When the game ended, Dan Porterfield (CAS ’83) and his future wife, Karen Herrling (CAS ’84, LAW ’90), began the walk to M Street. They didn’t know what they’d do once they got there, but they went along, in part because everyone else was doing it.

After all, Georgetown had just won its first, and still only, NCAA basketball championship.

They emerged from the Alumni Square apartment where they had watched the game with six close friends (“We were very serious fans and wanted to be able to concentrate on the game and will the Hoyas to win,” he says) and began to wind their way down the neighborhood’s narrow streets towards the big celebration.

He remembers it being “euphoric but not frenzied.” He recalls hugging Fr. Otto Hentz, S.J., who kept saying, “I’m so happy for John.” He remembers the bars being open but that the celebration was so much more than just drinking.

“It was just a once-in-a-lifetime spontaneous celebration, and the smiles stayed wide the whole semester,” Porterfield recalls.

Now, more than two decades later, Porterfield, who is the university’s vice president for public affairs and strategic development and an assistant professor in the English department, has a different perspective. Instead of rooting from the student section, he has upgraded to some lower-level season tickets. Rather than cheering on his peers, he roots for players he teaches and mentors.

Porterfield is one of a growing number of Georgetown professors and administrators who follow Hoyas hoops as ardently as the school’s students do. While their methods may be slightly different – the next professor to paint his or her face blue and gray will likely be the first – several members of the faculty will join their students in embracing March Madness this year.

II

It was in the early 1970s when Dean of Admissions Charles Deacon began to take a keen interest in the basketball team. Deacon attended Georgetown in the 1960s, but that, he said, “was a whole different world.”

In 1972, though, Deacon was half of the two-man committee charged with finding a new men’s basketball coach. Once they had settled on Thompson, Deacon became a season-ticket holder and began to “take a very high interest” in the team.

Now, he has season tickets in the first five rows at the Verizon Center (he used to sit even closer), and he’s attended each of Georgetown’s four modern Final Fours.

Deacon fondly recalls attending the 1984 Final Four in Seattle. He can still picture Brett Musburger wearing a t-shirt that said “Hoya Paranoia: Catch It” on national TV after the game.

Three of Deacon’s daughters attended Georgetown and still return every few years to see classmates and take in a game.

Deacon traveled to New York last weekend for the Big East tourney, and should the Hoyas advance deep in the NCAA tourney again this season, you can bet he’ll be there too.

So does Deacon give himself any credit for the rise of Georgetown basketball?

“In the background,” he says. “Obviously I had a role to play, and it’s turned out great, beyond anybodies’ hopes at that time.”

III

Diana Owen admits she is “a little superstitious.”

She wears the same shirt – one she picked up last season at the Final Four – and hat – a blue cap with Jack the Bulldog in the center – to each game.

But Owen, who is an assistant professor with the communication, culture and technology program as well as director of American Studies at Georgetown, does not limit her expressions of fandom to her attire.

She and her husband purchased season tickets as soon as she arrived at Georgetown in 1991 and began making the trip out to the Capital Center in Landover, Md., to watch the team play. She started discussing Hoya Hoops with government professor Jim Lengle.

Recently, she’s traveled to Duke for last December’s bout with the Blue Devils and Atlanta for the Final Four.

She begins each power point presentation with a photo from the team’s most recent game, which gives her a chance to “form a little bit of a bond” with her students.

And, she reads the popular fan message board HoyaTalk for the inside scoop and a little gossip. She even posts on the board.

“I am as enthusiastic as any student or alum,” she says.

Owen says she particularly enjoys the atmosphere at home games.

“I really just enjoy the games as a place where I can just let go of my emotion,” she says. “My seatmate is [School of Foreign Service Professor] Marilyn McMorrow. We really love to show our enthusiasm.”

Watching Jack run across the court and attack the cardboard box with the opposition’s logo on it is one of the highlights of each home game, she says.

ost people interviewed for this story, when asked to pick a highlight from the past few seasons, point to the Final Four, or pick one game in particular on the road to Atlanta.

But Owen, who several professors, without being prompted to do so, identified as the biggest fan of all, refuses to be so general. She reels off a list of specific plays.

She enjoyed Roy Hibbert’s game-winning dunk against Notre Dame in his freshman season. And of course, his three-pointer to beat Connecticut this season. She also liked seeing Jeremiah Rivers throw down a thunderous dunk last month against Cincinnati.

IV

Fr. William McFadden, S.J., might have the best seat of any fan in the house. McFadden, a theology professor, is the Hoyas’ public address announcer and sits each game at the scorers’ table. That soothing monotone that announces each foul, basket and time out? That belongs to McFadden.

cFadden arrived at Georgetown in 1963, when basketball was “interesting.” The team, which was comprised of nearly all white players at the time, had more tempered expectations for success. Attending games was interesting as well, because at the time the college, Georgetown’s biggest school, was still all male.

cFadden began announcing games in 1973 in Thompson’s second season. At first, McFadden would call games from the crow’s nest at the top of McDonough, but before long, the NCAA mandated that the PA announcer be seated courtside. That’s when McFadden lucked into his courtside seat.

One of the best parts of working for the team, McFadden says, is that he has the chance to attend most NCAA tournament games. He didn’t make it to the Final Four last year in Atlanta, but he made it to all three in the 1980s.

The 1984 national semifinals against Kentucky remains McFadden’s finest memory. The details that McFadden remembers about that game are striking. He remembers Patrick Ewing sitting for the last eight minutes of the first half with foul trouble and the despair that most Georgetown fans felt with the team down seven at half. And he comes within one second of remembering exactly how long it took Kentucky to score their first point of the second half (9 minutes, 56 seconds).

Nothing can compare to beating Kentucky, he says.

This season marks McFadden’s 45th at Georgetown and 35th on the mic.

“It’s been a great ride,” he says.

David Gewanter, an English professor, proudly boasts that his fall 2007 poetry class accounted for all of this season’s technical fouls.

Gewanter, who had Jon Wallace, Patrick Ewing Jr. and Tyler Crawford in his Intro to Poetry Writing class last semester, thinks that poetry may have been the source of those technicals, pointing to poetry’s emphasis on expression of emotion.

(He made the claim before Chris Wright picked one up in the Big East tourney; Jessie Sapp was also called for a technical this year.)

Gewanter and his wife, Joy Young, also an English professor, have begun, along with their 13-year-old son, to regularly attend games the last few seasons.

Sometimes, Gewanter says, his son will get so nervous that he needs to get up and go grab some Dippin’ Dots to cool off.

During timeouts, Gewanter says, he and Young watch the JumboTron looking for their students.

“We are like parents there,” he says. “You hope you don’t see your students painted blue. If any of my students ever did that, it would be a merciless remainder of the term.”

Gewanter also highlighted Hibbert’s game-winning three as the season’s most exciting moment.

“When Hibbert put up a three-point shot, everyone on both sides stood up and gasped,” he says. “In the 400 section the oxygen left the building – that was really something.”

Jim Sandefur, the chairman of the math department, begins each class with a comment on Georgetown’s most recent game. Occasionally, he’ll tease a student he saw on the JumboTron with a painted face. He attends games with friends, sometimes meeting Owen after the game for a drink.

During this season’s Syracuse game, his section was littered with Orange fans.

“I was worried my students would see me and think I was a Syracuse fan,” he says.

V

The professors who have taken a rooting interest in the men’s basketball team seem to be in agreement that basketball occupies an important and appropriate place at Georgetown.

On a basic level, the team entertains. And following basketball offers professors a common interest they can use to connect with their students. Owen and Sandefur are but two of the many professors on the Hilltop who talk to their classes about the team.

Professors who are fans seem to be especially cognizant of the especially high demands placed on John Thompson III and the basketball players.

Gewanter learned when he had the three senior captains in his class the strenuous schedules the team must adhere to.

“I have not met students who are more tightly scheduled or are more heavily inspected than some of these athletes who started courses and practice at Georgetown before they even graduated high school,” Gewanter said. Most incoming freshman start to take courses on the Hilltop the summer after they graduate and play at McDonough in the Kenner League with their new teammates.

“I now know some of the student-athletes as mentees,” Porterfield says. “This group of students is incredibly kind to my children. I see how much my 11-year-old, Lizzie, looks up to Jon and Tyler and Roy and Jessie and Patrick. In part, I see them through her eyes.”

Deacon adds, “A lot of the schools that play the sport are big huge schools and the fans don’t know the players.” Georgetown players have a more “mainstream” experience, he said.

Thompson III also seems to be the subject of unanimous admiration from the faculty.

“I know how much work John Thompson III puts into running a high-quality program,” Porterfield says.

“He sets a good example,” Owen says.

cFadden, meanwhile, still seems somewhat awestruck by Thompson Jr.’s commitment to making Georgetown a top-flight program.

Porterfield and Deacon, as administrators, are also quick to point to the overarching mission of the basketball program and the effect it can have on the surrounding community.

“Georgetown basketball is about a lot of things,” says Porterfield.

“It’s about our desire to compete and win at a championship level – to inspire the community and the city – and to do that the right way, with an equal commitment to education and to integrity.

“It’s also about our community. Students, faculty, staff and alumni want to be able to rally together and cheer for our university. We want to have shared moments of triumph through which we experience community and joy.”

During the 1980s, Deacon says, “Georgetown became a very well-respected school in the African American community, which is somewhat unusual in the world of Catholic universities.”

“The image [the team] helps provide for Georgetown is really a good thing,” Deacon says. “It certainly helps in admissions too.”

Owen, who teaches a class on media and American elections, has noticed that the media’s portrayal of Georgetown and its basketball players has been particularly positive.

Of course, not every professor is a fan of Georgetown basketball. Most of those interviewed said that there is a wide range among the faculty.

“Sometimes it surprises me that not as many [members of the faculty] are as excited about the team as I am,” Owen says, adding that the number of professors who follow the team seems to be on the rise and that the overall sense of support for big-time athletics seems to be growing.

Perhaps it is appropriate that professors also seem to have a heightened sense of perspective.

“It’s about seeing a game for what it is – a game,” Porterfield says. “Defeat is not death

but the chance to learn and try again.”

Of course, some do dare to dream.

Says Owen: “Just about ready to book my ticket to San Antonio.”

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.