Badgers fans have had to wait 11 long years since the last time the University of Wisconsin football team went to the Rose Bowl.
Now with another bid so tantalizingly close, die-hards are making plans for a trip to Pasadena — even though it's, well, not quite official.
"I'm banking on it. I've made my plane reservation," said Jim Pike, a former Wisconsinite now living in North Carolina. "Going to the Rose Bowl has been on my 'bucket list' for over 55 years, long before the term 'bucket list' was coined."
A Badgers Rose Bowl won't be certain until the final BCS rankings come out on Sunday in a special show on ESPN starting at 7:15 p.m., but that hasn't stopped rabid fans from making plans.
Madison travel companies have been offering tours since the Badgers beat Northwestern University on Saturday and their spot in the Rose Bowl seemed nearly inevitable.
"I wouldn't call it busy; I would call it swamped," said Scott Mast, executive vice president of Burkhalter Travel. "The Rose Bowl is the granddaddy of all the bowls. It's the one people want to go to."
Mast said his company won't charge people's credit cards until after the Badgers' berth is official. The Burkhalter base package starts at $2,225 and includes a chartered flight, lodging and tickets to the game.
"I flinched (at the price) but not for long," said Bill Hausler, a Badgers fan in Madison, who bought a tour package. "It's been 11 years since the last one. Hopefully it will be more of an opportunity in future years, but you never know."
STA travel, which caters to students, has also been getting inquiries, but some students are waiting to purchase plane tickets.
"The people who are hesitating are probably going to lose out," said Lindsay Juley, an STA travel expert. "If they already think it's expensive, it's just going to get worse."
The Wisconsin Alumni Association is also offering tour packages at multiple different levels. Fans can go deluxe at a cost of $2,339 — a charter flight, four nights of lodging, the Rose parade and a New Years Eve party. They can get a more basic package for $439 — no air travel but two nights in a hotel and ground travel to the game — or something in between.
Pike, the Badger fan in North Carolina, can remember watching the Rose Parade on a black and white TV when he was young.
The 68-year-old met his wife while working as a pastor in Madison in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Going to games at Camp Randall solidified his status as a Badger fan for life, but he's never been to a Rose Bowl.
"I get goosebumps just thinking about being there, I've wanted to do it for so long," he said. "That Wisconsin is going to be in it is just icing on the cake."