KINGSLAND, Ga. - A piece of the swamp will be at stake for Saturday's Georgia-Florida game.
The game's winner will be awarded the Okefenokee Oar, a paddle made from a piece of cypress organizers said grew to be an estimated 1,000 years old in the huge swamp on the Georgia-Florida border.
Eric Conrad, a student government spokesman at University of Florida, said the idea for the trophy was proposed about two months ago and was announced this week.
The intent is to start a tradition that goes beyond bragging rights between the two universities, similar to those at other colleges with long rivalries.
The new trophy will be presented to representatives from the student body of the winning team, similar to Paul Bunyan's Axe taken home by the winner of the Minnesota-Wisconsin game and the Governor's Cup after the Georgia-Georgia Tech game.
"We're trying to get more students involved," Conrad said.
The student presidents from both universities will attend the game with hopes of bringing the new trophy home, he said.
"A lot of people know the disputed story between the states," Conrad said.
During Spanish occupation of Florida, British and Spanish officials disputed the location of their boundaries. Spanish officials argued their territory extended to the Altamaha River, located north of St. Simons Island, while British troops occupied land as far south as Cumberland Island near what is now the state line.
Jim Burkart, a refuge ranger at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, said he was unaware of the new trophy but likes the idea. "We surely love the Okefenokee symbolism," he said.
Though the refuge boundaries end at the state line, the swamp extends into Florida and shares the same ecosystem, he said.
"Both states are common to the swamp itself," Burkhart said. "Both universities have done research here."
Larnell Vickers, student body vice president at University of Florida, said he hopes the oar becomes a tradition in years to come in what is considered one of college football's most heated rivalries.
Vickers said Florida students hope to have the oar on display in the university's trophy case after Saturday's game.
"I think it's awesome to have a new tradition started," Vickers said. "There's more hype."
gordon.jackson@jacksonville. com, (912) 729-3672