Pigskin days of August return

Head student manager Austin Pope goes by the lockers of Florida football players to place safety labels on each player's helmet inside the Florida Gators locker room at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Thursday.

AARON DAYE/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, August 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 1, 2008 at 1:41 a.m.

Sure, the thermometer is stuck at 90 degrees and the humidity is almost as high. But surely you’ve noticed the return of the shades of fall in Gainesville: orange and blue.

Classes don’t begin at the University of Florida and Santa Fe College until Aug. 25. And Gator football season doesn’t return until Aug. 30.

But make no mistake about it. The pigskin days of August have arrived in Hogtown.

The Gator football team begins two-a-days on Monday, giving football-hungry fans an early fix, with a week’s worth of practices open to the public.

Gator freshmen will kick off drills with a practice at 6 a.m. Monday. Then the first five days of practice — Monday through Friday — are open to fans.

Following next Friday’s session at the UF practice field (next to the O’Connell Center), the Gators are closing their practices to start concentrating on the Aug. 30 home opener against Hawaii.

Meyer said it’s been a good summer for his fourth UF team.

“I’m proud of our guys, where they’re at (in terms of being ready to go),” Meyer said.

Football’s return is just one of several signs that fall semester is almost upon us.

With apartment leases ending all over town, and new leases for fall beginning today, there’s a whole lot of moving going on.

It took two phone calls to reach a manager at the Main Street U-Haul moving center on Thursday.

Bob Matthews said he was expecting business to be brisk all weekend, with many students renting trucks and trailers to move their belongings home, and others bringing a trailer full of college-life essentials to Gainesville.

Last fall saw 52,271 students enrolled at UF, with another 16,588 taking classes at Santa Fe Community College.

A UF spokesman said that although the university would admit 1,000 fewer transfer students this fall, enrollment will once again top 50,000. Santa Fe, too, expects to match last fall’s figures.

Merchants are gearing up for the invasion.

Dan Fogelman, a spokesman for Wal-Mart headquarters in Arkansas, said that sales at the new store on Waldo Road have been about what was expected from market research.

Wal-Mart and other retailers are stocking the aisles to welcome the returning college crowd.

“We’re ready for the students to come back,” Fogelman said.

Local residents have been enjoying the 10-minute drive across town, the opportunity to walk into a restaurant and be seated without a wait, the chance to slip into Publix and be out with a few items for dinner in just five minutes.

Sun sports writer Robbie Andreu contributed to this report. Diane Chun can be reached at 374-5041 or by e-mail at chund@gvillesun.com.

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