STATE COLLEGE, CENTRE COUNTY - With sanctions preventing Penn State's football team from playing in a bowl game and the Steelers not in the playoffs, some in Central Pennsylvania are pouring energy into the BCS National Championship game between Notre Dame and Alabama.
Besides Penn State, Notre Dame has long enjoyed a special place in the hearts of some Central Pennsylvanians.
"For many, deep down inside I think they think, 'Well if Penn State can't do it, then I'd like to see Notre Dame do it.'", said Bill Dwyer of Hollidaysburg.
Dwyer graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1982. He's currently Chairman of the Notre Dame Alumni Committee in Central PA.
"It's a big Catholic area," Dwyer said. "People that are my age that went to Catholic schools when they were younger, it was ingrained in you that you rooted for Notre Dame, and Penn State for that matter," he added. "But you always rooted for Notre Dame."
For Dwyer, that message stuck, and for eight years now he's made the 450 mile journey from Central PA to South Bend, Indiana to work at Notre Dame Stadium for all of the football team's home games.
Dwyer says the support for Notre Dame in the area has spiked this year because of the team's 12-0 run, but he also remembers recent years, where success at Notre Dame was hit or miss.
"It's been a hard 10 years," he continued. "Actually about 20 years, but it's good to see [success] again."
Dwyer says Notre Dame's popularity in the area doesn't come without a backlash.
"With Notre Dame, everybody's got an opinion," he said. "They either love them or hate them."
For the BCS National Championship game, Dwyer believes Notre Dame faces its toughest task ever as the team gears up to play the defending National Champions, Alabama.
However, he's optimistic, and traces that optimism to an early age.
"Growing up in the Philadelphia area, the nuns and priests in the schools I went to asked, 'You're rooting for Notre Dame this weekend, right?', and everybody would say, 'Yes Father, yes Sister, absolutely.'"
Notre Dame and Alabama square off for the National Title Monday at 8:00pm ET on ESPN.
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