UF, OU clubs to party at same eatery on game day

Florida defensive back Joe Haden addresses the media in a press conference held at the Marriott Harbor Beach in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday.

Tricia Coyne/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Sunday, January 4, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 3, 2009 at 10:52 p.m.

MIAMI - Dave Gergely could see it coming when Texas lost to Texas Tech and Penn State to Iowa.

The sports director at Shula's Steak 2 restaurant in Miami Lakes knew he'd have to plan for a packed house. For 11 years, the Gator Club of Miami has held its game-viewing parties in there. And for about three years, the area's University of Oklahoma alumni also have held their watch parties at the establishment.

"So Jan. 8 is going to be a very interesting evening," Gergely said.

He's planning to have all hands on deck and will divide the restaurant so that each team has its own area.

He is not expecting any trouble, though. The place will be full of fans, he said, "but there's really no bad blood between Florida and Oklahoma ... It's terrific. We're expecting a big night."

Usually, between 100 and 150 University of Florida fans would come out for a game, Gergely said. A lot of those regulars will have tickets to the BCS National Championship game at Dolphin Stadium. For those who don't, the Gator Club is promoting its viewing party at the restaurant.

About 20 Sooners typically come to their watch parties. But OU Club of South Florida member Don St. Georges, of Coral Springs, expects many more next Thursday.

"Our group is small," he said, "but we're very energetic, and we're very boisterous when we get a chance to do that."

His group extends over three counties, and they had tried watching the games at various locations.

Other restaurants wouldn't reserve tables for them, he said, but Shula's has always met their needs.

"They've been the perfect host," St. Georges said. And that's where he - and likely many other Sooners on their e-mail list or those just coming to town for the atmosphere - will be at game time.

"None of our staff will be dressed in attire for either team," Gergely said. But in his heart, he added, he's rooting for the Gators.

The restaurant hosts clubs for the University of Texas, Florida and Oklahoma, but its longest relationship is with the Gator Club. They're the kind of fans who stick by the team, win or lose, Gergely said.

"They will stay from the opening whistle to the final whistle, even if they're beating Citadel 70-7."

And just how would he describe the local Gators? "I think," he said, "the word 'fan,' which is short for 'fanatic,' would work."

Take, for example, Antoinette Hernandez, of Hialeah, a 2007 graduate in public relations.

"I think the moment I stepped on UF [on the campus] I really think that my blood turned orange and blue," she said. Here in Hurricane country she goes to places in UF colors.

"I'm that girl," she said. "They tell me I'm wearing the wrong gear, and tell them, 'You are.' "

Hernandez said her boyfriend, Todd Johnson, is a University of Miami fan.

The first time he went to Shula's he had quite a shock, she said. "He looks at me with his eyes wide open."

He said, as she recalled: "Oh my God, I'm so overwhelmed. All you guys are crazy. ... There's too much Gator stuff going on here."

"We can be loud," she said. "We're very rowdy."

Hernandez doesn't plan to be at Shula's for the national championship game. She bought her ticket from the Orange Bowl Committee early in the season. She was just that sure the Gators would be there.

For information on the two alumni clubs, visit www.miamigators.com and www.themiamisooners.com.

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