The three teams have assumed their typical lofty positions in the preseason polls. Defending national champion University of Miami is ranked No. 1 in the preseason polls followed closely by Florida State (No. 4) and the University of Florida (No. 7). And, for the first time in nearly two decades, the three schools will play each other in a round robin format in both the 2002 and 2003 seasons.
The round robin series will finally give passionate fans of the three schools the opportunity to claim "bragging rights" as the best team in the state. The Florida Sports Foundation, the official sports promotion and development organization of the State of Florida, has announced plans to present the winner of the series with The Florida Cup, symbolizing the 2002 state championship. Should there be a tie in the series with all three teams finishing 1-1, the award will go to the team that allows the fewest points.
Even Florida Governor Jeb Bush is excited about the program. "As the Sports Capital of the World, it's only natural that Florida's 'Big 3' college football teams are among the nation's elite," said the Governor. "These football powerhouses will compete for the Florida Cup and whether you're a Gator, Hurricane, or Seminole fan this prestigious trophy will represent the best in college football and give the victorious team bragging rights until next season."
The Foundation is a private, not-for-profit corporation operating under contract with the Office of Trade, Tourism and Economic Development under the Office of the Governor. It is designed to promote youth, amateur, and professional sports throughout the state. It annually hosts the Sunshine State Games and is involved in promoting hundreds of sporting events.
"When FCAI approached us about the idea of creating a program to recognize the winner of this important series of games, we thought it was a terrific idea," said Foundation President Larry Pendleton. "We're proud of the outstanding performance of these three universities and we now have an opportunity to recognize the best team in the state based on their performance on the field."
Baldwin, premier lockmaker and manufacturer of fine decorative hardware and home accessories, joined the project because of its strong ties to Florida retail partners and consumers. Company President and Division Chief Executive Ron Foy said the initiative mirrors the Baldwin Hardware's business philosophy. "We believe our large Florida family of retailers and consumers are committed to our company for the same reason they have such pride in their state's college football teamsâ€¦because they want to support excellence. We share their enthusiasm and feel The Florida Cup program is a great way to express that belief." Baldwin is lending its design expertise in the creation of the permanent trophy, which will be promoted through a series of in-store appearances throughout the state.
The prestigious design firm Tallahassee Engraving and Awards, selected to create and manufacture the distinctive trophy, is best known for its design of the Biletnikoff Trophy, presented annually to the nation's outstanding wide receiver.
The Florida Cup began as the brainchild of FCAI President Roy Hamlin, one of the original creators of the Sears Trophy which is presented annually to the collegiate national football champions. "Fans of these three programs are very proud of what their schools have achieved in recent years and winning the state championship will have great meaning for them. The way things have gone in the past decade, winning our state championship means being in the thick of the race for the national championship, giving the Florida Cup added meaning. We're grateful to the Florida Sports Foundation for supporting the concept and to Baldwin for creating the award."
While honoring the state champions, the Florida Cup program will help raise funding for the Foundation and its ongoing efforts to promote sports at all levels across the state.
In addition to Baldwin, the Phar Med Group has joined the project as a corporate partner. Phar Med is also expected to display the trophy at retail establishments giving fans an opportunity to get their picture taken with the award. FCAI principals Neal Bendesky and Dwight Johnson are handling sales and marketing programs for the Florida Cup project.
The Florida Cup, which will be awarded annually to the top collegiate football team in the state as a partnership between the Florida Sports Foundation and Florida Championship Awards, Inc., was created by Baldwin Hardware Corporation. It was designed and manufactured by the prestigious firm of Tallahassee Engraving & Awards, which produces the Biletnifkoff Award presented each year to the nation's top wide receiver.
Designed to be a unique piece of art as well as representative of the traditional power of Florida's major collegiate football teams, the Florida Cup (see photo in attached file) stands approximately 24" tall and is composed of several elements. The base will be crafted from solid cherry with the outline of the State of Florida and the football at the top in gold-plated solid pewter. The football is mounted on three curved, swirling "pillars" made from silver-plated solid brass that represent the state's three powerhouse football programs -- the University of Miami, Florida State University, and the University of Florida. Those three teams, consistently ranked among the nation's top 10 teams, have won five of the past 11 NCAA national championships.