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Stunned Gator fans swamp sites

Steve Spurrier's decision spurs so much traffic, some UF-related Web sites shut down.

By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 5, 2002


For years, the initials every football fan in Gainesville knew were SOS, for the Gators' beloved quarterback and coach, Stephen Orr Spurrier.

When gainesvillesun.com webmaster Tim Davis posted the news of Spurrier's sudden resignation to message boards at 12:57 p.m. Friday, the first two replies offered a different kind of SOS. The initial responses: OMG and WTH, which in the parlance of quick-typing message-boarders stand for oh-my-God and what the hell? In 10 minutes, those boards -- like many sites related to Florida football -- were overwhelmed by a flood of Gator fans trying to find out if their worst nightmare had come true. It was five hours before traffic subsided enough to allow the boards back up for widespread consoling.

"There's been a lot of interest in this story," Davis said Friday night, shortly after the Sun printed an extra edition and posted the stories online at gatorsports.com. "It wasn't the same as 9-11, but as far as a single big story, we've gotten a lot of traffic today."

Gatorzone.com, the university's official athletics site, was inaccessible for much of the early afternoon, unable to keep up with the traffic. When the resignation was officially announced, the site was back up and had a short story and transcript of Spurrier's statement.

For reeling Gator fans, little solace could be found at gatorcountry.com, the team's most popular fan site, which initially was so overloaded that it had to scale back its page to a single confirming headline and link to the Sun's site.

The message boards at Gator Country were down most of the afternoon, with 537 people logged on during one stretch. The site scaled back to one page but piled the hyperbole on a little thick, mourning Friday as "what may be the darkest day the University of Florida has seen." This for a program that saw a player die this season, not to mention a campus on which five students were murdered 111/2 years ago.

"This is unspeakable -- it just went crazy and the servers crashed several times," said Sarasota's Ray Hines, who runs the site. "We had people telling us that even ESPN went down for a little while, and I think this goes to show how big a person Coach Spurrier is in the sports world."

Conversely, the message boards at FSU fan site warchant.com were thriving as Seminoles fans celebrated the news with 80 message threads in a two-hour span, with titles such as "Their ship is sinking" and "Who are we going to hate now?"

Most national sports sites quickly realized the impact of Spurrier's decision, even the day after a national champion was crowned. ESPN.com and Sportsline.com bumped the Miami Hurricanes from their center story, while CNNSI.com stuck with a Rose Bowl package long after even CNN.com had thought enough to give Spurrier a headline. Sportsline was the first to go beyond a straight "Spurrier resigns" headline, opting for "Later, Gators," which CNNSI.com later also used.

The university's main site, ufl.edu, was slow to mention Spurrier's decision, waiting nearly two hours after its athletics site reported the news. Until about 4 p.m., the site made no mention of the coach, its headlines referencing consumer confidence screenings and a grant for diabetes screenings.

And as with any major event, Spurrier's decision had a ripple effect at auction site eBay.com, where interest in Spurrier-related Gator paraphernalia spiked. A Spurrier-signed Gators mini-helmet, which before Friday had received no bids in six days at $25, drew 12 bids Friday before ending at $70.75. A Gators schedule poster featuring Spurrier, which had been bidding for three days at $0.01, was quickly up to $10 by early evening. One seller found Friday an opportune time to auction the rights to the Internet domain gatorss---.com, with a starting bid of $70.

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