Purdue's trip to Rose Bowl 2001 was everything we could have hoped for, and more. Even though the Boilermakers lost a hard-fought game to a truly outstanding University of Washington Huskies team, the experience of being in Southern California for an event that has become one of America's great traditions was truly transforming.
Purdue fans started arriving in significant numbers right after Christmas, and by New Year's eve, the Century City area where Patty and I were staying looked like West Lafayette on a September Saturday. Black and gold was everywhere you looked, and temperatures in the low 70s warmed us all.
Some special highlights of a trip that was full of fun and satisfaction:
More than 40,000 Boilermaker fans turned out for the festivities and transformed the Los Angeles area into an Indiana community for a few days. If there ever was a doubt that Purdue would "travel well" to a major New Year's Day bowl, it was dispelled. The Pasadena Star-News wrote in an editorial, "The incredible demand for tickets to the 2001 Rose Bowl game shows that Purdue is gung-ho for Pasadena." Some fans actually made the cross-country trip without game tickets. An unknown number came from international locations, including a group of six alumni who traveled together from Hong Kong. I met one gentleman who had come from Bombay, India.
A number of Indiana government leaders joined the Purdue party, including Gov. Frank O'Bannon and his wife, Judy, and several members of the General Assembly.
A crowd estimated at more than 13,000 gathered for a rousing outdoor pep rally at the ABC Entertainment Center. Members of the Boilermaker football team, coaches, cheerleaders, the All-American Marching Band, and even Gov. O'Bannon, took turns leading cheers, as the fans expressed their support and roared with the joy that came with just being there for the Rose Bowl.
Purdue's astronaut alumni were well represented at every event. Neil Armstrong traveled from his Ohio home, and at least four other astronauts -- Mark Brown, Greg Harbaugh, Jerry Ross, and Don Williams -- made it to Pasadena.
The Rose Parade is something that must be experienced in person to be fully appreciated. Stepping off at 8 a.m. sharp on New Year's Day, the parade glistens like a golden necklace around the city of Pasadena. The formula is deceptively simple: Floats filled with flowers, marching bands and equestrian units are the only three categories admitted. But extraordinarily high standards of quality make every moment something to remember. Indiana had a strong presence in the parade. In addition to the Purdue contingent, our state sent the Mizpah Shrine Horse Patrol of Fort Wayne and the Penn High School Marching Kingsmen of Mishawaka.
For Patty and me, the Rose Bowl trip was the perfect ending to a year that has brought tremendous change and excitement to our lives. We believe that our decision to come to Purdue was a wonderful choice, both personally and professionally.
That would have been true regardless of events on the football field, but we certainly had a lot of fun following this team throughout the season and, ultimately, to Pasadena.
What a great ride it has been!