NEW ORLEANS (AP) -While taxis lined up at downtown hotels to shuttle football fans to Louis Armstrong International Airport, the Sugar Bowl's chief executive turned his attention to the rebuilding city that hosted college football's national championship.
``The city came together in a way that makes me truly proud,'' Paul Hoolahan said Tuesday. ``It was a challenge that was sent out to everybody top to bottom, from the shoeshine man to the person at the very top. Everybody met that challenge and I think exceeded expectations.
``It's an important statement to the country the New Orleans is back and ready to perform and put on the classic big-time college events that we're known for.''
When Hurricane Katrina swamped much of the city in August 2005, displacing hundreds of thousands of residents and tearing up the Louisiana Superdome, the Sugar Bowl was forced to temporarily move operations to Atlanta, which hosted the game that season.
Meanwhile, contractors worked around the clock for about nine months to get the Superdome ready for the return of the NFL's New Orleans Saints for the 2006 season. That allowed the Sugar Bowl, which started in 1934, to return to New Orleans last season as well.
The first one back in New Orleans, which also featured an LSU victory, was deemed a success, although not everything went as smoothly as Hoolahan would have liked. Back then, employers were still having trouble getting fully staffed because of a housing crunch caused by Katrina's widespread devastation.
Hoolahan said last year's event was understaffed, but that improved substantially this year. Meanwhile, the areas of the city in which the Sugar Bowl operates, from practice facilities at Tulane University in uptown New Orleans, to the downtown hotels, to the restaurants of the French Quarter, all are in arguably as good or better shape now than they were before the storm.
The BCS national championship game, which rotates among the four BCS bowl committees, gave New Orleans an opportunity to demonstrate that the images of still-rotting flood-damaged homes in some of the hardest-hit neighborhoods do not alone define the city.
Many of the historic parts of town cherished by residents and tourists alike are brimming with success stories of rebuilt homes and businesses, the results of resilient people who cared too much about a unique place to let it wither away without a fight.
On the eve of the game, Antoine's, a renowned French Quarter restaurant that has been around since 1840 and still lists menu items in French, made an exception to its normal practice of closing on Sunday nights.
It was packed for dinner with people gazing in wonder at its antique chandeliers and elaborate crown molding adorned with carved fleur-de-lis, an old symbol of French royalty that also became the symbol of New Orleans. They dined on dishes like Oysters Rockefeller, which was invented at Antoine's, indulged in desserts like baked Alaska and otherwise immersed themselves in the refined, old-world cultural richness that distinguishes New Orleans from many other places in North America.
When it was time to play football on Monday night, a Superdome-record crowd of 79,280 jammed a stadium that has never looked better.
``New Orleans did it in New Orleans style and New Orleans fashion,'' Hoolahan said. ``It was really a litmus test, as you know, and we know the eyes of the country were on us. ... Great credit goes out to the entire community.''
Yet there were still signs of the hurricane's aftermath.
Soon after the game was over, temporary workers moved in to start cleaning up the spilled beer and nacho cheese left behind.
``I think we're still going through a disaster,'' said Kalvin McCrimmon, cleaning up for $8 an hour. A roofer by trade, McCrimmon said many rebuilding jobs have been taken by out-of-town firms, or Latino immigrants willing to accept working conditions and pay he will not.
``Things like this game help the city. In some ways it helps me,'' he said, explaining that a lack of better jobs had driven him to the clean up crew for the first time. ``But instead of taking the jobs we can do, we're taking what we can get.''

Associated Press reporter John Moreno Gonzales contributed to this story.

Recent NCAAF Discussions

Betting the 2017 NFL Draft on Tue, Apr 2017 by Blade
NFL Draft Preview on Tue, Apr 2017 by Blade
2017 Heisman Odds on Wed, Mar 2017 by Blade
College / NBA today on Sun, Mar 2017 by TtomBoBadly
SNOW on Tue, Mar 2017 by Michael Cash

NCAAF Headlines

  • ROME (AP) Jim Harbaugh stood with a megaphone, his team at his back, in front of more than a thousand spectators, some sporting maize and blue.
    He thanked the Italians in attendance for their...
  • (STATS) - FCS players are supposed to be undersized compared to their FBS counterparts, but they're not all that way.
    The Houston Texans drafted one of the exceptions on Saturday, selecting Bu...
  • FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Arkansas star running back Rawleigh Williams has been removed from the field after an injury during the team's final spring practice.
    The nature of the injury was not ...
  • (STATS) - Most FCS players usually hope just to make an NFL roster. About 16 hours apart, Eastern Washington's Cooper Kupp and Samson Ebukam did better than that - they got to remain teammates.
  • (STATS) - FCS players selected in the 2017 NFL Draft (through three rounds):
    Kansas City Chiefs (2nd round, 59th overall selection) - Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE, Villanova
    St. Louis Rams (3rd, ...

NCAAF Top Stories

Thumbnail 2017 Heisman Trophy Odds There are plenty of candidates for the 2017 Heisman Trophy. Here is a look at the favorites entering the summer.
Thumbnail UCLA vs. Texas A&M Odds Texas A&M and UCLA will have one of the featured meetings during the opening weekend of college football....

NCAAF Team Pages