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It’s a fiesta: Bowl excites Irish fans

Justin Tardiff | Monday, December 5, 2005

Notre Dame learned Sunday it will face Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl Jan. 2, securing a payout of $14.8 million for the University and placing some Notre Dame students from Ohio in a tense tug-of-war between hometown Buckeye pride and a fighting Irish spirit.

The Ohio State University is practically in sophomore Chris Doughty’s backyard. He grew up a loyal Buckeye fan – so passionate that he hated Notre Dame when it looked like the two teams would face each other in a bowl game during his sophomore year of high school.

“This is pretty much the worst thing that’s ever happened to me,” Doughty said. “It was just a dagger in my heart because I’ve been a diehard OSU fan my entire life. I wept when they won the [2002] national championship and now I have to root against them – it’s kind of a big deal.”

He said he might lose friends over it, but after a year and a half under the Dome, there’s no doubt Doughty will be cheering for Notre Dame.

“Hopefully I’m gonna go because it’s not too often that the two teams I would kill for them to play each other,” Doughty said. “Basically I’m going to sell my body – flesh and soul so I can go.”

Notre Dame’s campus was buzzing with BCS chatter Sunday evening as word of Notre Dame’s opponent spread. Sophomore and Ohio native Alexander Harper said he was fielding phone calls from curious Ohio State friends back home after the BCS announcement – all of them wondering who Harper would be cheering for on Jan. 2.

“My heart hurts and I’m torn,” Harper said. “I’ve always been a lifelong Buckeye fan. I gotta choose. It’s tough, I don’t know what to think. I just don’t know if I’m as hardcore as other students here.”

The jury is still out on Harper’s decision. He hadn’t made up his mind as of Sunday evening.

Junior Madison Liddy and sophomore Meagan Fitzpatrick were not aware of the news as they ate in a crowded South Dining Hall Sunday, but were thrilled nonetheless.

“I’m really excited. I know our boys will pull out a victory,” Liddy said. “We always have a chance. I think we have a chance against any team in the United States.”

Liddy, who lives in California, said she will be driving to the game in Tempe, Ariz.

Senior John Duffner said he believes the matchup is a promising one, pitting two of the nation’s best teams together – both with rabid football followers in their wake.

“I think it’s always great when two teams with two [of the] most passionate fan bases in all of college football play each other,” Duffner said. “OSU has done well, they’ve got almost as much tradition, but they’re a distant second to us.”

Notre Dame’s fan base spans the globe. Junior Benoit Huon said he will be watching the game from his home in Paris. He chose to attend Notre Dame because he wanted to watch the football team win a national championship. He said the Fiesta Bowl is close enough.

“I’ll have to try to find an American bar [in Paris],” Benoit said. “I’ll be there from midnight to 4 a.m. watching it. And I’ll wear my ND outfit and I’ll be hootin’ and hollerin’ all the way through the game.”

As the only independent major football program in the country, Notre Dame does not have to share its BCS bowl money with a conference – allowing the University to keep the hefty payout for itself. Executive Vice President John Affleck-Graves has said that any bowl money will likely be spent on academic initiatives.

Specific bowl money distribution discussions should begin by the end of this semester, University spokesman Matt Storin said last month.

According to a University press release, Notre Dame’s ticket allotment is 15,000 tickets and none will be released for public sale.

Ticket information for students planning to travel to the game is expected to be released in an e-mail today.