Daughter, dad united by BCS rivalry

dmitchell@ledger-enquirer.comJanuary 6, 2013 

MIAMI-- Jim and Jill Sholtis' attire got a few looks and even a couple of questions in the airport on their way to Miami for the BCS national title game on Saturday.

They're like any other fan who made the 600-mile trek to South Beach, of course.

Both are big college football fans, both were excited about spending a couple days in Miami and both are hoping beyond all hope that their team comes out on top tonight.

Therein lies the rub, however.

Jill, Jim's daughter and a graduate of Columbus High, is a sophomore at the University of Alabama. Jim is a native of central Illinois and a lifelong Notre Dame fan.

"My attachment to Alabama has been just within the last two years when she went to school there," Jim said. "I've really grown to appreciate them. Going to see a game at Bryant-Denny Stadium is an incredible experience.

"But I'm a Notre Dame fan. I always have been."

The fact that they're both in south Florida to cheer on their respective teams this week is a matter of some surprise.

Call it the luck of the Irish, perhaps.

A year ago, when the Crimson Tide, traveled to New Orleans, La., to play for the national title against LSU, Jill expressed her wishes to go to the game. Jim, earnestly, told her that he thought she'd get another chance to see Alabama in the big game before she graduated.

"I didn't really expect to have to follow through so quickly, though," Jim joked.

But when Alabama sat at 9-0 in early November, however, Jim decided he'd better start looking into tickets.

He found a premium sports travel package that was contingent on the team going. In other words, if Alabama didn't make it, he wouldn't have to pay a dime.

It sounded like a good deal, so he pulled the trigger. Four days later, Alabama lost.

"I couldn't believe it," Jim said. "They even sent me an email saying that it was possible that Alabama could still make it, but I was welcome to go ahead and get my deposit back. We decided to hang on to it, though."

It was a good thing. In a different part of the country, Notre Dame kept winning. It was undefeated and ranked No. 3 in the country when the biggest night of the 2012 college football season took place.

No. 1 Oregon and No. 2 Kansas State lost on Nov. 17, pushing the Fighting Irish to No. 1 and re-opening the door for Alabama to go to the national title game.

"At that moment, I said, 'Oh my, God. Notre Dame and Alabama may play each other for the national title," Jim said.

When Alabama finished its climb back into the title game with a 32-28 win over Georgia in the Southeastern Conference title game, Jim was thrilled.

Not as thrilled as Jill, however.

"I got a call from my dad," Jill said. "He usually texts me after the game to say, 'Good game,' or something. But that day he called, and I knew. I asked him, 'Dad, are we going to the national championship?' When he said yes, I just screamed."

Jill is admittedly a huge football fan. She went to every Columbus game in high school, but said that was more of a social event. When she got to Alabama, though, it became a family, and the games were an incredible shared experience.

And even though they won't be cheering for the same teams, the trip to Miami is sure to be an incredible experience to share with her dad, she said.

"It's exciting for me to have this opportunity, especially with my dad," Jill said. "We're a really close family. We try to do things together. Now, we're all pretty grown up. We don't get the same family time we used to have. So, to be able to come back and have this time with him, it's nice to be able to savor it while I can."

The niceties between the two of them will last, even after kickoff tonight.

Neither would guarantee they wouldn't talk a little smack to other opposing fans, though.

"I'm definitely rooting hard for Notre Dame," Jim said. "I'll be wearing my Irish shirt, no question."

Jill went ahead and got a little trash talk out of the way early.

"I'm happy Notre Dame is coming to play, and good job to them," Jill said with a laugh. "But, roll Tide 'til I die. It's going to be a blowout."

Her dad corrected her.

"It's 'roll Irish.'"

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