Florida State University fan talks with Northern Illinois University fan as they wait for the kick off of the Discover Orange Bowl on Tuesday, January 1, 2013, in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/MCT)
Northern Illinois made sure its students had a way to get to the Orange Bowl, though it’s not exactly difficult to convince more than a thousand college students in DeKalb, Ill., where it was 10 degrees at kickoff on Tuesday night, to travel to Miami for winter break.
NIU packed 26 buses with 1,300 students, 52 staff members and police officers, and 12,480 bottles of water and sent them to Miami on a 24-and-a-half-hour bus ride. That group populated the lower northwest corner of Sun Life Stadium, making plenty of noise for the Huskies, who were 13 1/2-point underdogs against Florida State.
The students who made the trip paid $150 for two nights in a hotel and several meals along the way and received one free ticket to the game. NIU reserved seven hotels and 368 rooms for its traveling army.
Yet for all that excitement and the fun stories around NIU’s fans, Florida State still owned the majority of the crowd at Sun Life Stadium, which nearly filled the bottom rung of the bowl and took up a good 75 percent of the upper bowl. A full load of FSU fans arrived in the early afternoon to begin tailgating for the game, and though there were a few cursory NIU fans spotted around the NIU parking lot, it was clear the Seminoles had the parking lot advantage, too.
Among those in the crowd were Dwyer football coach Jack Daniels and his family, who came to the game to support Dwyer alum and FSU tight end Nick O’Leary and his former classmate, Tommylee Lewis, who now is a NIU receiver. Their old teammate, Curt Maggitt, a linebacker at Tennessee, also was in the stands, in addition to scores of other local athletes and FSU and NIU football alumni.