The University of Florida, or UF, is a public university located in Gainesville, Florida. Founded in Ocala in 1853, UF is the fourth-largest university in the United States with over 48,000 students. It also has the eighth-largest budget (nearly $1.9 billion per year) and is considered one of the top public universities in the United States, ranking second among public institutions and fourth among all institutions in the number of National Merit Scholar students enrolled. Its president as of 2005 is Dr. James Bernard "Bernie" Machen .
In 1853, the East Florida Seminary was founded in Ocala. During the Civil War, the school closed and upon reopening it was moved to Gainesville. In 1895, the Florida Agricultural College at Lake City was founded and changed its name to University of Florida by 1904. The 1905 Buckman Act created the current University of Florida by consolidating the University of Florida at Lake City, the St. Petersburg Normal and Industrial School at St. Petersburg and the South Florida Military College at Bartow in to one campus at Gainesville. Andrew Sledd from the University of Florida at Lake City became the first president, while architect William A. Edwards designed the first campus buildings in the collegiate gothic style. The alligator was chosen as the school mascot in 1911.
The Buckman Act established the University of Florida as the only public school in Florida for white males. In 1947, UF began allowing women to enroll. Admission of African-American students began in 1958.
Shands Hospital at UF first opened in 1958 along with the medical school. Rapid campus expansion began in the 1950s and continues to the present. In 1985, UF's status as a major research institution was confirmed by its admission to the presigious Association of American Universities. Current efforts at UF continue to focus on expanding the university's role in research in all fields.
UF is divided into twenty-one colleges, which offer over 100 undergraduate majors and an equally wide array of 200 graduate degrees, including the only dentistry and veterinary medicine programs in the state. The centerpiece of the critically-acclaimed journalism programs at UF is WUFT, which consists of both a PBS television station and an NPR radio station.
Florida's programs are generally ranked highly among public universities, and the university was ranked as a Top Tier school by US News and World Reports for 2004. The graduate programs in chemistry and tax law are consistently ranked among the best in the United States. UF's engineering programs are very well-funded, partly from royalties on the sale of a UF invention, Gatorade. The university is 13th among all universities - public and private - in the number of U.S. Patents awarded in 2000.
The acceptance rate at UF has slowly fallen over the past decade as more students apply. In 2004, the average incoming freshman had a weighted GPA of 4.0, an SAT score of 1290, and an ACT composite of 28. Undergraduate tuition is around $100 per credit for Florida residents, and $460 per credit for out-of-state students, with a typical load of 30 credits per year.
The school's sports teams are called the Gators and compete in the East Division of the Southeastern Conference of the NCAA's Division I-A. Florida has one of the strongest collegiate athletic programs in the United States and dedicates about $44 million per year to its sports teams and facilities. For the sixth time, UF swept the overall men's and women's Southeastern Conference All-Sports Trophy in 2002. With its third-place finish in the 2001-02 Sears Directors' Cup rankings, Florida has ranked among the nation's top 10 athletic departments for 19 straight years.
Gator Football reaches a national audience and the team is often ranked among the top 25 in the NCAA. In 1996, the Gators won their first national championship under head coach Steve Spurrier and quarterback Danny Wuerffel. In December 2004, coach Urban Meyer replaced Ron Zook as the head football coach. Traditional football rivals include the Seminoles of Florida State University, the Hurricanes of the University of Miami, the Bulldogs of the University of Georgia, and since the early 1990's the Volunteers of the University of Tennessee. A hallmark of the Gator football season is "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party", the rivalry game against Georgia, played in Jacksonville, Florida.
Basketball is another sport at which the Gators have seen success. The UF men's basketball squad won their first Southeastern Conference Tournament title in 2005, beating Kentucky. They have also appeared in the 1994 Final Four and lost in the 2000 NCAA Championship game to Michigan State. They are currently coached by Billy Donovan, who has been the head coach of the Gators since 1996. Florida's primary men's basketball rival is traditional SEC basketball superpower Kentucky - though the rivalry is felt more keenly in Florida than in Kentucky..
The Gators have also seen success in gymnastics, volleyball, tennis, soccer, and baseball. Since 1990, Gator athletes have won over 100 individual national titles as well as team NCAA national championships in women's tennis (1992, 1996, 1998, 2003), men's golf (1993, 2001), women's indoor track (1992) and women's soccer (1998). UF's 164 SEC Championships are the most in league history.
Since 1968, 118 Gator student-athletes have represented 27 countries in ten Olympiads and laid claim to 76 medals, including 39 golds.
Famous UF alumni include:
- Stephanie Abrams, meteorologist, The Weather Channel
- John Atanasoff, inventor of the digital electronic computer
- Lawton Chiles, former governor of Florida and former U.S. senator
- Kate DiCamillo, Children's novelist
- Faye Dunaway, Academy Award winning director of Silence of the Lambs
- Buddy Ebsen, actor, best known as Jed Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies
- Rich Fields, announcer of The Price Is Right, radio personality
- Bob Graham, governor, senator, and presidential candidate
- Rex Grossman, quarterback for the Chicago Bears
- Darrell Hammond, comedian, Saturday Night Live
- Carl Hiaasen, novelist and Miami Herald columnist
- Spessard Holland, governor, senator, namesake of Holland & Knight
- Joseph Kittinger, famed pilot, best known for his high-altitude balloon flights and parachute jumps
- Fred Levin, prominent attorney, namesake of the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida
- Jamie McIntyre , senior Pentagon correspondent for CNN
- Marshall Nirenberg, Nobel Prize winner in medicine and physiology
- Stephen Root, actor, best known as Milton in the Mike Judge comedy classic Office Space
- Forrest Sawyer , anchorman, ABC News
- Joe Scarborough, former congressman and MSNBC talk show host
- Elfi Schlegel-Dunn , sports/gymnastics commentator for NBC
- George A. Smathers, former U.S. senator and presidential candidate
- Emmitt Smith, former professional football player, Super Bowl MVP, NFL's all-time leading rusher
- Steve Spurrier, former Florida Gators quarterback and national-championship winning head coach, 1966 Heisman Trophy winner
- Stephen Stills, member of bands CSNY and Buffalo Springfield
- Melinda Lou "Wendy" Thomas , namesake of Wendy's Restaurants and daughter of Wendy's founder Dave Thomas
- John Titor, author and purported time traveler
- Bob Vila, home-improvement guru and former host of This Old House
- Brad Wilkerson, major league baseball player for the Washington Nationals
- Danny Wuerffel, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, led the Florida Gators to the 1996 National Championship, former NFL player
The University of Florida has more of its graduates in the United States Congress than any other university or college in the country - currently nine alumni serve in the House or Senate.