When Kentucky defeated Florida, 10-3, on a cloudy afternoon in Lexington on November 15, 1986, a clock started ticking. That clock is still ticking, nearly 32 full years later.
Yes, after 31 years, nine months, and 22 days, the Wildcats STILL haven’t beaten the Gators in another collegiate football game. This streak began in the 20th century, but the length of Kentucky’s drought has now lasted for a longer period of time in the 21st century.
The clock started ticking on Kentucky when the scoreboard hit triple-zero at Commonwealth Stadium on that gray Saturday. That beginning of a long span of time was accompanied by so many other beginnings in American society, including but not limited to the sports world. This theme of beginnings puts into perspective how long it has been since Big Blue threw a big party against the Gators.
What began in 1986? Two days before Kentucky’s win, the College Football Association inked a massive new television deal with ESPN and CBS, which one could reasonably say was the gateway to the television landscape of the present day. After a 1984 Supreme Court ruling lifted TV and bargaining restrictions on college football games, the doors were thrown open, and that 1986 deal — on November 13 — began a significant escalation of the television arms race which would soon give birth to College GameDay and wall-to-wall college football on Saturdays.
What also began in 1986? The legend of Michael Jordan. It was in 1986 that His Airness dropped 63 points on the eventual NBA champion Boston Celtics. That 1986 Celtic team is regarded as one of the best ever. Jordan hanging 63 on a juggernaut team in Boston Garden began his stratospheric ascent in American sports and culture.
Seven days after Kentucky’s win, unbeaten menacing heavyweight contender Mike Tyson, the most feared fighter in the sport for a decade, knocked out Trevor Berbick in the second round in Las Vegas, Nevada. That night he captured the WBC Heavyweight Championship, and it began a four year run. During that run, Tyson won the other two most recognized belts unifying the heavyweight championship, and defended the title nine times.
Outside of sports, Whitney Houston had released her first studio album one year earlier. At the end of 1986, she was the Billboard top female album artist of the year with the most charted albums. Just over four years later, she gave the best rendition of the national anthem ever performed at any Super Bowl game, in Tampa in 1991.
Also, in September of 1986, two months before the Wildcats last win over the Gators, a little known at the time television host, Oprah Winfrey, debuted a nationally syndicated daytime one hour talk show. She would go on to a 26 year run with the most highly rated and lucrative daytime television show in history.
Winfrey now has her own cable television network, and has a net worth, as of February of this year, of $2.8 billion.
One more beginning from 1986 might blow you away. Just 11 days before Kentucky’s last win over Florida — on Tuesday, November 4, 1986 — a man was first elected to the United States Senate, succeeding a giant of American politics named Barry Goldwater, the 1964 Republican presidential nominee. This newly-elected Senator’s name was none other than John McCain.
When Kentucky’s unfathomably long drought against Florida began, so many other beginnings were taking root across America, in many different facets of culture, society, and public life. The length of Florida’s streak against Kentucky is a canvas on which so many defining stories of American life have been painted. We will see if Florida can get out its paintbrush and create yet one more work of art against the beleaguered Big Blue gridiron crew on Saturday in The Swamp.
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