1979 -  Gators
(Authentic Reproduction)



Charley Pell, former Alabama player and assistant coach from the Bear Bryant 1960's glory years, was tapped to lead the Gators to what would hopefully be their first SEC title. He had taken a moribund Clemson program and in two years compiled a 19-4-1 record, 11-1 in '78 with his ACC Champion Tigers  defeating Ohio State in the infamous Gator Bowl game where Woody Hayes punched Clemson LB Charlie Bauman and was forced to retire. Pell's "Operation Saturation" began immediately, an all-out blitz to put Gator football first and foremost in the minds of every high school player and fan in the state of Florida. Unfortunately, injuries destroyed his first team with LB Scott Brantley going out for the season and having his career in jeopardy with a concussion that was so severe, he was diagnosed with a "brain bruise." Other than a close loss to Houston and tie with Georgia Tech in the first two games, the 0-10-1 record accurately reflected their performances. The offense finished last in the SEC and was one of the worst in the country. They came on against Auburn but showed little past Cris Collinsworth who had All American ability and caught forty-one passes for 593 yards and two TD's. DE Yancy Sutton had to carry the load after dynamic David Galloway was injured in the opener and was out for the year. David Little continued the level of excellence he had shown in '78 at LB. Brantley eventually received clearance to resume his career and had a productive eight years with the Buccaneers. Pell dressed his Gators in new headgear, again utilizing the orange helmet shell with a one-inch white center stripe that was flanked by one-half-inch blue stripes and for the first time, the soon-to-be-iconic script "Gators" logo on each side in blue lettering that was trimmed in white. Pell maintained the white mask that contrasted well with the blue shell. 
As the suspension era came to a close, Coach Pell came blasting out of the gate in 1980 with three opening wins but in the next game, a loss to LSU, starting QB Bob Hewko went down and true freshman Wayne Peace stepped in. He guided the team well, suffering a close last minute 26-21 loss to Georgia on what is still a famous 97-yard TD pass from Bulldog QB Buck Belue to Lindsay Scott for the winning score with 1:03 left in the game. FB James Jones came into his own and eventually had a solid ten-year career with the Lions and Seahawks. WR Cris Collinsworth was an All American receiver, the Bengals number two draft choice in '81 where he had a productive eight-year bout with them, earned his law degree in the off-seasons, and currently is one of the best known NFL commentators on television. David Little remained a terror at linebacker and played for the Steelers as a valued member of their defense from 1981 through 1992. Despite the last-minute defeat by Georgia and the "salt-in-the wounds" embarrassment at Miami where 'Canes head coach Howard Schnellenberger, ahead 28-7 in the final seconds, called a time out so that his field goal team could tack on another three points to the 31-7 blowout, Florida remained solid. The Gators played Florida State tough in a 17-13 loss and in the Tangerine Bowl, bested Maryland 35-20 for a final record of 8-4 which was one of the all-time best year-to-year turnarounds in college football history. The Tangerine Bowl was the first of four consecutive post-season games Pell led the team to. He was gearing up for a spectacular 1984 but the rumors of recruiting irregularities that had begun in 1982 caught up to him. The alleged grievances were so extreme that the NCAA pressured  the university to fire  Pell which they did. The head coach left with a 1-1-1 record for September and assistant Galen Hall took over and guided the team to a 9-1-1 mark. When the NCAA released their report of the Florida investigation on October 23, 1984, the team kept its poise despite proof of fifty-nine major violations in thirty-one distinct areas of conduct ranging from spying on opponents, operating an ongoing slush fund to pay players, to illegal recruiting inducements. A two-year ban on post-season appearances kept the '84 team from a bowl, scholarships were lost, and the staff was reduced by two assistant coaches. The SEC voted to vacate the conference title for the first time in its history and Florida again was denied its first SEC crown. Hall remained as coach into the 1989 season, first posting another 9-1-1 record in '85 and generally putting good teams on the field each season with many players who ascended to NFL stardom including Emmitt Smith. Unfortunately, at 4-1 in 1989, Hall admitted to a number of recruiting violations and illegal payment to assistant coaches and immediately resigned on October 8th. Defensive coordinator Gary Darnell led the team as interim head coach but a week later, three players were suspended for gambling on college football. The Gator program was in turmoil again with sanctions coming for the entire athletic department but there was a silver lining to the storm cloud. Favorite son Steve Spurrier, the 1966 Florida Heisman Trophy winner, returned to Gainsville after coaching Duke to its best performances in years and the rest, as the popular expression goes, "is history." Spurrier led the Gators to unsurpassed glory, regular contention for both the conference and national championships, and developed a number of award winning and eventual NFL quarterbacks.

If interested in any of these Florida helmets please click on the photos below.