Gators, Seminoles dominate gridiron – and Florida government

The Legislature, for instance, has more FSU, UF graduates than any other Florida school.

Photo illustration by Anabel Dayao/Photos by Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images, Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

While the University of Florida and Florida State University have a heated rivalry on the gridiron, many of the schools’ alumni are colleagues in the Florida Legislature and the state’s other branches of government. The schools’ influence also can be found in the state’s Supreme Court and executive branch, where several alumni of UF and FSU’s undergraduate and law programs hold positions. And several of Florida’s representatives in Congress also hail from those institutions.

Here’s a list of just some of the most influential Florida politicians and others who happen to be Gators and Seminoles:

Jennifer Bradley (UF)

This first-term state senator is perhaps the only member of the state Legislature that has graduated from both universities. She earned her bachelor’s degree in criminology from UF in 1991, then completed her law degree from FSU in 1995. However, she identifies with her Gator roots, shouting out the school in her Twitter bio and having Ben Hill Griffin Stadium as her account header.

Byron Donalds (FSU)

The Naples congressman, who made national headlines for receiving votes for speaker of the House amid the Republican standoff over Kevin McCarthy, got his college degree from Florida State University. He graduated from the university with a bachelor's in finance and marketing in 2002. With his leveraging of the speaker standoff for an important committee appointment, Donalds is one of the brightest rising political stars of FSU alumni.

Matt Gaetz (FSU)

One of Florida’s most controversial politicians – and a fly in the ointment during the House Republican leadership race – graduated from Florida State University with a degree in interdisciplinary studies in 2003. In 2012, he was honored by the university’s alumni association with an award for young alumni. 

Jorge Labarga & Ricky Polston (UF)

These two Florida Supreme Court justices give Florida’s highest court an in-bench rivalry. Jorge Labarga got his law degree from the University of Florida in 1979, while Ricky Polston got his from Florida State. And Labarga met his wife, Zulma, at a party thrown for his law school graduation class by the school’s dean. “I almost made it out of Gainesville single,” Labarga said in an interview with the Florida Bar Journal. Polston, by the way, was the first Florida State Law alumnus to become chief justice. 

Jimmy Patronis (FSU)

Florida’s chief financial officer got his first political experience while majoring in political science at Florida State University in the 1990s. While still a student, he interned in the Florida Senate and the United Kingdom's House of Commons. He has incorporated his support of the Seminoles into his office, making playful bets with officials from states with schools that FSU plays against during bowl season.

Paul Renner (UF)

The current Florida House speaker graduated from the University of Florida Levin College of Law in 1994. Last year, he celebrated National Mascot Day by posting a picture with Albert and Alberta Gator doing the Gator chomp.

Corey Simon (FSU)

Simon has given blood and sweat to Florida State University. He played for the Seminoles’ football team from 1996 to 1999 as an All-American defensive lineman and helped the squad win a national championship before heading to the NFL. Among jobs he had before being elected to the Florida Senate last year, Simon served as FSU’s director of athlete alumni engagement and development.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz (UF)

A former DNC chair, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz got both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Florida. She shouts out her support of the Florida Gators in her Twitter bio. Two of her children also attended UF, marking the third generation of her family to have people attending the university.

Contact Tristan Wood at and follow him on Twitter: @TristanDWood

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