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Gator afterglow

The school's football crown promises to bring a wave of popularity.

Published January 10, 2007


GAINESVILLE - University of Florida administrators expect many good things will follow Monday's national football championship, benefits far beyond the elation students displayed while partying in the streets after the game.

Alumni will donate more, recruiting athletes will be easier, and UF's national profile will likely soar.

But for admissions officials who already get thousands more applications each year than they can accept, UF's history-making championships in football and basketball could generate even more applications for the rejection pile.

That translates into lots of disappointed high school seniors who have decided UF is their dream college.

A college's post-win popularity is dubbed the "Flutie Effect," so named after applications to Boston College shot up in the year after Doug Flutie's 1984 "Hail Mary" pass that gave his school a come-from-behind victory over the University of Miami.

When a university is still trying to build its academic reputation, this kind of windfall is a blessing.

"Suddenly it allows you to be more selective because you have a bigger pool," said UF provost Janie Fouke.

But for UF, the expected crush of applications will further challenge admissions officials whose near-Ivy League standards already generate both criticism and pride.

"We already have so many applicants that we have to turn away," Fouke said.

Administrators also expect the championship attention to prompt more of the students accepted into UF to actually enroll.

About 63 percent of accepted students ended up enrolling last year at UF, where the in-state tuition of $3,300 - among the nation's lowest for a public university - is a huge draw. Before all the championships started rolling in, UF's acceptance rate was about 50 percent, Fouke said.

UF already is the state's largest public university with almost 50,000 students. It's also the only one in the invitation-only, 62-member Association of American Universities.

As part of a bid to become one of the nation's top 10 public universities, UF president Bernie Machen is trying to reduce classroom sizes by keeping enrollment steady and hiring more faculty.

"That means we'll have to be very careful about how many students we take," Fouke said.

But crowded classes and academic selectivity weren't on students' minds Tuesday morning. Campus and the areas surrounding it had the sluggish air of a killer hangover.

Most students didn't bother going to any class that started before 11 a.m.

Philosophy professor Greg Ray said only seven of 31 registered students attended his 8:30 a.m. philosophical writing class.

"Not so good," he said, deadpan. "And that's a required class for philosophy majors."

Student David Rosenblum was one of just a few who turned up for the first day of Introduction to International Security, an 8:30 a.m. class.

He watched the Gators' win in Orlando with friends, then drove back to Gainesville to get in a bit of sleep before his alarm clock went off.

"I guess I'll have to give you extra credit," joked political science instructor Richard Nolan.

Stuart Thiel, 24, was waiting Tuesday for a lunch table at the Swamp Restaurant, ground zero for the previous night's revelry.

Class was the last thing on his mind.

He was still thinking about that big tree outside the restaurant that he climbed at 2 a.m. It was the best spot to watch his friends and fellow students dancing in the street.

Students began storming University Avenue before the game even ended. They screamed. They danced. They honked their horns. They drank and smoked cigars. They mooned passers-by.

The only serious accident happened when Matthew Todd Schlagheck, 23, a recent graduate from Longwood, was hit by a car while streaking across University Avenue near campus at 1 a.m., according to police. Tuesday, he was at Shands at UF with life-threatening injuries.

Gainesville police Sgt. Keith Kameg said the chaos was mostly controlled.

"We had 25,000 to 30,000 people. Some got rowdy, but for the most part, people were compliant," he said.

One student, 21-year-old Kelsey Smith, was arrested on an arson charge after he allegedly lit a Christmas tree on fire in a crowd of fans.

"Not a good idea," Kameg said.

Still, evidence of the all-night party was everywhere Tuesday morning.

Toilet paper dangled from trees, cups of beer littered the campus and random articles of clothing - sweaty T-shirts, feathers from a boa - lay strewn about.

Gator Shop owner Joe Fincher stayed open until 4 a.m. selling T-shirts and other paraphernalia.

"I'm elated about the double win," Fincher said. "I'm just glad to be a part of history."

So are his three daughters, who all attended UF.

One even designed a shirt for the occasion. It taunts those who would dare question the Gators' athletic preeminence:

"Any Time, Any Place, Any Sport."

Times researcher Angie Holan contributed to this report. Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler can be reached at (813) 226-3403 or




[Last modified January 10, 2007, 05:21:05]

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