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Feeneys' rooting roots run deep

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013 10:32 p.m. CDT

It should come as little surprise to anyone who is familiar with the Feeney clan of Morris to know that they were on hand for the BCS Championship Game in Miami 11 days ago.

After all, brothers Jim and Mike Feeney are third-generation Notre Dame season ticket holders and rabid Fighting Irish fans.

So, when their beloved college football team was playing Alabama with the National Championship on the line, wild horses couldn't keep them away.

"I had never been to a bowl game in my entire life, but I always said that if Notre Dame ever gets to the championship game, I was going to try and go," Mike Feeney said. "A day after Notre Dame beat USC, I booked the flight."

The scenario that set up ND's appearance in the BCS game at Sun Life Stadium in South Florida came about rather quickly.

"The night that both Oregon and Kansas State lost to put Notre Dame at No. 1, I called my dad and said 'if Notre Dame can beat USC, I'd like to to to the National Championship game as a Christmas present," Austin Feeney, Jim Feeney's son, said.

That was Nov. 17 when the undefeated Irish were elevated to No. 1 status. On Nov. 24, Notre Dame beat USC to officially seal its bid to the BCS championship game.

"I told Austin that it was going to be my Christmas present too," Jim Feeney said. "Actually for the whole family. In essence that's what it was, Christmas for the whole family."

Fighting Irish roots

Jim Feeney says that his family's roots to Notre Dame go back three generations to his and Mike's grandfather.

"We were fortunate that my grandpa (Jim) had season tickets. That's how my dad (Jim) and his family became Notre Dame fans," Jim Feeney said. "Now Mike and I and our family has season tickets."

Both Jim and Mike were integrated into Notre Dame fandom with help from their father.

"When we were younger, we regularly went to spring games," Mike Feeney said. "That from the time I was three-years old through the eighth grade."

"I still do that a lot," Jim Feeney said of going to spring games. "That's where it started with my dad. It was a family thing for us."

All In the family

While Jim Feeney points out that this is not the first time he has taken his wife, Wendy, his sons Austin and Nolan and daughter Brenna on vacation, Notre Dame's appearance in the title game worked out well for everyone involved.

"It turned out to be a great opportunity to take the family on vacation," Jim Feeney said. "We got to see Wendy's family, we had football, I got to meet up with three of my college buddies and there was also a huge entourage from Morris there. It was a neat experience.

"On our end it worked out well. We were able to plan everything out and we stayed with Wendy's parents (Errol and Susie Klendworth) in Naples."

In the meantime, Mike flew down and stayed in Ft. Lauderdale.

"I was there with Mike Goolsby, but Jim took his whole family," Mike Feeney said. "Joe and Mary Goolsby were there, Chuck and Karen Calligaris were there. We saw a lot of people from Morris down there."

Morris residents Bob, Chris and Erin Borgstrom were there, too.

"That was nice. It kind of made it a family vacation," Austin Feeney said. "Overall it was a great time, other than the fact that they (the Irish) got beat.

"We left on the third and went and spent a couple of days in Naples with the grandparents. We then went down to Miami on Saturday."

First-hand fans

Mike and Jim both estimate that they've been to about 50 games each in their lifetimes and Austin about 20. Virtually all of them have come at Notre Dame Stadium, though all three saw the Irish play Miami at Soldier Field this fall. That also made to the trip to South Florida for the game even more special.

"That was my first time, other than Soldier Field, though I've always wanted to go to the Big House (in Michigan)," Jim said.

Mike said that it was the first bowl game he had ever attended, though, unlike his brother, he had seen the Irish play in the Big House before.

"I've seen them play at the Horseshoe at Ohio State, at Purdue and in Ann Arbor," Mike said.

It was a trip that none of them will soon forget.

"It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, though I'm hoping they can make it back again. The atmosphere was unbelievable. The number of Notre Dame fans down there was pretty special, especially on Sunday down at South Beach. It was really unbelievable."

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