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Friday, March 31, 2023

Go ahead and add another national championship to Florida’s collection.

You might not know it, because the masses didn’t flood University Avenue on Monday afternoon, but that shouldn’t take away from what the UF men’s ultimate team accomplished in Madison, Wis.

Ultimate Frisbee is a niche sport – many college students are familiar with it, but not many sports fans follow it.

It doesn’t receive the glamorous attention of football or basketball. And it’s certainly not even on the same level as soccer – a sport that struggles to catch on with mainstream America – but ultimate combines elements of all of those sports and it requires just as much skill, endurance and hand-eye coordination.

As a result, ultimate has its own unique following.

In Monday’s 15-12 win over Carleton College, a small liberal arts school in Northfield, Minn., there was a standing-room-only crowd to witness the defending national champion Carleton, one of the sport’s most liked teams, take on one of the sport’s most hated teams (Florida).

UF struck first blood on a score by Brodie Smith, one of the team’s leaders, and never trailed in the game.

Despite never falling behind, Florida was threatened on several occasions in a back-and-forth game that saw three ties and a second-half rally from Carleton to knot the score at 9-9 after trailing 9-6 early in the second half.

After a score by Carleton that would have given it its first lead of the game at 10-9 was called back on a travel, Florida took over again, scoring three consecutive times, and wouldn’t look back.

Led by ten assists from Smith and six scores from Cole Sullivan, Florida took home its second national title – the first was in 2006 – and celebrated on the field in front of a very pro-Carleton crowd that booed UF on several occasions.

Florida, which one of the announcers remarked “doesn’t have the best reputation in the ultimate community,” played the role of villain and spoiled Carleton’s bid at back-to-back titles.

It was a fitting championship, really.

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The Ultimate Players Association just recently rebranded itself as USA Ultimate to make the sport more marketable to prospective fans – complete with CBS College Sports Network coverage and a live webcast of the championship game.

And really, what in sports is more marketable, aside from maybe an underdog story, than having the good guys take on the bad guys on the sport’s biggest stage?

So while UF will bask in the glory of taking home its second national title, and rightfully so, USA Ultimate also won on Monday with its attempt at making the sport more mainstream.

Now maybe the next time Florida adds a USA Ultimate College Championship to its trophy case, more people will be aware of it, and while unlikely, we might just see some students rush University Avenue in celebration.

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