Visitors to Tate Student Center over the years may have noticed an unusual display in the third-floor concourse: a 12-foot-tall carved wooden oar.
The oversized oar, known as the Okefenokee Oar, has been a part of the Georgia-Florida football rivalry since 2009, when the University of Georgia and University of Florida student government associations partnered to create a rivalry trophy.
The Okefenokee Oar joins the ranks of unique rivalry trophies exchanged throughout the SEC, such as The Golden Boot (Arkansas-LSU), the Golden Egg (Ole Miss-Mississippi State) and the Governor’s Cup (UGA-Georgia Tech).
The OARigin Story
Why an oar was chosen, and how it came to be, remains shrouded in mystery. It was funded by an anonymous donor at the University of Florida and carved from a 1,000-year-old oak tree from its namesake Okefenokee Swamp. Ownership of the swamp, which sits along the Georgia-Florida border, was historically disputed between settlers from both states.
The Oar is engraved with the schools’ mascots and state seals on either side, with scores from every Georgia-Florida game since 2009 engraved on the handle. An article from the UF sports news website Gator Country reports that the Oar has room for scores for the next 150 years.
After each game, the winning school displays the Oar in their student center until the next year’s match-up. When displayed at UGA, where it’s been since 2021, the side with the Bulldog design faces outward and the Gator is hidden on the reverse.
For the Oar’s first few years of existence, it had little notoriety. Rivalry committees from both schools worked to get the word out about the new trophy by creating the hashtag #WarForTheOar and students exchanged it after the game in unofficial ceremonies around the stadium.
The Oar was officially recognized through a joint resolution by both schools’ student government associations in 2011. The Oar came to the UGA campus for the first time that same year after the Bulldogs’ 24-20 victory against the Gators. It was displayed in a custom-built case in the Tate Student Center in an effort led by the UGA Student Government Association president at the time, Mallory Davis (AB ’13).
“We’re really trying to build it into this huge tradition because we haven’t had it yet,” Mallory said in a Red and Black article in 2011.
And a huge tradition it has become. Although still not officially recognized by UGA Athletics as the game trophy, the Oar has been featured on ESPN’s College GameDay broadcasts, helping it rise to fame among fans from both teams.
The Oar is transported to Jacksonville, Florida, each year by the victors of the last season’s game. The winning team is then responsible for bringing it back to their campus. When Georgia wins it, the UGA Student Government Association generally arranges for the Oar to travel home on the bus with the Redcoat Band.
Only time will tell how the mystery and excitement surrounding the Oar will continue to develop, but what we do know is this: the Bulldogs and Gators will face off again this year on October 28–reigniting the War for the Oar once again.