Parade commemorates perfect season

By Rochelle McConkie, News Editor

Salt Lake City never had so much fun.

Following Friday’s parade celebrating the Utah football team’s 13-0 season and BCS-busting Sugar Bowl victory Jan. 2, thousands of Utah fans turned Washington Square into a sea of red, tossing fistfuls of sugar and chanting, “We’re number one!” Coaches, players and local government leaders revelled in the perfect season and challenged the Bowl Championship Series for what they argued to be the Utes’ natural right to the national champion title.

Utah Congressman Jim Matheson called the BCS a “bogus, corrupt system” and Mountain West Conference Commissioner Craig Thompson told fans, “Do yourself a favor8212;get rid of “BCS buster’ and call yourself a BCS regular.”

Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. told the cheering audience that he was thinking about calling the governor of Florida to tell him that the U could offer the University of Florida football team some “friendly competition,” to which U head coach Kyle Whittingham accepted the challenge, saying, “Utes versus Gators, neutral site, winner take all.”

Huntsman proclaimed the entire month of January “Utah Utes month,” calling Utah the “greatest state in America.”

Utah Senate President Michael Waddoups, a self-proclaimed fan of Brigham Young University, invited the team to be recognized on the floor of the Utah Legislature. U President Michael Young said Waddoups had a “conversion experience” and presented him with a red tie to replace his blue one and a Utah sweatshirt, which Waddoups said he will wear every day during the Senate session.

Enough Utah fans flocked downtown to fill State Street from South Temple to 500 South. Another large contingency waited for the culminating celebration at the Salt lake City and County Building with the rest of the fans lined the streets becoming the parade’s caboose after it passed.

To sustained cheers and an explosion of red and white confetti, Whittingham thanked fans for their constant support, saying that the best part of Rice-Eccles Stadium during every game is the MUSS section. Members of the MUSS marched in the parade from the Eagle Gate to the city and county building behind the players, coaches and marching band.

Players and coaches made their way down the procession in open-topped jeeps and convertibles, while others simply walked behind and soaked in the cheers while passing out celebratory beads and commemorative pins.

Senior quarterback Brian Johnson, who was named the Sugar Bowl’s most outstanding player, also thanked fans and coaches.

“I am a Utah man and I love the Utah Utes,” Johnson said.

Kicker “King” Louie Sakoda, as Whittingham introduced him, also spoke and attributed the team’s success to the loyal fan base.

Young praised the team for its “great football and extraordinary character.”

“I’d be just as proud of them if they were 0-13… but I’m glad they’re 13-0,” Young said.

The last time Salt Lake City held a parade for a sports team was when the 1997-1998 Utah basketball team finished as runner-up to Kentucky in the NCAA National Championship in April of 1998.

[email protected]