Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Good Dawgs Always Come Home

And they did. Since my last post, the Butler Men's Basketball team competed in the Final Four and advanced to the final NCAA championship game against powerhouse Duke University. To boot, the last round was held just six miles from campus - in Conseco Fieldhouse.

What it's like when your humble midwest university is launched into national spotlight? Well, when it's a for positive news -- such extremely positive news -- the experience is pretty surreal.

First, the student perspective: Visually, the campus perked up. Students tied blue bunting around the trees on campus, and suddenly there were snazzy banners on light posts. Someone even dyed the Star Fountain blue. The bookstore was teeming with alumni, families, prospective students and students vying for the latest Final Four t-shirt design. (Don't worry, I picked up swag for the whole family).

Then I started reading the news online. It was astounding. Each day, my Google Alerts emails got longer and longer. Most of the articles were related to the NCAA tournament, but then were articles featuring our president, Bobby Fong - and even our pampered pup mascot Blue II. In a period of two weeks, we gained home page news coverage on Web sites like NPR, The Washington Post, The New York Times and more. Our local CBS affiliate, WISH TV, made daily appearances on campus. Our own sports writers from The Butler Collegian received countless media requests and interviews.

As I started to realize the magnitude of attention Butler was drawing, it dawned on me that campus felt different. There was an invisible, but very elevated sense of excitement - of community - of unity. I can't pin it to one person or one moment

I watched the final round right home at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse. It was fitting, too - the place where "Hoosiers" was filmed so long ago, now served as a movie house to watch one of the most historic basketball games our school has seen.

So we lost to Duke. To their credit, they played a mean game. To our credit, we played harder. It was beautiful, even in the midst of the final score.

President Dr. Bobby Fong cancelled class the day after the game (and that was before we knew who won!). Tuesday was quiet on campus - students were recovering from the excitement, the national attention and the celebrations. That afternoon, thousands of students, faculty, staff and neighbors clamored into Hinkle Fieldhouse - not to watch another game, but to celebrate our team.

I'm going to be sappy and say I was near tears the entire pep rally. The team truly brought the campus together. Even Butler alumni from D.C. and around the country rallied to Indianapolis for the celebrations. It was like one big Butler reunion.

Looking back on March Madness, the timing couldn't have been more perfect.
In the wake of the game, Coach Brad Stevens appeared on the the David Letterman Show (Full disclosure: Letterman is an Indianapolis native!). Gordon Hayward accepted a NBA draft pic. "Butler" was a trending topic (WORLDWIDE) on Twitter (for several minutes anyways) - that made my day. The basketball seniors got to play with the Harlem Globetrotters and the team has been made Grand Marshals for the Indy 500. We're too big, yo!

Sad news: Our campus fountains are no longer dyed blue.

Happy news: Coach Stevens just signed a 12-year contract to stay with Butler!

Want a recap of the campus energy during March Madness? Just watch this.


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