UF provides reason to quit tailgating


Published: Thursday, September 28, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, September 28, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
It happened again last week, the phenomenon of the fashionably late arrivals at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Tailgating at Florida must be better than anywhere else because no big-time stadium I've seen is more empty 30 minutes before kickoff.
Florida would like to see that change, to take the buzz that exists on University Avenue and under the tents in parking lots and bring it inside before the game.
Especially this week. Anyone who was in Tuscaloosa, Ala., last year knows the energy that filled the air at Bryant-Denny Stadium when the players were stretching and loosening up. UF officials would like to see the same situation Saturday at The Swamp.
One thing that Alabama and several other Southeastern Conference schools have going for them is that there is a reason to be in the stadium early. Video highlights and historical perspectives get people fired up, especially replays of big wins in the school's history.
On Saturday, you're going to see more of that at Florida Field. If you want to, of course.
Early arrivals will be treated to video board highlights that will include feature stories, all access clips and highlights of past Florida-Alabama games. I'm guessing only the Gator wins will be a part of that. The video presentation will begin at about 2 p.m.
Last year in Tuscaloosa, they showed a video that lasted almost an hour of Alabama's win over Florida in 1999, complete with player interviews and commentary. It helped fire up a crowd that was already primed for a big game.
Considering that Florida is wearing throwback uniforms (so is Alabama if you think about it) and the magnitude of the game and the issue of last week's game (I promise I won't mention the B-word lest I offend someone) I have a feeling we may see something new at The Swamp - a crowded stadium long before the band hits the field.

Meet the heat

Last year may turn out to be an aberration in that few college football coaches were fired and there was no turnover in the SEC for the first time since 1988.
Already this season, a bunch of coaches have found their way to the hot seat.
Heck, by the time the season is over, the big story in the Atlantic Coast Conference may be who's not getting fired.
I know Larry Coker, whose teams have scored 44 points and none in the second half of their last six losses, is in trouble but the Butch Davis thing puzzles me. Weren't Miami fans outraged when he left amid a pack of lies?
In the SEC, there are a number of coaches who need to crank it up and one of them is coming to Gainesville on Saturday. Alabama fans are none too happy with Mike Shula's conservative play-calling (gee, think Tampa Bay fans didn't see that coming?)
That's the funny thing about being a coach. Or maybe not so funny. Shula's kicker can't make anything and he's in trouble. And because Leigh Tiffin went wide right more than Phil Mickelson in the Ryder Cup, Houston Nutt is now getting slaps on the back.
The biggest questions are for the athletic directors at Kentucky and Mississippi State. Rich Brooks has a better team than he has had in awhile, but may have to finish at .500 to stick around. Sylvester Croom couldn't see .500 with the Hubble telescope. He's 7-19 and the seven wins are hardly impressive (except for the 2004 one that got Ron Zook fired). But he has taken a mess and made the overall program better if not the football team.

Gator Gala

No matter how you cut it, raising $5 million on one night for anything other than a presidential candidate is pretty impressive. It just goes to show the deep pockets of the Gator Nation that the Gator Gala on Friday night sold out at $50,000 a table. For that much money, they had better not be serving hot dogs.
It's a Who's Who of Gator football coming to the event as well. Among the former players who will be attending are Carlos Alvarez, Jimmy Dubose, Wilber Marshall, Shane Matthews, Danny Wuerffel and Jack Youngblood. Ward Pell, the widow of former UF coach Charley Pell, will also be there.
Steve Spurrier said Wednesday that he hasn't made up his mind whether to attend.
"I'm going to wait until after our game (tonight) to decide," he said.

Coming home

You can say what you want about the emotion of the New Orleans Saints finally playing a game in what used to be the Katrina Survival Center, but it's still a game played on the field. The Saints are pretty good and the Falcons seem like the same team they've been for awhile. If they can't run, they're doomed and they either seem to play like a Super Bowl team or a team looking for a high draft pick.
America tuned in, that's for sure. ESPN attracted 10,850,000 viewers making it the second-most watched show ever on cable. No. 1 was the Al Gore-Ross Perot NAFTA debate in 1993. NFL, NAFTA, what's the difference?

Give it up

So you're the president of Temple University. Or at least Bill Cosby.
Your football team has lost 16 straight games. You just lost to Western Michigan, 41-7, which was reason to rejoice because you scored for the first time in three weeks.
And today you wake up to the news that your team is a 33-point underdog ... to Vanderbilt.
Don't you have to at least think about dropping down to Division I-AA? Or do you point to the fact that you're playing 19 true freshmen this year?
Or do you wonder why I wasted all of this space on Temple?

If I had a vote

Not that I have a vote or have paid any attention to baseball since the Braves were eliminated from the race in July, but I think Albert Pujols and Justin Morneau should be the MVPs.
But I also think too many voters will get caught up in Ryan Howard's home run numbers and forget that he has over 100 more strikeouts than Pujols. Or that some will take away votes if one of the two doesn't make the playoffs even if it's not his fault.
And I think Yankee bias will give the award to Derek Jeter. Not that he isn't deserving.

Pat-pourri

After Bruce Gradkowski gets his first start with the Bucs, there will be twice as many quarterbacks from the Mid-American Conference as the SEC who have started this year in the NFL. The only SEC quarterback who has started not named Manning is Rex Grossman. ... There was more than one media member who voted for Kenneth Darby of Alabama and Alley Broussard of LSU on their all-conference teams in the preseason. Darby is averaging 3.0 yards a carry and Broussard didn't play last week because he's 20 pounds overweight. ... The last tournament the late Byron Nelson didn't win before reeling off 11 straight in 1945 was the Jacksonville Open up the road. Sam Snead won it and Nelson finished sixth. ... The average score of SEC league games so far this year is 20-9, another indication that defense is still the story in the conference. ... Kentucky did get jobbed at the end of the first half last week. Several seconds went off the clock before the official on the spot signalled a time-out for a first down. Not that it would have mattered. ... Be safe.
Contact Pat Dooley at 374-5053 or dooleyp@gvillesun.com. Dooley's columns appear Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

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