By Elan Kane
Lynn Hull made sure to get to Welsh-Ryan Arena early Sunday to get good seats. She wanted to enjoy the hoopla surrounding the announcement that the Northwestern men’s basketball team had made its first NCAA basketball tournament in school history. When she went to find a seat, though, she was directed towards the back section.
It surprised Hull, a Northwestern season-ticket holder for 28 years. She complained to an event staff member that the team owed her some loyalty after she had given years of hers. After some discussion, she was allowed to sit closer to the court.
Northwestern isn’t used to having a mad scramble for seats. Then again, it never had an event like this since the NCAA tournament was established in 1939.
That history created a sense of excitement and emotion among both longtime and recent fans, including Hull.
“There’s a new enthusiasm with Chris Collins as the coach and the young players and it’s been really fun to see,” Hull said. “We’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”
Approximately 2,000 fans attended the announcement, which featured speeches from Collins, Northwestern president Morton Schapiro and what seemed like hours of anticipation as fans waited for the school’s name to be called during the NCAA Tournament selection show.
Despite final exams looming, plenty of students filled the seats.
“[There were] hard years of just missing it, going to the NIT, it’s been tough,” said Andrew Scherl, a freshman and a lifelong Northwestern fan. “Getting a lot of dirt and people talking about Northwestern saying we’re not a sports team, we’re not a great athletics school, it’s all coming together right now and it’s great to be able to give that right back to my friends and say, ‘Yeah, we are.’”
Jake Schaefer, a senior, attended games throughout his time at the school and gained popularity because of the purple mask and hat he wears in the student section.
“It’s really for everybody who has watched the game for decades and this is the culmination of breaking that Cubs-like streak,” Schaefer said.
Darryl Ford, an usher who has worked at Welsh-Ryan for 21 years, also compared the streak to the recent Cubs World Series win, adding that the wait has been worth it.
“I feel a little satisfaction right now that they’ve actually made it this far,” Ford said. “In all [my] 21 years, there have been some great teams here and they’ve been so close. But to finally make it, this is really exciting.”
For Hull, the season’s success has been reflected in the crowd.
“This was the first year that there was more purple than red at the Indiana-Northwestern game,” she said. “It’s [been] really fun.”