Kaye Hooks sat in the Big House stands in Ann Arbor in 1980 for a football game during her freshman year at Michigan. She watched with disappointment as a South Carolina team led by Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers led the Gamecocks to a 17-14 victory.
“It was really painful,” she said. “You know us Michigan fans, we never forget.”
She has arrived at the Outback Bowl this week ready for another meeting between the two schools along with her daughter Beth, who happens to be a freshman in college. The difference is that Beth goes to USC in Columbia, where the Hooks family settled in 1996.
Monday afternoon, they stood in Ybor City waiting for the seven-block Outback Bowl Parade to start, with Kaye wearing her maize and blue and Beth decked out in her garnet and black. They joined thousands of other Michigan and USC fans on New Year’s Eve for the buildup to Tuesday’s clash at Raymond James Stadium at 1 p.m.
“I have become a Carolina fan, but I have to be a Michigan fan for this game, of course,” Kaye said.
Beth, who has spent most of her life in Columbia, wanted to stay close to home. She liked USC’s College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management so she never considered her mom’s alma mater. Asked if she would still like her mom if Michigan wins the game, she smiled and said, “Maybe a little less.”
Then Beth added, “She doesn’t want to lose,” which brought this response from Kaye: “I’m true blue all the way.”
Stuart Hooks, a Mullins native who attended The Citadel and USC’s medical school, sides with his daughter on this issue. But Kaye, who’s a nurse at Providence Hospital Northeast, doesn’t mind being the odd person out since the teams seldom have met.
They weren’t the only conflicted group at the parade, which featured both the USC and Michigan bands. Mandi Harrington, a Cayce native whose husband Adam is stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, was decked out in her USC colors standing next to her good friends, Nick and Melissa Smith, a pair of Virginia residents who are diehard Michigan fans.
The bowl trip was a Christmas present for Harrington, whose husband stayed back with the kids. The Smiths picked her up on the way from Norfolk to bring her to the game. Harrington, who met the Smiths in Hawaii during a previous military assignment, is convinced the Gamecocks will win the game, although she hopes it’s close and exciting.
Her friends don’t see that happening.
“We’re realists. We know who’s going to win already,” Melissa Smith said of the Wolverines. “We’ve got lots of tissues for her on the ride home.”
Harrington laughs at the good-natured kidding. She’s just thrilled to be in Tampa.
“We get to reunite as friends and see the bowl game,” she said.
Kaye Hooks, whose family back in Mount Clemens, Mich., still has season tickets for her school, has enjoyed the banter for the past month with her daughter, too.
“I love it,” she said.