By Sports Illustrated
Orange you glad you're in Knoxville? Local fans cheer on a Tennessee national championship |
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Tennessee's hometown fans broke out victory cigars and cheered from the tops of tables as they celebrated a 23-16 victory over Florida State for the national championship in the Fiesta Bowl.
"I think it was great," shouted Jim Schutt, who donned a sweatshirt saying the Vols are "Undefeated, Unbeatable and Uncontested!" as he celebrated with others who had watched the game at Bailey's Sports Grille.
"We are No. 1. There's no question about it," he said as fans slapped high-fives.
Fans huddled around TVs at home and in bars Monday night as temperatures dipped into the teens.
"You want some reaction?" said Eddie Bailey, as he shouted "Oh, yeah! The Vols are No. 1 and that's what it's all about."
"We needed some respect and we've got it," said his friend, Laura Westbrook.
Knoxville restaurateur Frank Goddard said the Fiesta Bowl matchup between No. 1 Tennessee and No. 2 Florida State was " ... a big, big day in the life of anybody who is a UT graduate, which I am, or a UT fan, which I am,"
"I've been around Tennessee football all my life and I can't remember a bigger event," said Goddard, whose father played on Tennessee's 1951 championship team. "Maybe the World's Fair [held in Knoxville in 1982]. Maybe, but I doubt it."
The impact wasn't confined to Knoxville. Gov. Don Sundquist, as well as Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe, were among the thousands who traveled to the game in Tempe.
The NHL's Nashville Predators moved up the starting time two hours for their game against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, then showed the Fiesta Bowl on their Jumbotron.
It's "an unofficial state holiday for all intents and purposes," reasoned Tom Ward, the Predators' executive vice president.
With UT students on Christmas break until Jan. 13 and thousands of Tennessee fans at the game, the Vols' hometown was strangely quiet on game day. But the stay-at-home faithful made plans.
Some restaurants closed, saying they couldn't compete against the telecast. The "Naples" restaurant gave employees the day off and left a recorded message on their phone, "Go Vols."
Goddard said his company closed their "Harry's" restaurant for the day "due to the tremendous following to Tempe. Most of our regulars said they would see us when they return with the national championship."
Meanwhile, Goddard said his flagship "Regas" restaurant, which seats 500, was booked by a "preferred guest" for a Fiesta Bowl party for 50 of his closest friends. "They said they didn't care what it cost," Goddard said.
Pizza delivery services expected a booming business. James Bluford, an area manager for Pizza Hut, expected it to "be as big as the Super Bowl, if not bigger."
And Vol fans began filling Bailey's Sports Grille hours before kickoff to watch the game on one of 23 TVs. "Just the normal UT game, just the normal madness," manager Jacqueline Teed-Freisen said.
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