By Jonathan Deal
The first week of January has become the annual vacation period for one lucky college football fan base. Three out of the last four January’s, Alabama fans have flocked to Pasadena, New Orleans and now Miami to watch the Tide play for a national championship.
This year is no different with Alabama set to defend its title against another college football power in Notre Dame. Several Limestone County residents traveled to South Beach in what has become an annual trip for Tide fans.
“I’ve been to all of them,” said East Limestone resident Donnie Story. “In ’92, Pasadena, New Orleans and I’m going to this one. I’m lucky that my wife enjoys going as much as I do.”
Story and his wife Kaine were scheduled to fly to Miami Saturday night and meet a group of friends in South Beach for the game. Story is an Alabama alumnus where he was a trainer for the football team from 1987-91.
Story said he and his wife attend about 10 games per season and have attended all of Alabama’s SEC championship games. After more than 25 years attending Alabama football games, Story realizes how special these past few years have been.
“We are on a run that we may not see ever again,” Story said. “So as long as we’re on this run, I’m going to keep going to the games.”
He’s not the only one. Athens resident Travis Pepper is just as dedicated, attending all of Alabama’s home games as well as most of the away trips. Pepper said he missed the away games at LSU and Arkansas this year, the first games he’s missed in four years.
“This year I had to miss a few games,” Pepper said. “Before that, I hadn’t missed a road game since November 2008. I like going to road games more than home games. I picked it up pretty hard around the time I went to college. I’ve been going to almost every game since then.”
Like Story, Pepper is a season-ticket holder and was able to purchase the BCS Championship tickets at face value. For non-season ticket holders, the cheapest seat in Sun Life Stadium was $975 as of Friday, according to Stubhub.com.
Attending postseason championship games has become a tradition for Pepper, who went to Pasadena in ’09 and New Orleans last year.
“We started looking before the SEC championship, kind of gauging what our budgets needed to be,” Pepper said. “We waited this time, maybe a little too long and booked our trip about two weeks ago.”
Delta, who normally does not run direct flights from Birmingham to Miami, added a special flight Saturday night for Alabama fans. And it came with a special flight number — Delta Flight 42 — the number for star running back Eddie Lacy.
Alabama and Notre Dame kickoff activities begin at 7 p.m. CST Monday on ESPN.