View Header

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary


For Immediate Release March 27, 1997
                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                            AT EVENT FOR THE 
                  UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA FOOTBALL TEAM

The East Room

5:55 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: President and Mrs. Lombardi, Athletic Director Foley, Mayor Jennings, Congresswoman Thurman -- I know what a happy day this is for you. Senator Breaux, we're glad to see you here. Senator Breaux thinks he represents anyplace that's perpetually warm. (Laughter.) We're honored to have you here.

Let me say, when Coach Spurrier and Danny and I walked in I was hoping, when I hobbled in, that one of you might mistake me for a member of the team who just had a rough time in the bowl game. (Laughter.) But I remembered that a few years ago, Danny had a little knee injury, and if I come back from mine as well as he did from his, my future is secure, I think.

I am delighted to be here with you. I look forward to these occasions every year, but I especially want to congratulate you on a wonderful season and an astonishing championship game. The 32-point margin of victory, I'm sure all of you know, against the number one ranked team is the largest in bowl history and something that the University of Florida can always be very proud of. (Applause.)

I'd also note -- it's somewhat difficult for me to note this, being from Arkansas, but every year I've been President Florida has won the Southeastern Conference championship. (Laughter.) I was impressed not only by the stars on the team -- by Danny Wuerffel and Ike Hilliard, and by the fact that Terry Jackson joined his brother, Willy, in Sugar Bowl history by rushing for over 100 yards -- I was impressed by the teamwork of this team.

And I have followed college football very closely for nearly 40 years now, and I really believe that the University of Florida, in the last five or six years, has written a whole new chapter in college football in much the way that Oklahoma did a few decades ago with the wishbone. You have changed football forever and for the better. It is more exciting than it has ever been before, and you do it better than anyone else.

I know that this national championship was a special triumph for Steve Spurrier because when he played for the Gators, he won the Heisman Trophy. He came back as a coach to have many successes, but there is no success like winning the national championship and doing it for your alma mater after so many efforts and so many fine performances, and, frankly, when it doesn't come so easily, when you have to keep fighting for it -- even sometimes when you think it's not quite fair must make it all the sweeter.

I've also been in a position of having to try to defeat someone who once beat me for something I cared a great deal about, and that makes it a little better, too. (Laughter.) So again, let me say it's a great honor to have you in the White House. I know I'm too old to play for this team, but don't hold my injury against me.

Coach Spurrier, the floor is yours. Thank you. (Applause.)

COACH SPURRIER: Thank you, Mr. President, for those kind words. I really appreciate it, and I'm sure our players do, also. And I do agree that the teamwork and the team camaraderie and the way I think our guys really care about each other was a big reason for our success these past few years.

On behalf of our coaches and players and all of our travel party, we want to thank you for this invitation to come up here to the White House and visit Washington, and also thank the White House staff. They've done a wonderful job showing us around, and I'm sure it will continue throughout the day.

We have a presentation to make to you -- Danny Wuerffel is going to do it in a minute -- not only signifying that the Gators are number one this past year, but also that we think you, President Clinton, do a super job, excellent job, as good as anybody does, of running our country, and that you're number one also with the Gators.

So, Danny, come on up. (Applause.)

MR. WUERFFEL: Again, we would just like to thank everyone here in Washington for making it such a memorable trip to come up here. It's been a special time. It's been a special season for all of us Gators the way that the team came together, and teamwork is really something that is stressed so much in America as our forefathers put together a government that worked on team and the team concept.

So, on behalf of our team, we would like to present you with this Gator jersey, Mr. President.

(The jersey is presented.) (Applause.)

COACH SPURRIER: I don't know if you can wear that jogging or not.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I can. Thank you. Move that out of here so we can take a good picture of this.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 6:00 P.M. EST