Jan. 9, 2007
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -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.
Florida used 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.
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."'
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.
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, maybe it worked.