The looming BCS National Championship showdown between Alabama and Notre Dame will surely trigger some sharp fissures among college football fans.
But the rivalry is a little more good-natured for one football-loving Lombard family that finds its loyalties evenly divided.
Jim and Toni Miller have four kids, including a junior at the University of Alabama rooting for the Crimson Tide and a freshman at the University of Notre Dame pulling for the Fighting Irish.
The brothers have developed what Notre Dame student Jimmy calls a “play-it-cool rivalry” that will continue as the family heads to Florida for Monday's big game.
The six members of the Miller family may be half Alabama red and half Notre Dame blue, or half Crimson Tide gray and half Fighting Irish green as they cheer on their team of choice from Sun Life Stadium or a nearby tailgate.
But the message on their specially made shirts, which combine the colors or logos of both schools, says any division the championship game causes won't last long.
“On the back, it says, 'No game can split us apart,'” said Jimmy Miller, a 19-year-old freshman studying chemistry and physics at Notre Dame.
As this year's college football season progressed and Jimmy's Notre Dame built its undefeated record, he and his Alabama brother, Bobby, traded texts and taunts, jokes and jabs about each team's performance.
Neither predicted their squads would face each other for the BCS Championship until the week of Nov. 17, when losses by Oregon and Kansas State cleared the way.
“I was pessimistic after we had our first loss,” said Bobby Miller, a 21-year-old junior physics major at Alabama. “But after that one weekend when Oregon and Kansas State lost, it looked like it was going to happen.”
When the championship matchup was announced, things got even more exciting for the Millers.
“Campus itself just went crazy,” Jimmy said. “Everything was alive — it was an unreal experience.”
Back home in Lombard, the boys' father knew the family, which also includes 23-year-old Jack and 15-year-old Mary Kate, would travel to Florida to be closer to the action.
“That was an immediate decision,” he said. “We were looking at flights right before the Notre Dame-USC game because I knew it was going to explode if they won.”
The family is driving instead of flying, leaving Thursday night for the home of relatives in Fort Lauderdale. A cousin who attends Notre Dame is joining five Miller family members for the ride, while the sixth Miller — Jack — is making the trip with his girlfriend.
With one son on each side of the contest, the Miller parents are using their combination shirts to support both schools at once.
“We're trying to keep it pretty even-keel,” Miller said.
Game tickets will be a last-minute addition to the plan. Miller said the family may wait until a few minutes after the game starts or try buying single tickets in multiple locations to keep the price down.
Being in Florida for the weekend will let the family soak in the atmosphere of beach parties and street tailgates for both schools. While Jimmy roots for Notre Dame and Bobby cheers for Alabama, their father said a tight game probably would do the most to keep everybody happy.
“Hopefully it's a close game so neither team looks embarrassed,” Miller said. “A good clean finish so there's no controversy.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.