Before a carload of Miami fans headed off to New Orleans and the 2001 Sugar Bowl, the Hurricanes fans spent about 24 hours enjoying everything Biloxi has to offer. According to Miami fan Blair Mrachek, Biloxi was "cheaper, a little closer, not as far a drive." His pal Tom Romano said he chose Biloxi because it has "gambling. And I like to gamble."
As for the Florida fans who stayed on the coast before the game, they have no doubt who will win the Sugar Bowl showdown. "Gators of course," said one fan. "Hands down." The Florida faithful proudly wore their orange and blue as they wandered through some Biloxi casinos. According to Sharon Wygal, "We like the idea of gambling a little bit. And it was fun to just get away and have kind of an inexpensive holiday."
Yet even though fans from the two Florida teams had to drive right through the coast to get to the game -- and even though signs offer some Sugar Bowl deals -- people in the coast tourism industry say the Sugar Bowl has not been the sweet deal that hotels and casinos expected. Casino executive Rich Westfall said, "We haven't seen that much this year. It was a bit of a surprise to me because of what we have seen in the past."
The fans who did stay in Biloxi had a good time. "In fact," Gators fan Tom Swisshelm said, "we're going to go to the game and come back here again tonight instead of staying in New Orleans."
So you can expect to see a few more Gator and Hurricane flags riding through the coast after the Sugar Bowl game is over.