Injury to streaker mars city's celebration

Published: Tuesday, January 9, 2007 at 7:07 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 9, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

A serious traffic crash just west of the post-game victory party on W. University Avenue marred what police said was otherwise a night of well-behaved celebration following the University of Florida's BCS National Championship win.

A man, who police did not identify this morning, was transported to Shands at UF with possibly life-threatening injuries after running into a car while streaking across W. University Avenue at roughly 1 a.m., according to Sgt. Keith Kameg with the Gainesville Police Department.

Kameg said the man, who was naked, tried to cross the road in the 2200 block of W. University Avenue.

He said the man crossed the eastbound lanes of traffic, but ran into a car in the westbound lanes, hitting his head on the windshield.

"With the exception of this streaker, who appeared to be celebrating from the game, the night went very well," Kameg said. "If you take that out of the equation, the worst thing that happened was that a beautiful tree was destroyed."

Kameg said officers made only a few arrests for minor incidents, and said the only property damage the roughly 10,000 fans who mobbed W. University Avenue caused was an uprooted tree outside UF Plaza on W. University Avenue.

"There were no fights," Kameg said. "A few people got a little rambunctious, jumping on cars and that sort of thing, but officers stepped in and stopped that before it got out of hand."

The post-game party started before the game had even ended. Gators head coach Urban Meyer's fourth-quarter victory fist-pump prompted the thousands of students watching the game at the O'Connell Center to head for the streets.

Nick Rosado, a UF sophomore who was working security at the O'Connell Center, stepped back and watched as the doors to the lobby snapped open and a throng of screaming students sprinted outside.

"That's why we moved the table and everything else out of the way," Rosado said, taking a step backward. "University is about to go nuts."

The parade of orange and blue slowed to a brisk walk by the time it got outside and then stalled when it hit the first row of bars on W. University Avenue.

Fireworks flew. Fans threw streamers and spewed Silly String. They burned Ohio State paraphernalia and screamed until their voices were hoarse.

Saraa Basaria, a 19-year-old sophomore, emerged from the mob on W. University Avenue and 17th Street missing a shoe, and said while the shoe loss was all in good fun, she wouldn't be heading through the crowd again.

"People are going to have a lot of missing stuff when this is over," said Basaria's friend, 19-year-old sophomore Alisha Bhimani.

Kameg described the post-victory atmosphere as "controlled chaos."

He said officials closed off W. University Avenue from 13th Street to 22nd Street at about 11:45 p.m. Monday to allow people a chance to celebrate in the street, and opened the street again at roughly 2:30 a.m.

To deter people from climbing the city's light poles, the Public Works Department greased the poles Monday. But Kameg said fans just climbed trees instead, leading to the nearly uprooted tree incident near The Swamp.

"Mostly people are cheering and hugging," Kameg said. "No one could get on the poles, and it was a comedy in action watching people try and then slide down."

After the relatively incident-free aftermath of the national basketball championship in April, local officials had hoped for a repeat performance after Monday night's football game.

"The celebrations following the basketball championship game were exuberant yet safe," UF President Bernie Machen wrote in a letter published in Monday's Sun. "It is our hope that all UF students who celebrate after tonight's game will repeat last year's experience and enjoy themselves in a responsible way."

As the scene on W. University Avenue showed early this morning, being responsible does not necessarily mean being quiet.

"It's going to get crazy out here tonight," said UF sophomore Cathleen Salvant.

"Everyone's everywhere. It's just going to be a crazy night."

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