SARASOTA - The biggest college bowl game of the year happens Monday night in South Florida as #1 Notre Dame takes on #2 Alabama for the national championship. And a lot of hearts are pounding on the Suncoast as fans get ready for the big game.
A lot of Suncoast fans of the two schools are in Miami for that game, and they're paying a pretty penny -- tickets that usually go for around $350, and are selling for $800 to $3,900, plus another $500 if you want park close to the stadium.
And even at those prices, tickets were hard to get. We spoke to some rabid fans from both universities who'll be watching at home and doing their best to help their school pull out a victory.
Andy Minor, president of the Sarasota Manatee Alabama Alumni Club, and his wife are having folks over to watch the game -- but strict rules apply. "As most Alabama fans will tell you, we want to be focused and listen to that game. We want to hear every commentary, we want to be involved in it, so it's not going to be a wild party, it's going to be a very focused party."
He says this this game is very important in the history of Alabama football. "As an Alabama fan, ‘Bear’ [Bryant] never beat Notre Dame, so that's a big deal. And we haven't played them since we lost in ’85, so I'm excited about playing them again."
And he says Alabama's success on the football field pays off for the whole university.
450 families are members of the local alumni association. One of their jobs is to recruit new students for the university; big wins on the football field make it much easier. “During the Shula years, we had a lot of difficulty recruiting. Since Saban came, we've seen our receptions grow from 40 students to over 250 students."
He predicts Alabama will win 24 to 14.
The Kernan Family in Sarasota go back four generations at Notre Dame. They've had season tickets, they've seen a lot of great victories, but they say the one they expect Monday night -- South Bend to South Beach -- may just be the greatest one of all. "Oh, we've been waiting for it for a long time. When I was in South Bend we won two national championships, in ‘73 and ’77, and the last one was eleven years later in 1988. And it's been 24 years, so to finally bet back to where we feel we belong is wonderful," says Chris Kernan.
Monday night he'll cheer the Irish on with other Sarasota-Manatee Notre Dame alumni. "We are going to have a big watch party with our Notre Dame club out in Lakewood Ranch, and we'll be cheering on the Irish with a Victory."
Also cheering the Irish on at the party will be his daughter Michelle, a 2012 Notre Dame graduate. “I know class of 2011 and 2012 is a little bit bitter, because 2011 had been the worst season in all of Notre Dame history, and then class of 2012 ours was pretty bad too, then we graduate and they're number one."
And she says a BCS Championship will ease that pain. And allow the Riverview High grad is ready to rub it in to her friends who went to Florida and Florida State.
Her dad says it's not just football that brings them pride. "What we're also very proud of is, they're number one in the graduation rate of student athletes in the entire country -- both number one in academics and athletes and in football. They said it couldn't be done…but it can be done.
Football raises a lot of superstitions, but neither Andy Minor nor Chris Kernan are superstitious. However, each of them have a special shirt they plan to wear during the game because they swear it always brings their team victory. We'll see which has the strongest shirt.