Fans hit the road to the Final Four

By Adrian Ruhi Independent Florida Alligator

Gainesville, FL (CSTV U-WIRE) -- Fourteen hours is a long time to spend on the road. Then again, Gators don't often congregate in Indianapolis.

Pat Kane, a UF economics junior and dedicated Gators basketball fan, sat in his tall office chair at the UF Digital Library Center as he asked his boss for two days off for his impending trip to Indianapolis to attend the NCAA 2006 Final Four, where the Gators play against George Mason University on Saturday. If victorious, the Gators will play for the NCAA championship Monday.

"My lovely boss allowed me to attend the Final Four because she's such a big Gator basketball fan," Kane said jokingly. "She said I still have my job when I get back as long as I don't get arrested."

Kane said he has been to every Gators basketball home game since starting at UF. After Sunday's victory over Villanova University sent the Gators to the Final Four, he quickly booked a hotel room 20 miles outside of Indianapolis and began planning the long road trip.

"You know, 860 miles of pavement is a lot for one day," he said.

Kane will not be alone in his red two-door Acura Integra. His friend Jason Doughlin, an English senior, will be with him.

The two will depart at 2 a.m. Friday from Gainesville, drive through Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky and try to arrive in Indianapolis by Friday night. Doughlin said the trip will be made at the expense of school and work, and it will cost him a lot of money.

"I spent so much money on Spring Break that I had to ask my mom to help me pay for this month's rent and my ticket to the game," he said. "But this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and you never know when we'll make the Final Four again."

Doughlin said they will be driving in shifts and will only be stopping for bathroom breaks and food. Most of their money will be used for gas, and they hope to minimize food costs.

"We can't afford to wine and dine ourselves, so it'll be McDonald's and Burger King for a couple of days," he said. "We will be looking for any spot that permits Gators to eat free."

Getting tickets to the games was no easy feat, either. The two spent more than an hour Monday fighting busy signals on the Gator Athletic Ticket Order Request System, UF's telephone ticketing system.

Doughlin said only Gators fans who attended eight or more home games this season were entitled to purchase one of the $170 tickets, which were limited in quantity. He believes people who did not meet this requirement called in anyway, slowing down the process for everyone.

The undertaking will be tedious, so they will be bringing music and their Sony PSP video game systems to keep entertained, along with a portable GPS to avoid getting lost.

"I'm going for a new experience and a good time," he said with a smile. "I'm hoping they win the championship."

(C) 2006 Independent Florida Alligator via CSTV U-WIRE

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