For the first time since Sugar Ray performed in 2003, UF's Gator Growl will feature a musical performance.
During a halftime announcement at UF's football game Saturday, Shelley Meyer - wife of UF football Coach Urban Meyer and host of Gator Growl - said Southern-rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd will perform at UF's annual pep rally.
The 84th installment of Gator Growl, billed as the largest student-run pep rally in the world, will take place Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Aron Weingard, Gator Growl producer, said his staff wanted to shift away from the two-comedian format the rally had used in recent years.
The challenge was finding a musical act that held appeal across several generations, Weingard said.
"It's really hard to find a musical act for Gator Growl because you have 15-year-olds to 85-year-olds," Weingard said. "We believe we met that challenge with Lynyrd Skynyrd."
The band will receive ,150,000 for the performance. It will perform for about 40 minutes after headlining comedian Frank Caliendo, who is receiving ,50,000 for his act.
Weingard said talks with the band began about a month ago but were just finalized within the last week.
He said he expects ticket sales to pick up after the announcement.
When asked if he was a fan of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Weingard asked, "Who isn't?"
"They're timeless," he said.
The announcement came just days after Gator Growl producers introduced Verizon Wireless as its corporate sponsor for the 2007 and 2008 productions, giving Gator Growl ,112,500 over those two years.
Verizon has the option to continue its sponsorship in 2009 and 2010, which could give the rally more than ,250,000 over four years.
Weingard said ,50,000 will be used this year. A portion of that money will help pay for Lynyrd Skynyrd while the rest will go toward improved sound and lighting equipment.
Gator Growl has been pursuing corporate sponsorships for about four years, Weingard said, but the largest donation until now was ,5,000.
He said Verizon approached his staff with an offer in late June.
Aside from sponsorships, the rally makes money through ticket and T-shirt sales.
Weingard said the deal was unrelated to the rally's past financial troubles.
In 2002, Student Government had to give the rally nearly ,200,000 because students had not bought enough tickets. SG spent about ,140,000 subsidizing 15,000 student tickets, though its initial plan called for spending ,340,000.