Gainesville Sun - Florida\'s SEC Championship Victory
This copy is for your personal, noncommercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies fordistribution to your colleagues, clients or customers here or use the "Reprints" tool that appears above anyarticle.Order a reprint of this article now.Gator fans take celebration to streetsBy Karen VoylesCorrespondentsPublished: Sunday, December 7, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.Steve Johnson/Special to the SunStudents celebrate on University Avenue after an SEC Championship in Gainesville, FL on SaturdayDecember 6, 2008.Gator celebrations on W. University Avenue have become almostcommonplace - with Florida claiming three national championships in twoyears between 2006 and 2007.Add one more traffic-stopping celebration to the list, as police shut down W.University Saturday night when hundreds of students and turned the road intoa virtual mosh pit in the aftermath of Floridas SEC Championship Gamevictory. The victory likely vaulted UF into yet another national championshipgame next month in Miami.At 7:40 p.m., Gainesville Police closed down University Avenue between 13thStreet and 22nd Street and did not reopen it to traffic until 8:15.The mass of fans took over a stretch of W. University near 17th Street, jumpingup and down and cheering, climbing light posts and chanting.
"I wasnt here last year, and Ive never seen anything like it," said StephanieLeventhal, a journalism sophomore. "It was pretty close there for a little bitbut then we kicked butt!"Former UF football player Eddie Haupt, a senior who works as a securityguard at The Swamp restaurant, was working to keep the crowd safe.Haupt said he saw one fan trying to climb a tree outside the restaurant."Ive been standing out here making sure no one climbs trees ever since,"Haupt said. He also said the police response was very quick.Police shift commander Lt. Scott Meffen said GPD had 25 officers patrollingthe celebration. "We were prepared for this," he said.At one point, students began streaming west from 17th Street downUniversity, chanting and exchanging high-fives with passersby, andcongregating outside the UF football complex at the southwest corner of BenHill Griffin Stadium.Fans then made their way down onto the turf of Florida Field. For 20-25minutes the fans led Gator cheers and threw rolls of toilet paper, only to beforced off the field and out of the stadium by university police. The fans thenmade their way back to W. University. By this point, the traffic was flowingagain and fans exchanged more high-fives with those in passing vehicles.Holly Koly, 18, said it was her first time attending a post-game celebration onW. University and she was hooked."No matter what it takes, Im going (to the BCS title game)," Koly said. "Ill seeyou in Miami."The celebration on W. University also drew UF alum Mike Barton and hisfriend Leslie Florence, who had watched the game on television at a friendshouse.Florence said she was particularly moved by the spirituality Tebow showedfollowing the victory.
"I think it is wonderful that Tim (Tebow) is acknowledging his faith," Florencesaid.UF freshman Riane Goodwin was among those already making plans to get tothe game next month at Dolphin Stadium."When all the Bama fans cancel their rooms, we are going to get them,"Goodwin said. "We are ready to Gator chomp all over the place."Meantime, during the game, the mood inside local establishments rose andfell based on the score.The emotional rollercoaster of a couple of diehard Gator fans was too much fortheir wives to put up with by the middle of the second quarter and they saidthey willingly gave up their seats at Gators Dockside on Newberry Road.The women walked back behind the retail center to Tuesday Morning to dosome shopping and avoid their husbands until the game was over. "They tookthis way too seriously," said one woman, who asked only to be identified asAshley. "I just dont think I could take much more of the craziness - theshouting and the yelling."A lonely Alabama fan was parked outside Home Depot during the thirdquarter, listening to the game on his truck radio. Don Hatcher said he sent hiswife inside to pick up the parts to complete an emergency plumbing project intheir travel trailer and allow him some time to listen to the game alone."There arent a lot of us around who know how to say Roll Tide the way itshould be," said Hatcher. "Besides, the way this game is going, I dont think Icould take it if I hear one more person doing that Go Gators, Gators lets gothing."The aisles of the Publix store on Archer and Tower roads were mostly emptyduring the game, giving one employee time to check his cell phone frequentlyfor updates on the score."I know were not supposed to do this, but this is a really big deal," said theemployee.