Utah athletics director Chris Hill liked what he saw on the streets of Salt Lake City. Friday afternoon's parade to honor the Utes for their 13-0 season added to the sweetness of the team's 31-17 win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
"It was a little overwhelming today," Hill said. "I was just overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and enthusiasm."
Thousands of fans and well-wishers lined the route along State Street, beginning at Eagle Gate and concluding at Washington Square.
"It was a tremendous celebration," Hill said. "It was just a great outpouring for the team, and I was just thrilled to be part of it."
Hill was among several dignitaries to speak at a post-parade rally to honor the nation's only unbeaten team. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, Mountain West Conference Commissioner Craig Thompson, quarterback Brian Johnson and kicker Louie Sakoda were the sports figures in a group that included politicians and University of Utah President Michael K. Young.
"It was a great showing today," Hill said. "We were really excited."
The celebration was Utah's first in Salt Lake City since winning the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on Jan.
2. More activities are planned for Saturday. From 2-3:30 p.m., fans are invited to a "meet-and-greet" event with the football team at the HPER East gym.
At halftime of the men's basketball game between the Utes and Colorado State in the Huntsman Center, which tips off at 4 p.m., the team will be introduced to the crowd, and the Mountain West Conference and Sugar Bowl championship trophies will be presented.
At 7 p.m., Ch. 13 will rebroadcast Utah's win over Alabama.
"Sometimes it's important to make sure you get to enjoy what you've accomplished — take a step back and reflect on what's transpired over the past couple of weeks," Hill said. "It's been wonderful."
Johnson, who was named the Most Outstanding Player in the Sugar Bowl, agrees.
"It was a lot of hard work, a lot of effort," he said. "We're all excited about it, and we're happy to celebrate it."
Johnson added that the magnitude of Utah's success, which includes a No. 2 national ranking at season's end, is starting to sink in.
"Obviously it's a huge accomplishment for us. It's something we earned, and I think a lot of guys are really excited about it," he said. "I think you never get old or tired of being 13-0."
The two-day celebration is especially meaningful because many Utah fans were unable to travel to New Orleans for the big game.
"It's fun. A lot of people couldn't make the trip because of the economic situation and everything," Johnson said. "So it'll be good to celebrate in the state and ride it all the way out."