A lot can change in 24 years. But for Notre Dame football, “change” means a return to the program’s storied past. For the first time since 1988, the Fighting Irish are headed to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division-I National Championship on Jan. 7 in Miami, Florida. The program’s sudden resurgence has many Bethel students feeling excited. “The minute the (University of Southern California) fullback dropped the pass (in a Nov. 24 game against Notre Dame) I threw my hands in the air, high fived my brother and ran around the house for five minutes,” said Bethel sophomore Jimmy Bennett. Much of that excitement stems from the fact that most students were not even born when the Irish last won a national title. For them, Irish football has always been mediocre. But that is one thing that has changed. “It was frustrating being a fan of a team with so much ‘tradition’ that I had never seen before,” Bennett said. The frustration has turned into euphoria this season as the Irish went on their way to a 12-0 regular season. “It’s just super exciting because it was so unexpected,” Bethel junior Tim Sipe said. It seems like so long ago now, but before the season Notre Dame was not even ranked. But as the season has progressed, the Irish gradually became one of the nation’s best teams. So, at what point did fans think the Irish were title contenders? “After they beat (Michigan State) I thought they had a chance,” Bennett said. Now they stand as the no. 1 team in the nation, and they only have one game between them and the championship. After the games played on Saturday, Dec. 1, Notre Dame’s opponent has been confirmed: the Alabama Crimson Tide. Alabama is the defending champion of college football, but Irish fans like the matchup. “Their chances are as good as anyone has against Bama,” Bennett said. However, not everyone is behind the Irish. Notre Dame is one of the most polarizing teams in the country, and that means that some will be cheering against the Irish when they take the field against Alabama on Jan. 7. “I have a bet going with one of the guys in my small group,” said Bethel sophomore Gavin McGrath. “I have to buy him a pop if Notre Dame wins.” No matter which side they cheer for, all that fans can do at this point is wait until the big game is played. But after 24 years of waiting, one month doesn’t seem so bad.