BY LAFE PEAVLER
On Day 3 of the WCC Tournament, the Orleans Arena looked very similar to two other basketball venues: the Marriott Center at BYU and the McCarthey Athletic Center, aka the Kennel, at Gonzaga.
Both the Cougars and the Bulldogs have a reputation for traveling well, and Saturday’s games confirmed those observations. Both teams brought a solid portion of their respective student sections, but the most numerous type of fan were the longtime faithful.
Take Jim McCuaig, a longtime Gonzaga fanatic. He went to school at Gonzaga back in the 1950s, and he’s been a fan ever since. While this was his first time at the WCC Tournament, he was very impressed with the fans there.
“I was worried that if we all left town, it would hurt the economy,” McCuaig told me with a chuckle. After seeing the massive amount of Gonzaga fans at the game, I wonder just how many people are left in Spokane.
When asked about what the best thing about being a Gonzaga fan was, McCuaig told me, “They’re a good Christian college. That spirit follows us wherever we go as far as Gonzaga is concerned.”
I asked him what his favorite Gonzaga story was, and he told me about when he was a student. “I remember going to Gonzaga when we didn’t have many girls. I was in a class with one of the first girls that was ever admitted. It used to be an all-boys school. Now as you can see, I think that we have a few more girls than we have boys.”
While a lot may have changed since McCuaig went to Gonzaga, one thing hasn’t: His passion for supporting the Bulldogs.
That same passion for WCC sports has certainly been passed on between generations. I ran into Andy and Kela Ivy, newlyweds and big-time fans of BYU. Both of them grew up in families that were crazy about the Cougars.
“Both of my parents went to BYU,” Andy Ivy told me. “As a kid growing up in New Jersey, we would watch BYU football games on the church satellite system at our stake center.” To Andy, cheering on the Cougars is a family affair. “I like being able to go to the games with my whole family. I went to the Notre Dame game with my parents.”
The Ivys drove a 15-passenger van to Las Vegas from Provo full of BYU students. That must have been a party, given how loud and proud the ROC was at the game.
The Roar of the Cougars, or ROC, is the new student section at BYU. With their matching white T-shirts and loud cheers, this group certainly made quite a debut at the WCC Tournament. Just like in Provo, this group was on its feet all game long. You couldn’t help feeling like you were at the Marriott Center when the students yelled, “Whoosh, Cecil!” after every made free throw, and BYU President Cecil O. Samuelson gave his usual thumbs up back to the students.
But almost all traces of Provo disappeared once the Gonzaga fans filed in for their game. The place was transformed into the Kennel, and the Kennel Club was there in full force.
The Kennel Club is Gonzaga’s student section, and it’s been around for almost 30 years. This elite group of students terrorizes any team brave enough to play in Spokane, and the group definitely was a factor in helping their Bulldogs pull off that close victory over San Diego.
But don’t think that only BYU and Gonzaga had fans at the tournament. Coragene Savio is a die-hard San Francisco fan. She’s been a Dons fan all of her life.
“Our father went to USF. My sister’s here with me with her boyfriend, and we both went to USF.” Once again, family was closely involved with why she’s a fan. “When I was a little kid [my father] took me to see Bill Russell play.” For those not familiar with that name, Russell was the No. 2 pick of the 1956 NBA Draft, won MVP five times and helped the Celtics win 11 championships.
Family and fans seem to fit with each other. I saw plenty of families from grandparents and even great-grandparents to newborns cheer on their team as a family. Some may argue that sports is just a big waste of time. I disagree. If cheering on a team can help bring a family closer together and build unforgettable memories, then it’s all worth it.
Well, that’s it for Day 3. I’ll be back among the fans on Day 4 of the WCC Tournament for the men’s and women’s semifinals on Monday. Also, if you would like to talk to me, I’ll be in the entrance hall between the Orleans Hotel and the Orleans Arena.
Lafe Peavler is a sports writer for the Deseret News. Follow him on Twitter @LafePeavler
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