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TV blackout lifted even though Citrus Bowl won’t sell out

December 31, 1996

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ Citrus Bowl officials lifted a local television blackout for Wednesday’s game between No. 9 Tennessee and No. 11 Northwestern even though it won’t be a sellout for the first time in four years.

Chuck Ogilvie, president of Florida Citrus Sports, said Tuesday that about 62,000 seats have been purchased after Gatorade bought a block of 1,000 for distribution to underprivileged children in the Orlando area.

The Citrus Bowl, sponsored by CompUSA, normally has a capacity of 72,000, but seating was reduced to 66,000 when officials decided not to install portable seats in the north end zone.

``We will probably have some sort of walk-up gate,″ Ogilvie said. ``I expect we will be within 1,000 or less of a complete sellout. When you get that close, it’s not even worth worrying about. The stadium will be full.″

The lack of a sellout can be attributed mostly to a reduced demand from Tennessee fans, who apparently have grown weary of making the trip to Orlando. The Vols have been in the game three of the last four years.

Tennessee sold 23,000 tickets for the 1994 game and 18,900 for last year’s Citrus Bowl. This year, the Vols were required to take a minimum of 12,000 tickets as the Southeastern Conference representative, but they reportedly failed to sell the entire allotment.

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HOUSE OF STYLE: Northwestern quarterback Steve Schnur goes along with the theory that the Southeastern Conference has a different style of play than the Big Ten.

The Wildcats have won back-to-back championships in the Big Ten, while Tennessee is perenially one of the SEC’s strongest teams.

``Watching the SEC, they do play a different style of football,″ Schnur said. ``We learned that last year when we played Southern Cal (in the Rose Bowl). They play a different style of football out there, too. It’s not better or worse or anything like that. It’s just different.″

So what stands out about the SEC?

``Their biggest strong point is their athleticism and speed,″ Schnur said.

But Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer doesn’t expect to see much of a difference when the two 9-2 teams take the field Wednesday.

``There’s been a lot made about the physical play of the Big Ten and the speed of the Southeastern Conference,″ he said. ``But I think you’ve got two good teams. Both have size and speed and ability.″

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LITTLE ON THE MEND: Leonard Little, the most valuable defensive player in the last Citrus Bowl, will have to watch this year’s game from the sideline.

Little tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee against South Carolina, ending the season of Tennessee’s most dominating defensive player.

``It’s been hard because you want to be in there,″ said Little, who led a Volunteers defense that forced Ohio State into three turnovers in last year’s 20-14 Citrus victory. ``I think I’d feel worse if they were struggling and I knew it was because I wasn’t there to help.″

Despite losing Little and two other starters on the line, Tennessee still led the Southeastern Conference in defense and ranked fifth nationally.

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WHY’D WE CHOOSE BLACK: Northwestern is the designated home team for Wednesday’s game, so the Wildcats had their choice of uniforms.

Naturally, coach Gary Barnett picked the normal home uniforms _ black jerseys and purple pants _ but now he wonders if that was a smart move. The game-time temperature at the Citrus Bowl is expected to in the low 80s, with the humidity making it feel even hotter.

``If I’d known it was going to be 99 degrees down here, we would have worn our white jerseys,″ Barnett joked.

To cope with the unseasonably warm temperatures _ even for central Florida _ Barnett has brought in air conditioning machines that will help his players stay cool on the sideline.

Tennessee isn’t used to the hot weather, either. The Vols were forced to work out indoors for their final two practices in Knoxville as a bitter cold front moved through the Southeast a few days before Christmas.

``We’ve used our time down here to get in some extra conditioning after practice,″ coach Phillip Fulmer said.

But at least Tennessee will get to wear its white uniforms.

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