Everybody knows that football rules in the South.
But in this year’s BCS title game between the No.1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide, the commonly-used phrase “football is a religion” takes on an all-new meaning.
Just ask Ernest Hauk, principal of Sacred Heart, a Catholic school here in Cullman.
“I live in the South, but I support Notre Dame,” he said. “However, there’s no way I could support them in this game.”
In fact, when asked if he’d be voicing his support for the Tide in the title game, Hauk answered with a laugh, “Absolutely.”
Along with ‘Bama and Notre Dame, Hauk supports Penn State and Auburn, well, expect for when they are playing Alabama.
“I have strong feelings for those teams,” Hauk said. “But Alabama is my number one.”
Hauk and his wife, a faculty member at the University of Alabama, are hoping to attend this year’s game, but won’t know until later if they’ll be able to.
As far as a prediction goes, Hauk’s was that of the minority.
“I think we can pull it out,” he said. “But I don’t think it will be a blowout or a shutout. I think Alabama will win 24-21.”
Another Notre Dame tie comes from Father Kevin McGrath, who is now at St. Bernard, but was a pastor at Sacred Heart for 14 years prior to leaving.
McGrath graduated from Notre Dame in the ‘70s with a Master’s in theology.
“I’ve always been an Irish fan,” he said. “Especially after I graduated.”
McGrath said he wears a Notre Dame T-shirt all the time and also sports a “#1 Notre Dame fan” car tag.
“I get a lot of kidding about it, but I can give as good as I get,” McGrath said.
One instance McGrath provided was a lunch a couple of weeks ago where someone noticed his tag and quipped, ‘I want to get that car towed.’ McGrath jokingly responded with, ‘That’s got to be a good guy.’
“We enjoy kidding each other about it,” he added.
McGrath said he won’t make it to Miami this year for the game, but will be watching it from his home.
Notre Dame holds the all-time advantage 5-1 over the Tide, including a ‘73 Sugar and a ‘74 Orange Bowl, both of which potentially cost Alabama another national title.
“After 40 years, they are finally playing in a bowl game again,” McGrath said. “This should be a great matchup between the two teams. I am looking forward to it, that’s for sure.”
Both Hauk and McGrath have lived the rivalry for years, but just because one hasn’t lived it doesn’t make it any less important.
St. Bernard’s Bennett Glasscock, who participated in the state swimming and diving meet this past week, holds a Presidential Scholarship from Alabama, but is holding out hope for a Notre Dame scholarship offer.
Although he’d be glad to attend Notre Dame, Glasscock made no bones about who he’d be rooting for on Jan. 7.
“I’ll be pulling for Bama, definitely,” he said. “It’s a little conflicting, but I won’t know about my scholarship until after the game has been played.”
Unlike Hauk, Glasscock doesn’t see it being a close game.
“Honestly, I think Alabama is going to give them a pretty big crushing,” he said. “I don’t think it’ll be close.”
‰ Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 258 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.