Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gators Finally Awake

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gators Finally Awake

Article excerpt

NEW ORLEANS -- It was the ultimate argument-ender, the one

crushing knockout blow the other state schools used under the

most desperate of circumstances. When the University of Florida

talked about all the things it had -- the endless resources, the

wealthy alumni, the plush facilities, the rabid fan base --

Gators didn't have:

The national title.

"And now we have that, too," Florida senior safety Lawrence

Wright said yesterday after the Gators were voted the consensus

national champions.

"So now," cornerback Anthone Lott added, "what are Florida

State and Miami gonna hold over our heads?"

Nothing. There is nothing left. Florida, the school with the

most money, the most fans, the most booster contributions and

the most arrogance, now has the best team, too. Long ago,

Alabama's legendary coach Bear Bryant warned the rest of the

nation that the Gators were the nation's "sleeping giant."

"If they ever get it together down there, watch out," Bryant

said.

Well, guess what. The giant was awake and alive and partying to

the wee hours of the morning on Bourbon Street following the

Gators' resounding 52-20 Sugar Bowl pounding of the Florida

State Seminoles. The giant, who for 75 years was the

Southeastern Conference's most laughable underachiever, whose

annual rallying cry of "Wait Till Next Year!" had become joke

material for generations of ridiculing rivals, had finally

realized its awesome potential.

Next year is here.

Spurrier's introductory news conference as Florida's coach, he

stated his goal clearly: He would put the Gators back on top in

the state of Florida. Then, the Gators were a distant third. And

now they are No. 1 -- in the state, in the SEC, in the nation.

Not that it didn't come without some help from Dame Destiny,

who seemingly has been working overtime in North Florida

recently. First, she got the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars into

the playoffs, and now she has granted the Gators their first

national championship.

The title never would have been possible if Texas hadn't

defeated Nebraska in the Big 12 Championship game last month and

if Ohio State hadn't defeated Arizona State in the Rose Bowl on

New Year's Day. …

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