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NIT Journal: Celebrations, Flights, and Bittersweetness

LAS VEGAS – – At some point in time I decided to be a little more “serious” and trade a little fandom for a little more media access. This has been fine, and good, and it is useful for the subscribers. I think if you are going to be the eyes and ears of the readership you should take it seriously and be the observer others cannot be. However that means instead of doing shots at the casino bar after the game, you go up and record a podcast. There were a couple “official” spots, like the bar outside Paris Casino, but MGN chose to sort of see who was out and about and tag along. That meant more of the Strip.

I probably stayed out too late and had a few too many for the 4am wake-up I had coming, but I am an experienced person in this world. I had a good time. I slept. I woke up. I packed. I got on the flight and slept through the 2.5 hour trip. I got home. I played with my kids. I fell asleep while watching a movie.

Today? Today I am still basking in the glow of the win, and taking in a baseball game without worrying abut blogging or having hot sports opinions about what is happening.

Somewhere throughout the night the rumor was that Grant McCasland had an 11am press conference on Friday scheduled in Lubbock. That wasn’t quite the case, but he did fly out there and he and his family who were just clad in green, yelling and celebrating were all outfitted in red and talking up their future in west Texas. That is the game. UNT people are not happy about it, but I wouldn’t say anyone is sad. McCasland gave the program 100% effort and care. It was sometimes disarming how earnest he was with everyone.

I think we sometimes forget that college sports is always in flux. Even when players stayed 3-and-4 years, consider that is not a lot of time. McCasland was here six years and had three different eras. The Ryan Woolridge version, the Javion Hamlet version, and the Tylor Perry squad. Two of them won C-USA POY and one could have done the same had he not transferred to Gonzaga. Perry maybe has another year left but I don’t know that he chooses to stay in Denton for his final year when he has won just about everything possible. When McCasland said he loved this particular group of guys he meant it, but even if he stayed was going to change. A new squad, a new season, a new group.

It was great hanging out in Las Vegas. It would have been nicer to have had a full-week of PTO to fully get into things, but it was probably for the best (including my wallet) that I had to hole up and do day-job work while in town. Both president Smatresk¬†and Athletic Director Jared Mosley discussed this game and its meaning for the future. Smatresk¬†said it would be the “start of a new tradition” of supporting the squad in the postseason.

The UNT President and the AD in Orleans Arena

If this trip was lacking anything, it was attendance. The traveling fans were loud and supportive — louder than Wisconsin for a large portion of the game, even being down 2:1 — but there simply weren’t that many. There are always reasons for that. Dive into the message boards and someone will tell you about endowments and history and something or other. Every program has its own history and some of the things are out of your and my control. Sure, the university could have done some better things. Sure, this or that email could have been written better. But, some thing don’t need complicated solutions. They just need 10% more care.

The support

Now, that is something I say at my day job: “you know, we probably don’t need a new process, we just need people to do their jobs 10% better and we should be comfortable asking that of ourselves.” Last minute trips are expensive and difficult to plan for. I simply ask you — what were you planning for? Did you not think that McCasland’s “best team we’ve had here” was going to the postseason? Did you not think the NCAA tournament was going to be difficult to travel to? How about the NIT, long planned to be held in Las Vegas? Did you not know you could buy tickets in advance? I ask these things without judgement. My family and I book the C-USA tournament as far in advance as we can because we know we will be there. It is a thing. I get weird looks from my co-workers after answering the question, “So what are you doing for spring break?” Watching C-USA Tournament Games in Frisco is a strange answer, it seems.

Even Friday, sitting in a meeting. “Adam, I didn’t realize how big a fan you were. You went to Las Vegas?” Yeah, bud. I did.

Lots of folks showed up — shout out to Friend of MGN Tony DeSousa for hosting one — at the watch parties in and around the DFW area. Lots of fun was had. Lots of drinks were consumed. When NT went to the Cotton Bowl, I remember enjoying similar scenes. The next step is making sure we can make that kind of party travel. Las Vegas was a missed opportunity in that regard, and I can tell you right now I am not super excited about Indianapolis as an NIT destination but if North Texas is in it? Well, sign me up.

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