Notre Dame has fans with dedication second to none

There are thousands of Notre Dame fans traveling to South Florida for the Discover BCS National Championship Game, but the dedication of one Minnesota man stands out above all others.

In November, Dan Scaminace, Notre Dame class of 2005, sent an email to the CEO of Discover, the corporate sponsor of the big game. Scaminace offered to cut up all his other credit cards, donate all his earned cash back dollars to charitable organizations and get a Discover tattoo if the company could get him tickets to the game.

“The CEO personally emailed me back within 12 hours,” Scaminace said, although he didn’t offer him tickets right then. It was about a week later that a company spokesperson called him back with two tickets to the game, plane tickets, a hotel room and VIP passes to pregame events. He didn’t even have to get a real tattoo.

“When they called, I was like putty in their hands,” said Scaminace, who works in sales for a manufacturing company. “I’m not sure my employers would have liked the tattoo, but I would have done anything.”

Scaminace said he has been a Notre Dame fan since elementary school, “and just never grew out of it.”

On Monday, he will join thousands of other Fighting Irish fans to cheer their team as they take on Alabama for the BCS national title.

It’s not just football fanaticism that draws fans to Notre Dame games, said Alumni Association director Dolly Duffy. It’s also a love for the university as a whole.

“We’re blessed to have alumni and fans where we don’t have to ignite their passion, we just get to harness it,” Duffy said.

For the 17,000 tickets allotted to Notre Dame, Duffy said the university had more than 125,000 applications. There are so many people coming without tickets, that the Alumni Associations of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton have planned five watch parties for game day, one of which involves blocking off the street for an expected crowd of 2,000 people.

There will be other watch parties all over the world, sponsored by the university’s 270 international and national alumni associations.

Sports commentators, university officials and ordinary fans will all tell you there is something special about this year’s team. This season is the 125th anniversary of the school’s first football game, and 2013 marks 100 years since Notre Dame beat Army in the historic away game that introduced their football program to the national stage.

This is coach Brian Kelly’s third season with Notre Dame, following five other Notre Dame coaches who won national titles in their third year of coaching. Notre Dame is the only team to have won three national championships in four years — a feat Alabama could also achieve by defeating the Fighting Irish on Monday.

“It’s a combination of factors that makes this a once-in-a-lifetime game,” said John Heisler, associate athletic director. “These are things that are going to be on every fan’s mind.”

Being a Catholic school adds another element of unity to Notre Dame’s alumni base, and the pregame activities will include mass and a service project Sunday. It also helps the university attract students from a wider geographic area than a typical state school.

Heisler said Notre Dame’s football team recently started playing one “home” game every season in another city to give far-flung alumni a chance to attend games. This season, their first game was played against Navy in Dublin, Ireland.

“To start the season in such a welcoming city was wonderful,” said Duffy, the Alumni Association director. “And now to end the season in South Florida, in both cases we feel like people have been so welcoming.”

Scaminace, the loyal Notre Dame fan and Discover card customer, chose to bring his fiancée, Corynn Koch, along for his VIP weekend in South Florida with the Fighting Irish.

“My fiancée jokes that I’m more excited about the game than about our wedding,” Scaminace said, acknowledging there might actually be some truth to that. “She wasn’t really a fan before, but now she’s caught the Notre Dame spirit.”

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