MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Glenn Stern remembers watching iconic Orange Bowl games in the 1980s and 1990s featuring the likes of Nebraska and Miami when it was referred to as “The U.”
So, when Texas A&M was selected to play in this year’s Orange Bowl, he decided to surprise his son, Clayton, a freshman at A&M, with a trip to the game as a Christmas present.
“We’ve been seeing Aggie games since he was 4 years old,” said Glenn Stern, A&M class of 1995. “This was his first semester, so it was a fun surprise under the Christmas tree and a fun surprise for me, too.”
The Sterns were two of 13,737 fans that attended Saturday’s Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium. Many of them were clad in maroon and white, watching No. 5 Texas A&M take down No. 13 North Carolina, 41-27.
“It’s been a crazy year, and finally we’re back in the Orange Bowl after 70 years,” said Ty Chumbley, a member of A&M’s class of 2007 who drove 22 hours from San Antonio to see the Aggies play. “We can’t miss this kind of game. It’s a big thing, so we’re excited.”
Before the game, the 12th Man Foundation hosted an event just outside the stadium serving food and drinks to Aggie fans.
For many, including the Dunlap family, coming to Miami to watch A&M play was a no-brainer — the Aggies were playing in a major bowl game in a destination city.
“It’s terrific to be here, and it’s the new year, new hope,” Anne Dunlap said. “Also, it’s a great vacation. We’ve been thrilled that A&M partners very well with its fans.”
Saturday’s game was arguably the biggest bowl game A&M had played in since the 1999 Sugar Bowl. It was the Aggies’ first appearance in the Orange Bowl since 1944.
Randy Rowland made the trip to South Beach with his son, Seth, who is a junior at A&M. Rowland said he frequently travels to the Miami area for work and added he knows the magnitude of A&M’s appearance in the Orange Bowl.
“It’s a New Year’s Six bowl, which is a hard bowl to get into,” said Rowland, A&M class of 1997. “If your team gets in, you’ve got to come.”
With A&M’s win over the Tar Heels, some Aggie fans said feel the victory could propel the Aggies forward into next season as Jimbo Fisher completed his third year at the helm.
“This game should be a stepping stone to the playoffs if everything goes as planned,” Clayton Stern said.
The sting of missing the College Football Playoff still sits with some Aggies, but getting a trip to Miami to ring in 2021 was a good consolation prize, said Katie Johnson, A&M class of 2018.
“It’s unfortunate that we didn’t end in the top four,” said Johnson. “However, if I were to pick a place to have a bowl game, this would be it.”