The Times West Virginian

Opinion

February 3, 2013

Fan support can lead to electric Fairmont State basketball outings

Fairmont State University basketball fans, give yourselves a hand.

FSU officials wanted to make it a special evening last Thursday when the University of Charleston visited the Joe Retton Arena in the Feaster Center.

They wanted to see FSU’s men’s and women’s basketball teams get the fan support that is so critical as they battle for West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships.

Drawing great crowds is a challenge when so many sports offerings are “free on TV,” so the evening was promoted heavily. The game was designated a “white out” with fans encouraged to wear white to the gymnasium. Free white T-shirts were passed out to the first 1,500 fans. Students were treated to free pizza courtesy of Papa John’s, and after the men’s game, the Marshall Lowery Band performed.

Fans — and the Falcons — responded.

More than 3,000 fans, including an excellent student turnout, were in the stands for a thrilling 83-81 FSU victory in the men’s game, following an 83-68 win by the Lady Falcons.

The players and coaches don’t take the support for granted.

“They (UC) came out on fire tonight, but I want to give a lot of credit for this win to the fans because we had so many people come out tonight to support us, and that’s what gave us the energy to push through the game and get the win,” said FSU’s Chase Morgan, who came off the bench and scored 18 points, including 10 in the second half.

Later, he added, “My goodness, this was fun tonight. It was the most fun I’ve had in a game in years.”

“I thought it was a great game,” said first-year FSU coach Jerrod Calhoun, who has talked since leaving Bob Huggins’ West Virginia University staff to become head coach last year about reviving the atmosphere that surrounded Fairmont State basketball during the Joe Retton era.

“I want to thank all of our fans. They did a great job for us tonight. Our entire football team was here, and I think that really set the tone for us. Our kids were excited to play in front of a packed house.”

We don’t think any fans left the gymnasium disappointed after FSU’s two wins over Charleston in such an electric atmosphere, and we join officials at the university in hoping they liked what they experienced and plan to come back for more and bring their friends.

There are several opportunities down the stretch, with FSU’s men playing five of their seven remaining regular-season games at home and the women six of eight, starting with Monday’s doubleheader with Wheeling Jesuit.

FSU’s men’s team is really on a roll. Its win at West Virginia Wesleyan Saturday was its fifth in a row and its 10th in 11 outings. The Falcons are 15-4 overall and 13-2 in the WVIAC and solidly in contention for a conference title.

Stretch runs with lots on the line make sports special. Fan involvement during the coming weeks at FSU — with students and townspeople forging a strong bond with the Falcons — would make for a fantastic February.

We’re confident FSU and its fans will make sure the buzz created last week will continue to build throughout the month.

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