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After the buildup, it's kickoff time!

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Posted: Monday January 04, 1999 08:00 PM

  Game on: No. 1 Tennessee takes on No. 2 Florida State in the first BCS title game AP

CNN/SI senior writer John Donovan filed on-site reports every half-hour in the three hours leading up to the Fiesta Bowl kickoff. Log on to CNNSI.com immediately after the game for up-to-the-minute news, stats and analysis.

TEMPE, Ariz., the north end zone (CNN/SI) -- It is here.

Almost a month after Tennessee and Florida State learned they were to play for the national championship, the two teams are only minutes away from kickoff.

As 350 members of the Southwest Iowa and Mountain Pointe High School bands toted a 100-yard long flag on their shoulders for the National Anthem, FSU and Tennessee took their full squads to the field.

This is unofficial, but there sure seems to be a lot more orange and white in the stands than garnet and gold. Whatever, FSU remains the favorite against the unbeaten and top-ranked Volunteers. At about 5:30 p.m. MT, FSU players lifted their helmets in sa lute to their fans, a longstanding Seminole tradition.

Minutes later, both the Seminoles and Volunteers hurried back into their locker rooms for final preparations.

It's time. The national championship game is finally here!


7:30 p.m. ET

Goodness gracious, Janikowski!

From the north end zone (CNN/SI) -- Goodness gracious, Sebastian Janikowski.

The left-footed boomer for Florida State took the field in his pregame ritual and promptly sent a 57-yarder sailing into the north end zone. Then, he turned around and kicked a 65-yarder into the south end zone.

The Tennessee special-teamers took the field shortly after, while new offensive coordinator Randy Sanders calmly tossed the football on the sideline. This will be the first time in a college game that Sanders will do the play-calling.

Already, we've had three full war chants from the Florida State band and at least that many strains of Rocky Top from the Tennessee band.

Get used to it. Kickoff is only half an hour away.


6:59 p.m. ET

Hail, hail, the bands are here!

From the 20-yard line (CNN/SI) -- Helicopters hover overhead, the Secret Service for Vice President Al Gore is in place -- kickoff for the Fiesta Bowl is just an hour away.

Florida State's band is settled in the stands, Tennessee's is emerging, preparing for the first ever unified national college football championship game.

Florida State's backup players started filtering onto the field about 4:20 p.m. MT. Florida State will occupy the west sideline for this game.

Along with the Seminoles' players, several FSU support members are here, including former Auburn coach Terry Bowden, who has helped his dad, FSU coach Bobby Bowden, prepare for this game.

Also here already: Vince Cellini, Trev Alberts and Sports Illustrated's Ivan Maisel, who are covering the game for the CNN/SI Sports News Network.


6:34 p.m. ET

What's a game without controversy

Outside the stadium (CNN/SI) -- What's a national championship game without a little controversy.

As promised, technicians from ABC and a couple of supporting unions were walking the picket lines outside Sun Devil Stadium, protesting parent company Disney's lockout. They had been there since noon Mountain Time.

The National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET) has been locked out of the workplace since November 1 in a dispute over benefits, including health benefits.

That, of course, is only one aspect of the lockout. Jack Kestenbaum believes it goes much deeper.

"This is a lockout period. We are not on strike," said Kestenbaum, the chairman of the group's Daily Hire Coordinating Committee. "We are the lifeblood of a technical media. But they [Disney officials] want to do away with Nabet's part in the media."

As is the case with most of these picket lines, people on the street -- in this case, fans starting to stream in and around the stadium -- paid little attention to the assembled workers, lined up along the sidewalks that lead to the stadium.

Disney and NABET are currently in negotiations, Kestenbaum said, but little progress is being made. He hopes to get a little splash out of the fact that NABET members plan to escort Vice President Al Gore, who is scheduled to attend tonight's title matchu p, through the picket lines to the game.


6:06 p.m. ET

Scalpers finding business tough

On the streets (CNN/SI) -- For a game billed as a gargantuan matchup, the Game of the Century, the duel in the desert and all that nonsense, the Fiesta Bowl is not exactly the hottest ticket in town.

Three hours before game time, ticket hawkers on the streets surrounding Sun Devil Stadium were beginning to look a little nervous. One wouldn't stop to talk at all, once he learned we weren't buying anything.

Another only grimly looked at us, and said, " Not good, not good."

Tonight's game between the Tennessee Volunteers and Florida State Seminoles is a rousing success in almost every sense of the word. But don't be surprised if the cameras catch a glimpse or two of some empty seats in the 73,471-seat stadium.

At least a dozen professional ticket scalpers milled around at the corner of Fifth and College on the southwest corner of the stadium, all trying to unload tickets. Nobody, it seems, was buying.

Meanwhile, a block down Fifth, one fan was trying to sell two of the four tickets he had left.

He had been trying to do it for an hour.

"It's like people are offering me $20-25 apiece. One guy went up to $50 apiece," a man who identified himself as Vernon Smedley of Tallahassee said. " It's not going so well."

Smedley said he paid $100 apiece for the upper-deck tickets, but he wasn't particularly worried if he couldn't sell them. Even though he had run into one street entrepreneur who said he got $400 apiece for his tickets, Smedley said he was just happy to g et rid of his first two at face value. Face value of the two levels of tickets is $100 and $135.

"Ah, It's a nice day out," said Smedly, decked out in an FSU turtleneck in 70-degree weather under cloudless skies. "I look at it this way: It could be raining."

 
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