As the Florida Gators found out in the past, the allure of Bourbon Street can be strong, and it can be game-changing when it comes to the outcome of the Sugar Bowl.
In 1991, the Gators celebrated their first SEC championship with what amounted to a week-long party on Bourbon Street. The Gators had a good time, apparently figuring all they had to do was show up against a heavy underdog in Notre Dame. But UF came into the game flat (and maybe a little hungover), and the Irish came in jacked up and ready to make a statement, which they did in a 39-28 domination of the Gators.
UF spent a little bit too much time on Bourbon Street again in 2000. That resulted in about a dozen players getting involved in a much-publicized shoving match with numerous Miami players one night. There is no record on who won that fight, but the Gators fell to the Hurricanes a few nights later 37-20.
Going to the Sugar Bowl (or any bowl for that matter) is the reward for a successful season. The players are supposed to have some fun and enjoy the experience of spending time in a different city and environment. But they also have to keep their focus on football and getting ready for a game.
As history has shown us, the team that comes into a bowl game flat usually gets its butt beat pretty soundly.
Several UF players reiterated Friday that this is a business trip for the Gators, and their mission isn’t to party but to win a football game to finish with a 12-1 record.
Bourbon Street is within walking distance of the Florida team hotel, and players have been down there and plan to go (at least for a while) in the coming days and nights. But the allure doesn’t seem quite as strong as it was for the 1991 and 2000 UF teams.
The Gators planned to go bowling Friday night (not exactly party stuff). Senior Lerentee McCray said he was going to Bourbon Street on Friday night, but he was going early and the only reason he was going was to get some good Louisiana gumbo.
Here’s the rule: It’s OK to visit Bourbon Street. But don’t go too often or stay too long.