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UF requests trophy’s return

The University of Miami’s Sports Hall of Fame may not be housing the Seminole War Canoe Trophy for much longer.

On Aug. 31, the University of Florida’s student senate approved a resolution “requesting the return of the Seminole War Canoe Trophy and demanding the reemergence of its traditional use.”

The resolution reads, “Be it resolved that the University of Florida Student Senate requests that the Seminole War Canoe Trophy be brought to UF soil as soon as possible.”

Among the people that received copies of this resolution were ESPN, UM President Donna E. Shalala, UM’s Student Government chapter, UM Atheletic Director Kirby Hocutt, UF President Bernie Machen and UF Athletic Director Jeremy Foley.

“As students, we don’t have the power to give them back the canoe, but we would be happy to work with their student government and both athletic departments for a new tradition,” Student Government President Christina Farmer said.

The War Canoe trophy’s history dates back to 1955, when a 200-year-old Cyprus tree was struck by lightning. The Seminole tribe of Hollywood, Fla. later carved the tree and the Seminole War Canoe trophy was born. It was later donated to UF and UM to be used as the trophy for the annual football game between the schools, which was once the biggest rivalry game in the state.

According to UM’s official Web site, the canoe’s purpose was to “symbolize the magnificent spirit and fighting determination traditional of the independent Florida Seminole tribe that was displayed annually between the Hurricanes and the Gators.”

The winner of the game would then have to claim the War Canoe Trophy and keep it until the other team defeated the current trophy holder. The problem is, UF won the last game in 2008, and the trophy still sits in UM’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Since the 1970s, however, the trophy’s traditional exchange lessened in importance. The schools have played each other 22 times and the trophy tradition was not brought up again. The exact reason why the schools stopped exchanging the trophy is unclear, but myths regarding the tradition’s death have been passed around.

According to the resolution authored by UF SG Senators Andrew Hart and Jon Ossip, the trophy was “thrown out for ‘taking up too much room,’ but thankfully the canoe was later discovered in a Coral Gables Campus trash pile and rescued by former UM player Don Mariutto.”

The exact reason marking the end of the tradition is unclear.

“They won after the tradition ended, and the trophy was retired under our win,” UM SG Speaker of the Senate Aaron Esman said.

UF’s sudden interest in rekindling a tradition that’s been dead for over 40 years has an explanation.

“Honestly, the whole project began one night when I was procrastinating from doing homework,” said Hart, the primary author of the resolution. “I found a site mentioning a Seminole War Canoe Trophy. When I went to see where on our university the trophy was housed, I discovered that the trophy was sitting in the University of Miami Football Hall of Fame. It was right then that I decided, ‘it’s time to say something.’”

The rivalry between the schools is 10 years older than Florida State University’s own football team, and the teams last played in 2008. They have a game scheduled in 2013.

“I think it was a good thing that this was brought up, because it brings up the tradition again,” Farmer said.

UF’s Hart shares similar sentiments.

“My greatest hope is that this trophy will once again be passed back and forth and will promote more games between the two schools and bring this once great tradition and rivalry, back to life,” Hart said.

Currently, Category 5 Chair Brandon Mitchell and Vice Chair Douglas Aguililla, are working on a traditions committee, which will aim to reestablish old traditions, establish new ones and renew the spirit of the University of Miami.

“We just love that they are interested in tradition; it’s a goal of ours, it’s a goal of theirs and its something that would be beneficial to both schools to work together,” Esman said. “We have a rivalry with FSU, we play them every year, why not UF too?”

Stephanie Parra may be contacted at sparra@themiamihurricane.com.

September 22, 2010

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