A raucous night at the O'Dome
Published: Thursday, January 8, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 9, 2009 at 1:18 a.m.
A crowd of more than 10,000 gathered Thursday at the O'Connell Center to ring in another national championship for the UF football team.
What many didn't expect was the ringing in their ears.
A sea of orange and blue flooded over the arena hours before kickoff, creating so much noise that at times during the game it was painful.
"This is incredible," said Rachel Demps, a third-year English major at UF.
"My ears are going to be ringing for days."
The festivities kicked off when UF women's basketball coach Amanda Butler addressed the crowd following her team's 80-66 victory over Mississippi State.
Butler, a UF grad, got the crowd in a frenzy by asking everyone in attendance to "Raise your hand if you're a Gator fan."
From that point, the focus shifted from the hard court to the gridiron. Fans filled the down times during the game by playing games and dancing in the aisles to music blared through the arena's speakers. The cheerleaders and band stuck around after the hoops game to add to the deafening atmosphere.
But no sound compared to the cheers and chants from the Gator faithful. "I knew it was going to be a big crowd, but nothing like this," UF freshman Shantal Burke said.
Burke was seated in the front row with seven of her friends, but with the game showing on four large video screens, one in each corner of the arena, there wasn't a bad seat in the house.
"Sitting up top is great, because you get to look down and watch people making a fool of themselves," said UF senior psychology major Shoshana Katz, who was seated with a friend, Tami Levine, in the top row of section K.
As Percy Harvin ran in the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter, the crowd's noise raised to a level that completely drowned out the band.
And by the time Tim Tebow's jump pass sealed the victory, the cheering was raised to a decibel-bursting high.
As the seconds ticked away on the Gators' second football championship in three years, fans chanted "It's great to be a Florida Gator" while spilling out of the O'Dome and onto University Avenue with pride in their hearts — and a little ringing in their ears.
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