When 2013 ACC Champs the Florida State Seminoles were tapped to play in the BCS Championship game in Pasadena, Calif., whether or not the Cox family of Freeport would go was not an if, but a given.
Mom Laura Cox is an FSU alum and dad Chan is a big fan as two of their children have attended FSU. Youngest daughter Caitie was on the cheerleading squad for four years and will soon be an alumnus.
So, not going was not an option for the Coxes.
But as much of the nation was covered in snow and flights were being cancelled, getting to California would prove to be a bigger challenge than originally thought.
The saga began when the Coxes received a phone call last Saturday night telling them their 7 a.m. flight to Pasadena on Sunday had been cancelled.
The next four hours were spent on the phone trying to find a flight that would get them there before the BCS game was over. But they couldn't even get a flight into an airport within six hours of Pasadena. The airline finally told them to be at the airport at 5:30 a.m. the next morning where the family was booked on flights from VPS to ATL to Dallas to Albuquerque to Phoenix to Orange County.
Finally, Atlanta was in sight, and cheers went up when the wheels went up for Dallas, but not before being left behind by four planes because ticket agents could not get their boarding passes issued.
After getting to Dallas, the Coxes were on stand-by and finally got booked on a straight flight to Orange County.
"It was unbelievable," said Chan. "It was a 16-hour day and when we got here, our luggage had been left in Dallas. A nightmare, but worth it."
"Watching the Noles in the BCS Championship game was a night to remember forever," added Laura.
"The game was crazy and a lot of fun," agreed Caitie. "We were originally told they couldn't get us here but we made it. Everyone was shocked when we won. Auburn has pulled off a few miracles. But we did it. Every single fan stayed and didn't move from their seats. Everyone was like, did we really win? It was intense sitting on the borderline with FSU fans to our right and Auburn to our left. Both sides were going crazy and everyone was standing."
Caitie said she was not disappointed to not be cheering during this momentous event.
"I have been going to FSU games with my family for as long as I can remember. I cheered at FSU for four years, but it takes its toll on your body. And when you're on the field you don't see everything, but in the stands you do.”
Santa Rosa Beach's Beverly and Greg Schmitt fortunately avoided the cancelled flight drama by leaving for California early on Jan. 3.
This was the second National Championship game for the couple to attend. Their first was at the Sugar Bowl in 2000 when FSU met Greg's alma mater, Virginia Tech. FSU won.
Greg said he is happy to cheer on Beverly's team, though, as long as the two alma maters are not playing each other.
"If you like football, this is the best place in the country to be a fan," he said.
As for his experience in Pasadena, Greg said the venue, tailgating on the adjoining golf course, and being there with all the fans in the stadium was "absolutely electric."
"It was electrifying. It was crazy in the stadium. I never gave up. When we started turning it around in the second half, it really got the momentum going," she said.
The best for her was seeing Bobby Bowden walk out on the field as honorary team captain, and seeing Renegade gallop out and stand in front of the team. It took three days to transport Renegade out west, where he was housed with the LAPD's horses.
"It was cool to see him there," she said.
The game's ending, though, was the momentous high.
"We were all jumping up and down and screaming, and someone behind me threw his drink, but we didn't care. I never gave up hope… .”
Back at their hotel, the Schmitts celebrated with close friends staying at the same hotel, who happened to be there supporting their team — Auburn.
I would not have missed it for the world," said Beverly.