Hurricanes Kickoff Defense

University of Miami Head Football Coach Larry Coker has a clear set of priorities as his 2003 Hurricanes work toward playing in their third straight national championship game. "Our first goal is to win the Florida Cup," Coker said. "Then to win the Big East championship and have a chance to play for the national championship."

Coker's 2002 team won the inaugural Florida Cup, presented annually to the winner of the round-robin series among the state's "big three" schools, by virtue of a convincing win over Florida in Gainesville and a thrilling, last-minute 28-27 win over Florida State in the Orange Bowl. The first game in the 2003 series is this Saturday when Florida makes the trip to Miami to play the Hurricanes. UM will play at FSU on October 11 and the series concludes with the FSU-Florida game on November 29 in Gainesville.

The Florida Cup, presented by VISIT FLORIDA, was created in 2001 as a joint venture between the Florida Sports Foundation and Florida Championship Awards, Inc., a Palm Beach-based marketing and communications company. The prestigious Cup, designed by Baldwin Hardware and featuring a gold-plated football resting atop three spires representing the schools, goes to the outright winner of the series. If all three teams finish 1-1, the team allowing the fewest points wins the Cup and in years when all three teams don't play each other, a statewide panel of sports journalists will select the winner.

"We were extremely pleased with our debut year with the Florida Cup," said Larry Pendleton, President/CEO of the Florida Sports Foundation. "We were amazed at the amount of publicity and interest the program generated. When you consider the fact that these three teams are consistently ranked among the nation's best collegiate teams every year, it takes on special meeting. We like to think that the road to the national championship goes through Florida."

VISIT FLORIDA is the presenting sponsor of the trophy, and VISIT FLORIDA President and CEO Bud Nocera said "This is a natural tie-in for us. We are comprised of more than 3,500 travel and tourism-related partners, and the publicity these three teams generate is phenomenal. The Florida Cup got national exposure on CBS Sports, ESPN, USA Today and in media outlets throughout the Southeast last year. It will only grow in stature as time goes on." Money raised from the program supports the efforts of the Foundation, a not-for-profit corporation operating under contract with the Division of Trade, Tourism and Economic Development under the Office of Gov. Jeb Bush. The Foundation is designed to promote youth, amateur, and professional sports throughout the state and it annually hosts the Sunshine State Games in addition to promoting hundreds of sporting events.

The Florida Cup trophy was designed by the prestigious firm Tallahassee Engraving and Design, which also created the NCAA's Biletnikoff Trophy, presented annually to the nation's most outstanding wide receiver.

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