Fans line up to see BCS trophy
Published: Sunday, January 11, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 10, 2009 at 11:34 p.m.
Even Chad, the Alltel commercial guy, probably couldn't draw the kind of crowd to a phone store as did the Waterford crystal Coach's Trophy won by the University of Florida Gators.
- Gator fans are invited to a celebration of Florida’s third national championship in football, today from 1-2 p.m. at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Admission is free.
- Gates will open at the stadium at 11:30 a.m.
- The celebration will be broadcast live on Sun Sports.
The trophy, one of the spoils of the Gators' football national championship victory Thursday night, made a three-hour appearance at the Archer Road Alltel store on Saturday afternoon. About 45 people were queued up beforehand to get their pictures taken with it - and more fans kept coming.
Among them was Bernard Johnson, who sees the Gators a lot - he's a tuba player in UF's Pride of the Sunshine marching band. But he couldn't pass up a chance to have his picture taken with the trophy.
"I've been a Gator fan ever since I was born," said the south Georgia native. "It was unreal being at the game. It was amazing. Each person plays a particular role - the players, the band, the fans. I just want to support UF and support the team."
The fans who showed up described themselves as hardcore. Becky Spencer had the tattoo to prove it - a colorful depiction of the Tasmanian Devil cartoon character with a Gator logo.
UF freshman Blake Hebbel from Seminole showed up in his new championship T-shirt that was the same design as those given to the players after Thursday night's 24-14 victory over Oklahoma.
"This is exciting to happen my freshman year. This was the only school in Florida that I considered," Hebbel said. "I got the T-shirt and now I'm going to get my picture taken with the trophy."
Alltel has been a sponsorship partner with UF and the trophy was loaned to Alltel for two appearances Saturday, the first in Orange Park and the second in Butler Plaza.
Kim Smithers, who handles regional sponsorship marketing for Alltel, said the trophy drew 600 Gator fans when it was displayed in Orange Park earlier Saturday.
The trophy will be displayed at today's celebration at Florida Field and will then be put in UF's trophy case.
The football-shaped crystal that sits atop a black base is valued at $30,000 and weighs about eight pounds.
"Fans have been very respectful of it," Smithers said. "We're taking pictures that will be available online for free to people."
Walking to their car after their moment with the trophy, Paul Morgan and Jordan Lasseter were thrilled.
"It was awesome they would allow something like this and do it for free," Lasseter said.
"I still have goose bumps."
Contact Cindy Swirko at 374-5024 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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