<
>

Florida first to hold football, hoops titles at same time

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Call it the Gator Slam.

The Florida Gators became the first program to hold football and
men's basketball titles at the same time Monday night with a 41-14
victory over top-ranked Ohio State.

The basketball team won its first championship in April, beating
UCLA 73-57 in Indianapolis. The football team claimed its second
title -- the Gators also won in 1996 -- with similar ease.

"How do I compare them? Both have confetti landing on my
head," athletic director Jeremy Foley said. "I couldn't believe
it in April; I can't believe it now. I can't believe I can talk
about it without jinxing us. Obviously, things had to break our way
to even get here."

The Gators needed to beat Arkansas in the Southeastern
Conference championship game and have Southern California lose to
UCLA to get to Glendale.

They made the rest look easy, using stifling defense and
creative offense to upend the Buckeyes in the BCS Championship
Game.

Much like when Tiger Woods held all four golf majors -- he didn't
win all of them in the same year, so it was dubbed the "Tiger
Slam" -- Florida may have an asterisk next to its latest
accomplishment.

Nonetheless, only six Division I schools -- including Florida and
Ohio State -- have won championships in the NCAA's two marquee
sports. But none of those had come closer than eight years apart --
until now. The others are Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State and
Syracuse.

"That's why we're the best," said Mike Peterson, a former
Gators linebacker and current Jacksonville Jaguars star. "I'm not
going to apologize for us being good anymore."

Florida players and coaches said they were barraged by wishes
from friends, family and fans who wanted them to match what the
basketball team did last year.

"Championships, they want that around here now," receiver
Jemalle Cornelius said last week. "It's expected, so we're getting
a lot of that from them."

Coach Urban Meyer heard the same stuff.

"A couple thousand times," he said. "I say, 'Sure, let's go
do it.'"

They did.

Although Ohio State's Ted Ginn Jr. returned the opening kickoff
93 yards for a touchdown, the Gators responded with five scores on
their first five possessions.

Three different players lined up at quarterback for Florida,
freshman Percy Harvin made Ohio State defenders looks slow, and
defensive ends Derrick Harvey and Jarvis Moss dominated their
matchups and put constant pressure on Heisman Trophy winner Troy
Smith. Heck, even Chris Hetland made two field goals after missing
nine of 13 this season.

Maybe it was "the year of the Gators," as South Carolina coach
Steve Spurrier predicted after Moss blocked a game-winning field
goal attempt to stave off defeat in Gainesville in November.

"It's a great accomplishment to win both," defensive tackle
Clint McMillan said. "It's going to make it just crazy on
campus."

The first person to put the pressure on the football team was
Florida basketball star Joakim Noah. As he held up the national
championship trophy during the team's return reception in
Gainesville the day after winning it all, Noah shouted to a large
crowd: "I love you! Let's do it in football now!"

Meyer remembers that moment well.

"I still remember the day that Noah said, 'Now it's football's
turn,'" Meyer said recently. "I'll never forget that. [I said]
OK, man, I'm with you. Let's go.'"

Meyer later had basketball coach Billy Donovan address the
football team. Donovan downplayed his remarks Friday before the
game. But players never forgot what he said about the keys to
winning.

"I think there has been too much publicity about me going over
there and speaking to them about a national championship because
nothing I said has gotten them to where they are," Donovan said.
"Back in August, what I think Urban was trying to do was just put
some things into the team's head. Believe me, I'll be the first one
to tell you that I don't have anything figured out. The ingredients
to winning don't change. It's the same. What change are the people.

"People change. The focus changes. People's commitments change.
Their accountabilities change. But the ingredients to win are the
same ingredients now as they were 50 years ago. ... I think what
Urban wanted from me coming in was to probably reinforce things he
had already said. And believe me, I did not intend for it to be
asked about so much, because I had only said what was already known
and what had already been said."

Either way, it seemingly worked -- and now the Gators have duel
championships.

"We're one of the elite programs in the nation," former
Florida running back Terry Jackson said.

Added former Florida quarterback Shane Matthews: "It just puts
pressure on the other sports now. But I wouldn't be surprised if we
won another basketball title in a few months."