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BREAKING NEWS

American football - College fanatics living it up on San Jose billboard

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By Frank Pingue

(Reuters) - Diehard sports fans often go to great lengths to show their allegiance but some college football supporters took their loyalty to new heights when they agreed to live on a San Jose billboard ahead of Monday's national championship game.

As part of an ESPN contest, four fans representing the semi-final teams took up residence on a 45-foot (13.72 m) high billboard late on Dec. 26 near the site of the championship game for as long as their respective team remained in the playoffs.

The quartet, who were each provided with a tent and sleeping bag, has been since been reduced to Clemson Tigers fan Nancy Volland of Mount Dora, Florida and Alabama Crimson Tide supporter Llyas Ross Sr from Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Volland, a 59-year-old married mother of two daughters, said her time on the 40-foot wide by 8-foot deep platform had flown by but admitted it came with its share of challenges.

"It's not like camping in the woods," Volland told Reuters in a telephone interview from the platform.

"You have to go down 72 stairs to go to the bathroom. I've had to go a couple times in the middle of the night so getting out of a nice warm sleeping bag when it's in the 30s (Fahrenheit) and going down those 72 stairs and back up is the hardest part."

Volland, who attended Clemson in 1977, is such a diehard fan that she told her now-husband that her only requirement before agreeing to marry him and move to Florida from Charleston was that she got to attend three Tigers home games a year.

GIANT LOGOS

Ross and Volland were among four people selected from a pool of nearly 700 fans who submitted video testimonials explaining why they should be selected to spend 12 days living in the air.

While on the billboard, adorned with a TV and giant logos of their respective teams, the fans pass the time by participating in challenges in which they can win cash and prizes.

For Ross, a 39-year-old U.S. Army veteran who served three terms in Iraq, living on a platform for the better part of two weeks is just the latest example of his devotion to Alabama.

While deployed, he once woke up in the middle of the night to don Alabama gear and cheer on his team back home even though he had to depart on a mission hours later.

Ross, who rang in the new year counting down the seconds until 2019 on a video call with his wife and four children, said living on the billboard had not been that challenging but he was glad his stint was nearing an end.

"I am so ready to get off this billboard," Ross told Reuters. "Not only to see my family but before I see my family to see the national championship game because this will be the very first one I am having the opportunity to attend."

For top-ranked reigning champion Alabama and No. 2 Clemson, Monday's game will mark the third time in four years that they have met in college football's championship with the two having split their previous showdowns.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; editing by Ken Ferris)

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