The Crimson Tide is rolling strong into South Florida.
Alabama football fans are arriving by the thousands for the BCS National Championship Game at Sun Life Stadium on Monday night.
They’re coming for the football, yes, but also for the sunny weather, the South Beach nightlife and the chance to watch sports history as their team matches up against undefeated Notre Dame.
“I’ll tell you, we had 17,000 tickets to sell and I could have sold 100,000,” said Calvin Brown, Alabama director of alumni affairs.
“The demand is incredible. My phone has rung more than it’s ever rung.”
No. 2 Alabama will meet No. 1 Notre Dame, with the strength of both football teams rivaled only by the enthusiasm of their fans. Football is a religion, a family tradition and a way of life in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
For home games, Alabama fans fill up a stadium that seats 102,000, and even for regular-season away games, Alabama fans “have a tradition and a history of traveling well,” Brown said.
They’re knowledgeable about the game and the players, and experts at putting together the perfect Southern-style tailgate.
For the biggest game in recent history, there are hundreds of people coming without tickets, just to be close to the Crimson energy or praying to the football gods that they’ll get a last-minute ticket.
Gavin Churchill, Alabama class of ’83 and president of the Alabama alumni chapter in Miami, said as many as 500 people have contacted him about viewing parties or “in hopes that something will miraculously change” with ticket availability.
He said there was an original viewing party planned at The Clevelander, but because of overwhelming demand he has also organized game-day events at Shula’s 2 in Miami Lakes, the El Palacio Hotel in Miami and the Lauderdale Yacht Club.
“I’ve gotten phone calls about everything from ‘Where can I park my RV?’ to ‘Where can I get a limo to the game?’ ” Churchill said.
Even in the land of social media, Alabama fans are beating the Notre Dame fans in the days leading up to the big game, according to a Twitter tracker on the Notre Dame athletics website.
As of Thursday, the Crimson Tide had 61 percent of BCS-related tweets compared to 39 percent for the Fighting Irish.
Eighty-four percent of tweets mentioned Alabama coach Nick Saban, compared to 16 percent for Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly.
Although social media is a new way to show Crimson pride, Alabama has a long tradition of football.
The school played its first game in 1892 and won its first bowl game at the Rose Bowl in 1926 under legendary coach Wallace Wade.
The last time Alabama played in Miami was at the Orange Bowl in 1999.
Brown said many of the game-day rituals are “still very Southern and very traditional.”
In addition to the T-shirts and football jerseys, some men will bust out their best crimson polo shirts, and female fans will get dolled up in their crimson and white sun dresses.
The Tide won six national titles under Paul “Bear” Bryant, a winning tradition that fans will represent with their Houndstooth hats.
A winning tradition they hope continues with a third championship under coach Nick Saban.
Brown said this strong foundation in football traditions encourages Alabama fans to be respectful of strong athletic programs at other schools such as Notre Dame.
“You’ll see a lot of mutual admiration,” Brown said. “Folks that go to these bowl games have spent a lot of money, and they’re going to be there to have a good time and see some good football.”