CHESTERTON | For much of his life, Ryan Gorman dreamed of attending Notre Dame.
Of Irish descent and Catholic faith, he attended their football games and visited the campus with his family, all fans of Notre Dame.
But when it came time to going to college, the Tide changed.
On something of a whim, the Chesterton resident visited the University of Alabama.
“I had visited Notre Dame my junior year, and it was all right. But there was no real ‘wow.’ When I went to visit campus (in Tuscaloosa), I was definitely wowed.” Gorman, 20, said.
A year later, his younger sister — who attended Notre Dame basketball camps all through her youth — decided the Tuscaloosa, Ala., campus was the right fit for her.
Ryan Gorman is now a sophomore and Lindsay Gorman, 18, is a freshman — and the family that had rooted for the Irish gold is one of few region homes adorned in Roll Tide crimson.
And as No. 1 Notre Dame faces off with No. 2 Alabama for the BCS National Championship on Monday night, there are slightly mixed emotions.
“It’s so weird to us,” their father, Gary Gorman said. “Couldn’t it have been anyone else?” He said he’s “somewhat” torn on the game. His truck's bumper sports Notre Dame and Alabama stickers.
“But it’s an easy decision,” he said, noting he is pulling for his children’s school.
Come Monday, Ryan and Lindsay Gorman will be back on campus, while their parents, Gary and Viki Gorman, will be in Miami rooting for Alabama and tailgating with close friends — friends who are Notre Dame fans.
Ryan Gorman studies chemical engineering and was a National Merit Scholar at Chesterton High School. He had a lot of schools to consider when it came to choosing a college. Alabama wasn’t high on the list, but recruiters there kept sending him letters.
Gary Gorman had joked about how much the school seemingly needed him for their football program.
“He got recruited like a football player would, but for his academics,” Gary Gorman said.
A year later, the school was recruiting Lindsay Gorman for her academics as well. She is majoring in economics and German.
Two of Lindsay’s Chesterton High School classmates are attending Alabama now, and another one of her friends is considering it.
“He likes to joke he’s a trendsetter,” Lindsay said of Ryan.
Lindsay said she didn’t want to attend Indiana University or Purdue University. She wanted to do something “different.”
“I liked the school spirit aspect. Everyone is really involved in the school. That’s one of my favorite parts,” she said.
Being Alabama fans in Irish territory has led to some razzing.
“I get a little bit at work. ... I say, when they are paying for my kids’ education, it’s my new favorite school,” Gary Gorman said.
This week, Lindsay was visiting with a good friend. Lindsay was wearing an Alabama sweatshirt.
“Her Dad said, ‘You can’t wear Alabama here.’ It’s fun. It’s a good rivalry.”
Ryan Gorman noted Alabama doesn’t have many professional sports, so cheering for the Tide is a lifestyle in their part of Alabama.
“We think the IU-Purdue rivalry is big, but it’s nothing compared to Alabama-Auburn,” Lindsay said.
When Alabama lost its one game of the year, it seemed they wouldn’t be in contention for the BCS Championship Game. And then, during Thanksgiving break, the stars aligned. The Gormans were watching.
“Once ... everything happened that needed to happen, it was crazy,” Lindsay said, receiving texts from her friends in Tuscaloosa.
“Tuscaloosa was (reacting) like it had won (the National Championship),” Viki Gorman said, describing the city celebration of the fact the school was back in contention for the championship.
Both football programs are going to be good for years to come, Gary Gorman believes. There will be a lot of great games for both universities.
And while Ryan wouldn’t mind Alabama winning more national championships while he is attending school down there, beyond that, his attending Alabama has already been a great experience. He didn’t know anyone when he started, but that made him more apt to get involved at the school, joining a professional fraternity for engineers.
“I probably wouldn’t have done that if I had a ton of people I already knew,” he said. “I’ve definitely found my place down there.”
It has something to do with that “wow” factor.
“Everyone wants you to be there. Everyone wants you to succeed … They talk about Southern hospitality … there’s a lot of truth to that,” Ryan Gorman said.