includes Miami, and that includes fans of college football in general. For example, just look at the stage it’s getting this year. But that’s easier said than done. So, TBD again.

-NS: An In All Kinds Of Weather reader had an interesting idea for how to save the rivalry: make Florida-Miami a neutral site game in Orlando on an annual basis, get Camping World to fund the operation each year so that each team doesn’t lose the standard “game day” money that the university and city gain from hosting the game, and give it a name (which we can brainstorm about later, but for a working title, maybe the Camping World Classic). Essentially, give it the Florida-Georgia treatment but in Orlando. Now, you’re a politician, so you of all people know proposals are easier to say than turn into reality, but what do you think?

-JB: I suppose it could work, but I’d have to see more details than that. For starters, there’s no guarantee Camping World and the city of Orlando even want to do that. But as it relates to Orlando being a neutral site for the game… let’s just say I don’t think so! It’s geographically closer to Gainesville than Miami, Gators are all over the place and are great fans. Let’s see what the fan ratio is on Saturday before we go any further down that rabbit hole though.

-NS: Florida and Miami used to play for a different trophy: the Seminole War Canoe. But when the Gators hammered the Canes 26-3 in 2008, UF’s student government sent a formal request down to Coral Gables to return the canoe- and UM’s student government refused to give it back, instead locking it up in the Miami Sports Hall of Fame. What do you make of this, and do you think that, in addition to the Cup going to the winner of the round robin, if Florida wins on Saturday, that they should get to take back the canoe?

-JB: Well, for those of you who don’t know, I am a Miami Hurricanes fan who has watched the Canes win three national championship games with my sons. So I cannot provide an unbiased comment on the canoe. I think some enterprising Gator alumni or fans may have to try to go and get it if they want it that badly.

-NS: Last but not least: score prediction? And who takes the Florida Cup?

-JB: I’m not giving a score prediction because that’s going to hurt too much to see those numbers on paper next to my name. But my objective belief is that the Gators are a year ahead of FSU and Miami with their respective rebuilding efforts. So I expect that Florida will win both games and win the Cup for the second time in the last three seasons in which it has been handed out. Doesn’t make me happy to predict that as a Canes fan, but again, I am trying to be realistic.

NS: Thank you so much Jeb, and go Gators!

JB: No, go Canes! Enjoy the game.

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