6,000 Gators roar for a win
Published: Monday, January 8, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 8, 2007 at 12:27 a.m.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - The West was wild on the eve of the BCS National Championship, drawing University of Florida fans from all over Sunday for the "Gator Jamboree" pep rally here.
Where to watch
Rules for fans
Keeping it fun but safe is the motto for officers patrolling Gainesville during tonight's National Championship Game.
Almost 200 additional officers will be on duty on campus and in the city as fans crowd around televisions to see the Gators and the Buckeyes square off.
Officers want everyone to have a good time in the city. But some rules are in effect for fans:
- Lise Fisher
An estimated 6,000 fans packed the streets leading into the rally, and then dispersed into a converted parking lot where cheerleaders and dancers revved up the rabid crowd. The championship game, which is held more than 2,000 miles from UF's home turf of Gainesville, has drawn some of the most die-hard Gators in the country.
Nicole Gross, a 27-year-old Ocala resident, went to great lengths to give her trip to Arizona the same feel as a home game. She shipped four battery-powered Gator coolers, which serve as equal parts scooters and ice chests, from Ocala to Arizona.
By early Sunday evening, the coolers had already been depleted of all their "cargo."
"I feel like a college kid every time I get on one of these," said Gross, seated atop the cooler and buzzing about the street.
Gross, who graduated from UF in 2003, was a springboard diver for the Gators. In 1996, when the Gators won their last National Championship in football, Gross said she hadn't yet caught the Gator fever. So, in many ways a win today would be her first championship as a fan.
"It would mean everything in the world to me," said Gross, who was sporting a white fur Gator bucket hat Sunday.
Hopes are high for Gator fans, even though the team enters today's game as the underdog.
Brent Whitfield and his friend Blake Ulrich, both 28, traveled from West Palm Beach via Las Vegas to see the game. After a night of gambling Saturday, the two say they feel good about the Gators' chances even though the odds are against their team.
"Anyone is going to be happy we had a chance to be here," Whitfield said. "But nobody's going to be happy if we lose."
UF President Bernie Machen, who appeared in high spirits Sunday, warmed up the crowd with a blunt assessment of his hopes for today's game. After telling the media all week that Ohio State University was a "great team, all that crap," Machen stirred up the crowd's passions with some last minute negative campaigning.
"We don't like Ohio State," he said, clad in a blue sweater and a long beaded necklace. "We're going to beat Ohio State, win a National Championship. Go Gators!"
Jack Stripling can be reached at 374-5064 or Jack.Stripling@gvillesun.com.
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