Remember When: Faxgate for the Florida-Tennessee game


The Florida-Tennessee rivalry extends back a century. This weekend’s game will be the latest chapter in a series with no shortage of memorable moments.

This week’s Remember When could have gone with the first meeting that took place in 1916.

For this instance, however, we chose to go all the way back to the 1991 Florida-Tennessee game on Oct. 12.

It was a battle between two top 10 teams, featuring Steve Spurrier versus Johnny Majors. This could be an epic clash.

There was just one problem.

We had Watergate, Spygate and Deflate-gate. But before the latter two, we had one of the most amazing controversies in 90s college football: Faxgate.

And by the way, I’m not talking about this Faxgate.

This controversy involved a future head coach of the Florida Gators, who happened to be serving as defensive coordinator for Spurrier. I’m of course talking about Ron Zook: Noted Water Skiing Enthusiast.

It all started when reports started coming out that Jack Sells, a former coach at the University of Tennessee, faxed the Volunteers game plans to the Gators, namely Zook.

Both Sells and Zook denied that it occurred. Tennessee’s athletic director Doug Dickey refused to comment, and Spurrier offered to show Majors his plays, all the while offering the caveat that the latter likely won’t know any of the terminology. (Translation: It was Spurrier being Spurrier).

Reports around that time suggested Sells had been fired prior to the ’91 season over allegations of NCAA violations.

The game proceeded on as both teams battled hard. Tennesee had a solid game out of wide receiver Carl Pickens, who caught seven passes for 145 yards. However, the Florida defense forced Tennessee to turn the ball over five times.

Two touchdown passes by Shane Matthews and two rushing touchdowns by Errict Rhett led to the Gators winning the game 35-18 and taking the lead in the SEC.

What’s amazing is that Tennessee couldn’t do anything when it came to running the ball. Meanwhile, Florida got penalized 16 times in the game.

Unfortunately for Zook and the Gators, the problem didn’t go away. One investigation led to a Kinko’s in Knoxville. Somebody at Kinko’s had a copy of Sells’ cover sheet and sent some of the copies to the Tennessee athletic department.

Sells got into trouble, as did Zook. However, no punishments resulted in what happened. However, Sells did sue Kinko’s.  In the lawsuit, Sells blamed Kinko’s for a number of things, including getting punched by a Vols fan in a bar.

One story says the suit was settled out of court.

It’s fitting that this story was brought up last year as a result of the WakeyLeaks scandal.

That this happened in 1991 is amazing. Because it involved the use of a fax machine, that makes this the most 90s college football scandal of all-time.

This could happen in 2017 and it would feel outdated. Yet, it would make so much sense because of college football’s love for fax machines.

Only college football could have a scandal like this. You would never see this in the boring, stale NFL. Hell, everybody already knows what everyone else is running, mostly because everybody has the same damn playbook. That obviously isn’t the case for college football.

Zook has distanced himself from this story, even when he served as Gators head coach for a few seasons in the 2000s.

The Gators won the SEC and went to the Sugar Bowl, but lost to Notre Dame. Tennessee lost the Fiesta Bowl that year to Penn State.