Florida celebrates school's third national title in a year
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida center Al Horford raised the NCAA trophy high above his head and greeted appreciative fans after the men's basketball team returned on a charter flight from Atlanta on Tuesday with their second championship trophy in a row.
Several hundred fans and fellow students, many wearing Florida orange and blue, waited nearly three hours in the heat at Gainesville Regional Airport, hoping to catch a glimpse of the team or get a high five or an autograph.
"Thank you. Thank you. Thank you," Horford shouted as dozens of fans crowded around him.
Florida defeated Ohio State 84-75 in the men's basketball championship game in Atlanta on Monday night, setting off celebrations on the streets of Gainesville. It's the school's third national title in the past year, along with the football team's win in January, also over Ohio State. Florida remains the only program in history to hold both championships at the same time.
On Tuesday the crowd at the airport chanted "One more year!" as players Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer signed basketballs, shirts and posters. Head coach Billy Donovan traded high-fives with fans and posed for a few pictures. Guards Lee Humphrey and Taurean Green and several other members of the team also greeted fans at the airport.
Florida senior Aisha Ayoub arrived at the airport wearing a blue wig, her fingernails painted blue and orange. She carried with her a Florida jersey with the autographs of four of the team's starters and scrambled across police tape to get Brewer's autograph, the missing fifth starter.
"I almost got myself arrested, but I got my signature," Ayoub said later, after an officer directed her to return to the fan area.
The team will convene again Friday evening in the O'Connell Center, the school's basketball arena, for another celebration.
Gov. Charlie Crist, who watched the game in Atlanta, said Tuesday at a press conference in Tallahassee that he was ready to collect on a wager with Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland.
"I'm looking forward to more of those chocolate buckeyes with peanut butter in them and glad we didn't have to give up our coconuts to the governor of Ohio, or citrus or key lime pie," he said.
The two governors also made a wager in January when Florida defeated Ohio State in the football championship. Along with sending Crist chocolate buckeyes, Strickland flew the Gators flag over his residence for a day.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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