The first NCAA national championship won by a Gators team came in 1968 when the UF men’s golf team upset favorite Houston in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
The Gators trailed late in the final round until birdies by Richard Spears and Steve Melnyk on the 69th hole of the tournament pushed Florida into the lead. The Gators edged Houston by two shots, led by a fifth-place finish from John Darr in the individual standings.
In the 43 years since, UF teams have captured 26 national championships, including two during the 2010-11 academic year: men’s indoor track and women’s tennis.
The UF softball team opens its quest for the first national title in program history on Thursday when it faces Missouri in the opening round of the Women’s College World Series.
The Gators baseball team opens NCAA Tournament play on Friday against Manhattan in the Gainesville Regional, and the men’s outdoor track team will chase a national title started next week at the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa.
Meanwhile, the UF men’s golf team completed the second round of the NCAA Championships on Wednesday in Stillwater, Okla., tied for 20th and way off the pace of leader Georgia Tech.
While this year’s men’s golf team appears out of title contention, the Gators still have three opportunities to do something UF’s athletic department has never done in a single school year: win three national team titles.
The Gators have won two in a single academic calendar five times, the first in 1981-82 when the women’s swimming team won an NCAA title and the gymnastics team won the AIAW title.
UF duplicated the feat in 1991-92 (women’s track, women’s tennis), 2006-07 (football, men’s basketball), 2009-10 (men’s track, women’s swimming) and this school year.
Over the next three weeks we’ll find if the Gators can add one or more national title trophies to the school’s growing collection.