Wake Forest president reflects on Orange Bowl
December 14, 2006
In his many years at the University of Notre Dame, Wake Forest President Nathan O. Hatch experienced more than once the excitement that an Orange Bowl invitation can spark, but Wake Forest’s enthusiasm over its first FedEx Orange Bowl bid beats anything he has ever seen.
"There is something about this year at Wake Forest, something so extraordinary and unexpected about this football team,” said Hatch, named president of Wake Forest in 2005 after a three-decade career at Notre Dame. “Here, there is a sense of exhilaration that surpasses anything I have ever witnessed.”
Wake Forest fans have followed the Demon Deacons this year as they won a school-record 11 games and the first ACC Championship since 1970 to represent the ACC in the FedEx Orange Bowl. Before the season began, the Demon Deacons were picked to finish last in the ACC’s Atlantic Division.
At Notre Dame, where he served as provost before taking Wake Forest’s helm, Hatch cheered on the Fighting Irish at three Orange Bowls – 1990, 1991 and 1996. Expectations were routinely high for football at Notre Dame, Hatch said, and dedicated fans generally anticipated they would see the Fighting Irish in bowl games.
Recalling that he saw Wake Forest fans brought to tears after the Deacons won the ACC Championship, Hatch said he has been moved on that occasion and others by fans’ appreciation for the football team’s achievements this season.
"Wake Forest fans recognize that this is a story of a classic underdog team,” Hatch observed. “We have a great coach who treats his players well, great student-athletes, and a team that hangs together in an extraordinary way.”
"Our community also knows that the football team and the athletics program in general embody what this institution wants them to be,” Hatch added. “This is a case of an athletics program that does it fairly, does it right, and in the end, there is a reward for strong values.”
On Jan. 2, Hatch will be at the FedEx Orange Bowl, where he expects to be surrounded by faculty, staff, students, alumni and others who are passionate in their devotion to Wake Forest and its aspirations.
"This is a place of great loyalty and commitment, win or lose,” Hatch said. “It is a wonderful community.”