GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Like many Auburn fans before Monday’s BCS championship game, Jimmy Thompson was unsure whether his flight back to the snowy South would depart as scheduled.
Unlike most of his fellow Tigers, however, Thompson didn’t mind the idea of being delayed in Phoenix. On one condition -- that he was coming home with a win.
“I hope I don’t (leave on time),” said Thompson, whose flight home was scheduled to depart at 12:30 a.m., only a short while after Monday’s championship game concluded. “I hope I’m here celebrating a win.”
Brookstone School -- where Thompson teaches AP economics and coaches wrestling, football and baseball -- is closed today because of the snowy conditions in Columbus, so Thompson enjoyed the thought of staying in sunny Phoenix with fellow revelers from his alma mater.
“I’m done (if Auburn wins). I don’t care if I make it or not,” Thompson said with a laugh as he prepared to enter University of Phoenix Stadium. “Delta can charge me whatever they want to. I’ll get home at some point.”
Thompson arrived on Sunday with a flood of Auburn fans who greatly outnumbered their counterparts from Oregon, both inside the stadium and in the parking lot. While Thompson and his group of four friends were fortunate enough to have acquired tickets beforehand, he was slightly stunned by the number of people who arrived without tickets in hand.
“I know there are a lot of folks here without tickets,” said Thompson, who spent four years as the director of annual giving at Auburn before returning to his high school alma mater to teach and coach. “In fact, everybody I flew out here with, in the seats around me, nobody had tickets. I’m just real lucky to get the seats I got.”
He attributed the large number of Tigers fans outside the stadium and around the Phoenix area to the length of time since Auburn last won the national championship in 1957. Even if they couldn’t get inside the stadium, they simply had to be nearby when the Tigers finally earned the chance to play on the big stage.
“We haven’t been here really in modern history,” he said. “I wasn’t born the last time we won the national championship. My parents were in junior high. So it’s been a while.”
Plus, regardless of the outcome of Monday’s game, the Tigers’ success had already far exceeded most reasonable fans’ expectations. Coach Gene Chizik’s team, led by a host of seniors and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton, stirred Auburn fans into the frenzy that led to several wild evenings in the Phoenix area leading up to Monday’s finale.
“What coach Chizik has done in two years is just absolutely amazing,” Thompson said. “Last year was like, ‘Hmmm, I don’t know.’ And this year has kinda been incredible.”