Whoopin' it up
College Station cheers Aggies to first national title
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M fans huddled around televisions to watch the Aggies play in their first national championship game on Tuesday night.
And when they won, it seemed as if the crowds packed into bars and restaurants near the campus were trying to cheer loud enough for the team to hear them almost 1,000 miles away in Indianapolis.
Fans jumped up and down, high fiving and letting out Texas A&M's signature "whoop" as the seconds ticked down on the 76-70 victory over Notre Dame.
There was no official watch party, so hundreds of Aggies fans poured into every place with a television along University Drive just down from the Texas A&M campus to cheer for the team.
The crowd at one sports bar chanted "champions, champions, champions," as the game finished up.
The local fans raved about coach Gary Blair's role in turning around this once struggling team.
"Blair has been great for the program because he's been trying really hard to promote the team and the hard work is finally paying off," Texas A&M senior Becky Lyon said.
Sophomore Kody Johnson said he doesn't watch much women's basketball, but had to come out to support the Aggies in the title game.
"We've never done this before so I'm very proud," he said.
Mallisa Karonka watched the game with a big group of friends and family. This Aggie bragged about getting her fiance, Texas fan Brian Perwerton, to buy and wear his first Texas A&M shirt on Tuesday.
"I had to take a picture because no one would believe he was wearing this," she said.
Perwerton said it was kind of strange to be cheering for the Aggies, but he did it heartily, clapping and jumping up and down during good plays.
"It's good to have a Texas team in the championship game," he said. "I'm rooting for the state. If the Longhorns aren't playing, I don't mind cheering for the Aggies."
Linda Pace, who was decked out in an A&M shirt and necklace, said more than 50 of her family members attended A&M. She's a longtime fan who is impressed with the turnaround of the program under Blair.
"Oh my goodness, he's the bomb," she said. "We used to be bad and now look what he's done for Texas A&M."
Texas A&M went 9-19 in Blair's first season, but haven't had a losing record since. He has led Texas A&M to six straight NCAA tournament appearances and this year's 33 wins are the most in school history.
She's a serious fan and even copied Blair in drawing a plus sign on her hand in support of the team. Blair draws the symbol on his hand before every game to remind himself to be positive.
The excitement in the city for women's basketball is evidence of an impressive turnaround in attitudes at this formerly men-only military school.
When the school began admitting women in 1963, some alumni bristled at the decision and funding men's and women's sports equally after the passage of Title IX in 1972 was frowned upon by some.
Years ago the Texas A&M women's basketball team had to share uniforms with other sports teams and few people besides the players' friends and family would attend the games. Blair not only improved the product on the court, but made sure people in the community knew it. When he first arrived, he went door to door to introduce himself and ask people to come out to Reed Arena to watch the women play.
He doesn't have to do that anymore, with the team averaging more than 6,000 people a game, but the down-home Blair still roams through the stands and tosses out sweets to fans before each home game.