ESPN Heading to The Swamp on Thursday

The University of Florida's back-to-back NCAA men's basketball national championships (2006 and 2007), 2006 BCS National Championship and 2007 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Tim Tebow have contributed to making Gainesville, Fla., one of 20 finalists for the designation of ESPN's "TitleTown USA."

As part of the process, an ESPN crew will travel to Gainesville to feature the Gators on Thursday, July 10, outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

ESPN college football sideline reporter and University of Florida graduate Erin Andrews will travel to Gainesville to interview Tebow on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. The University of Florida cheerleaders and UF mascots Albert and Alberta will greet fans and participate in the pep rally-style event in the set location outside the North End Zone normally reserved for ESPN's College GameDay during the college football season. The ESPN shoot is open to the public and is scheduled to conclude by 3 p.m. Fans are encouraged to park in lot adjacent to the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. Gainesville will be the featured "TitleTown USA" city during both the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. editions of SportsCenter on Monday, July 14.

"TitleTown USA" is an interactive and multimedia effort to determine which city, town or municipality is America's top championship location. A panel of judges narrowed down fan-generated nominations to 20 finalists; ultimately, online voting by fans will determine the nation's top sports town. Gainesville was announced June 10 on SportsCenter as a finalist and is going up against other cities as small as Parkersburg, W.Va., and as large as New York.

"‘TitleTown USA' is a platform for fans to celebrate their town and the love they have for their teams and sports," said Glenn Jacobs, ESPN senior coordinating producer. "ESPN's visit to Gainesville is a celebration of the great tradition that exists within the University of Florida athletic program, from the football and men's basketball teams which both captured National Championships in 2006 to the many other Gator programs that have produced championships and world-class athletes."

Gainesville is the home of the University of Florida, which has won 22 team sport national championships, 180 SEC championships in various sports and produced 209 individual national champions. Seventy-six medals have been earned by students from UF in the Olympics, including 39 gold-medal winners. In addition, three players in Florida history have claimed college football's coveted Heisman Trophy, including Tebow, who made history as the first sophomore to win the award and will vie for the honor again this fall as the Gators' starting signal-caller.

One of the highlights of the recent U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials was the performance of former Gator Dara Torres, who made history as the first swimmer to qualify for five Olympic Games. After recording a lifetime best swim in the 100-meter freestyle semifinals (53.76), the 41-year-old raced her way to a first-place finals finish (53.78) in the event. Torres additionally reset the American and meet records in semifinals of 50-meter free (24.38), which previously belonged to her, but were broken in prelims and again in the first heat of semifinals of the event on day seven. Torres turned in a first-place swim in the finals with a time of 24.25 to reset the American record for the eighth time.

Joining Torres in Beijing to represent the Orange and Blue is 2008 graduate Caroline Burckle. Tabbed the NCAA Swimmer of the Year for her successes during the 2007-08 season, Burckle qualified in the 200 free and will swim as a member of the 4x200-meter freestyle relay team. UF great Ryan Lochte, who claimed both a gold and a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics, qualified for Beijing in three individual events, including the 400-meter IM, 200-meter IM and 200-meter backstroke. Nine other athletes with UF ties will represent other countries in the swimming competition at the Olympics.

Seven different athletes with Gator ties have qualified in track and field: Hazel Clark (US – 800m), Kerron Clement (US – 400IH), Kristin Heaston (US – shot put), Mariam Kevkhishvili (Georgia – shot put), Tiandra Ponteen (St. Kitts – 400m), Calvin Smith (US – 4x400m) and Novlene Williams-Mills (Jamaica – 400m). In addition, former Florida All-Americans Heather Mitts and Abby Wambach are members of the United States' women's soccer team that will seek gold in Beijing.

SportsCenter "TitleTown USA" Remaining Timeline, Guidelines and Criteria:

Friday, July 4 – Wednesday, July 23
* The SportsCenter "TitleTown USA" tour: Daily segments with a SportsCenter anchor or reporter will originate from a "TitleTown" finalist town beginning in Green Bay (July 4). The daily SportsCenter segments will showcase athletic achievements and the teams and people who have contributed to that town's success in sports. They will also explore the unique nexus between each town's sports teams and its fans.

Wednesday, July 23 – Saturday, July 26
* At the conclusion of the tour, fans vote for which city, town or municipality should be declared "TitleTown USA."

Sunday, July 27
* Live announcement of "TitleTown USA" on SportsCenter including presence from the winning town.

Courtesy UF Sports Information

Fightin Gators Top Stories