Gator fans gather to watch championship
Published: Tuesday, January 9, 2007 at 11:19 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 9, 2007 at 11:19 a.m.
Thousands of Florida fans watching their football team on video screens at the school's arena linked arms and sang along to the Queen song "We Are The Champions" as the clock ran out and the Gators beat Ohio State 41-14 Monday night.
The nearly 11,000 fans who filled the O'Connell Center then ran outside to nearby University Avenue after the national championship game ended shouting "It's great to be a Florida Gator," while drivers honked their horns and fireworks lit the sky.
Florida student Chowdhury Ibrahim, 21, was decked out head to toe in orange and blue paint.
"You always hear about defining noise - I experienced deafening noise tonight," Ibrahim said. "I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world right now."
An area near campus was blocked off to traffic to allow revelers a chance to celebrate. About 300 officers from four law enforcement agencies were planning to patrol the city into the early morning hours, said Chief Linda Stump, University Police Department.
The celebration was expected to be peaceful, much like the one when Florida won the basketball championship in April, Gainesville Police Sgt. Keith Kameg said.
"We want people to yell and then yell some more," Kameg said. "But we just want fans to be safe."
No arrest related to the celebration were reported, he said.
The win makes Florida the first program to hold football and men's basketball titles at the same time.
Some students waited in line for more than eight hours Monday to watch the game on one of four large video screens in the O'Connell Center. It was filled to capacity within minutes. Gators fans were euphoric, dancing in their seats, in the aisles and on the court.
Florida students Carley Glasser and Claire Pulignano waved a large blue tarpaulin with "Go Gators" in orange letters from the front row. Pulignano brought the makeshift banner to protect her and her friends from the rain that drenched them as the waited in line since 10:30 a.m.
"When the rain stopped, we decided to turn our tarp into a banner," said Pulignano.
Gators fans started celebrating before the game even started.
"This weekend has been crazy. We've been going to different house parties and just crashing at friend's homes," said Jorge Duran, 25, a 2004 Florida alum. He traveled from his home in Miami on Friday and since then has been "partying nonstop."
Wearing an orange sweat band on his right wrist, Duran started partying with more than 40 friends at a Gainesville home more than five hours before kickoff.
"I've been unbelievably excited. I'm a nervous wreck," he said.
Duran and friends describe their celebration as a "hardcore barbecue." On the menu is venison chili, two pork shoulders, ham and grilled tenderloin. Oh yeah, don't forget the open bar and 100-inch projector TV, he said.
"This is one helluva roller-coaster ride," Duran said.
Florida student Alison Rakes prepared for the game by putting together the right outfit - the same orange and blue jacket, white T-shirt, and beaded bracelet she wore nine months ago when the Gator basketball team won that sport's national championship.
"I can't even sleep anymore. It's all I've been talking about this week," said Rakes, a 21-year-old elementary education major.
To add to the mayhem in Gainesville, students returned to classes Monday.
The UF administration asked faculty members to be flexible with students, said Steve Orlando, a university spokesman.
"The professors understand that this is a unique opportunity and are trying to make it as enjoyable as possible for the students," Orlando said.
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