Sugar Bowl Notebook
Gators' Brown says he'll be back for senior season
Updated: Wednesday January 03, 2001 1:45 AM
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Still needing to improve on the field and still wanting to help Florida win another championship, junior defensive end Alex Brown said he will return for his senior season.
It was a surprising move for one of college football's top pass rushers. Amid all the frustration and sorrow in the Gators' locker room, Brown's decision gave them a ray of hope. At least for next season.
The 6-foot-4, 262-pound Brown had 7.5 sacks, two fumbles recoveries, three forced fumbles and one interception this season. He added a sack and three tackles Tuesday night in Florida's 37-20 loss to Miami.
Brown has caused serious problems for offensive linemen all year, leading the team in "big plays" with 41.5 and forcing teams to double- and sometimes triple-team him.
"I'm not saying I'm not ready for the NFL; I'm just saying that I am having fun here," Brown said. "It's another year we can go and have fun and hopefully win them all. I'm 21-years old and another year isn't going to hurt me."
There had been plenty of speculation that Brown would make himself eligible for April's NFL Draft. He refused to talked about the possibility of turning pro in the weeks leading up to the Sugar Bowl.
He said his decision was made before Tuesday's game, and the loss had little or no bearing on it. But he has said all season that he wanted to leave Florida with a national championship.
Even though defensive coordinator Jon Hoke has criticized his star lineman for failing to practice hard and playing only when he wants to, he was pleased to hear about Brown's return.
"Sure it makes me happy," Hoke said. "But Alex has a lot of work to do."
Even the chance for a national championship didn't bring a championship-sized crowd to the Sugar Bowl.
The attendance for the Miami-Florida game was 64,407 -- the smallest crowd to ever watch a Sugar Bowl in the Superdome.
Last year's title game between Florida State and Virginia Tech drew 79,000 fans. This year's game couldn't crack the previous low of 67,289 for the Florida State-Ohio State game in 1998.
But Sugar Bowl executive director Paul Hoolahan refused to blame the non-championship game for the drop.
"You keep hearing that," Hoolahan said. "That's what the harpies like to jump on to criticize the BCS. But I think there are a lot of other reasons that come into play."
Miami sold less than 10,000 of the 15,000 tickets both schools were required to take. Florida sold all of theirs.
"You have to also look at our local market," Hoolahan said. "We had LSU in the Peach Bowl and they took 21,000 people with them. The Saints had a playoff game here last week. Both of those things take up discretionary funds, which are already being used at Christmas."
Hoolahan also thought the Tuesday game kept some fans away since it would mean taking additional time off from work or school.
Put me in, coach
Florida coach Steve Spurrier only needed to look over his shoulder to find the one quarterback he really wished he could have started.
Danny Wuerffel, Florida's quarterback when the Gators won their only national title four years ago by beating Florida State in the Sugar Bowl, watched the game from the sideline.
"That was a great, great feeling," Wuerffel said. "That's about as great as a football game can get. When you're a kid you dream about situations, and winning the national championship in the Sugar Bowl doesn't get any better than that."
Wuerffel and his wife, Jennifer, drove 1,000 miles to be at the game. Wuerffel, an unrestricted free agent who played for Green Bay last season, has a home in New Orleans. He's not sure where he will play next season.
The Tim and Joe show
Joe Theismann, the former Washington Redskins quarterback, tossed six passes through a small opening on a mock cell phone Tuesday night, earning $60,000 for Timothy Miller, an account manager at an Ohio computer company.
Theismann and Miller teamed up in the $1 million Nokia halftime contest.
Theismann had 45 seconds to pass footballs through a 25-inch-by-25-inch target, with each successful pass -- up to 10 passes -- worth $10,000. He zipped six of them through.
Miller, of Lebanon, Ohio, followed up Theismann's effort with a single toss that could have increased the prize money to $1 million. His pass hit just below the opening.
With a week in New Orleans before the big game, the Miami players grew bored with playing tourists and settled into their hotel rooms to watch the movie the hotel was broadcasting to their rooms. But those weren't what the team was looking for either.
"It was like `Groundhog Day,'" coach Butch Davis said. "You can only watch it so many times."
So Davis ordered up a new film -- "Gladiator."
"It's a great message movie," Davis said.
The movie showed the importance of teamwork, Davis said.