For fans at Wells Fargo Center, live action often took backseat to TV action

Posted: March 24, 2013

Philly fans in sections at opposite ends of the Wells Fargo Center kept starting an Eagles chant for a school most had heard of for only hours.

A La Salle graduate did a victory lap around the bar up on the concourse.

Temple fans ignored food spreads in suites and the live action down on the court, fixated - more like paralyzed - as televisions showed the Owls barely holding on for their own upset.

It was an interesting day of NCAA regional action at the Wells Fargo Center. Half the place seemed to have eyes elsewhere as Big Five teams did their business out of town.

The live-action headline was the Eagles of Florida Gulf Coast taking out the Georgetown Hoyas.

Those E-A-G-L-E-S chants lit up the building, even if the school's cheerleaders probably didn't recognize the rhythm of the strange chants.

A Wells Fargo employee, hearing all the commotion, walked out to the stands and looked at the scoreboard: "FGCU, what the heck is that? Beating the Hoyas?"

A Hoyas fan looked at the same scoreboard and said to a buddy, "It's not like they're raining threes and we can't do anything about it."

The final was Florida Gulf Coast 78, Georgetown 68. The better team won, and afterward this group from a beachside campus in Fort Myers put the dance in the Big Dance, momentarily starting a little conga line on the court.

Meanwhile, as Villanova got back in it against North Carolina, the building loved it. That kind of night. That game flipped the script from the earlier Temple and La Salle upsets. The Tar Heels had a cushion in this one, lost it, but held on. No victory laps around the concourse.

It was this kind of day: Andy Coyle had his ticket for Creighton-Cincinnati. Which means Coyle wasted his ticket. The La Salle graduate, Class of '11, didn't see a minute of the second half and couldn't have cared less how it turned out.

Coyle sat alone at one of the bars inside the arena, in perfect agony, watching the screen above the bar as an 18-point Explorers halftime lead withered away. At one point, he slammed his Explorers hat on the bar.

By the time eventual hero Jerrell Wright went to the foul line at the end, Coyle was crouching down behind his seat, just able to see over the bar to the TV, which suited him fine. He could barely watch.

At the buzzer, La Salle a 63-61 winner, Coyle sprung up, high-fived anyone in his general vicinity, and took a victory lap around the bar. "Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God?!"

Earlier . . .

"Oh my God, get a defibrillator in here," said a Temple graduate, Jim Dornan, Fox School of Business '85, watching in a very quiet suite with other Temple graduates as the Owls squandered most but not all of a 16-point halftime lead, surviving to beat North Carolina State, 76-72.

Has this ever happened before? Three teams from one city playing on a single day while four other games were played in that city? It's not even possible in any of the other cities hosting games this weekend around the country.

Here, it seemed like all the locals had a plan for how to watch games.

"I'm going to watch the Villanova game from the Temple suite," said former NCAA supervisor of officials Hank Nichols, also a 'Nova professor.

Drexel coach Bruiser Flint was in another crowd out on the concourse watching the Temple game on a big screen. The man with him watching that one had to be the only man in the place rooting for North Carolina State against the Owls.

"Yeah, in Philly," agreed Dereck Whittenburg, who was merely part of the most famous play in North Carolina State's history.

But he wasn't trying to cause any trouble.

"Franny is a great guy," Whittenburg, the former Fordham coach, said of Owls coach Fran Dunphy. (Franny may have found a Great Lake to jump in if his team had lost this one.)

Really, nobody in the place was complaining about being here.

"As a college basketball fan, you don't get an opportunity to see these teams too much," said Bruce Greenbaum, a Temple graduate wearing his Owls gear. "As opposed to sitting at home watching [Temple] on TV."

Coyle, the victory lapper, kept track of nothing but the Explorers. His brother came out at the end of the Creighton game and started to tell him what had happened. Coyle cut him off. His mind was halfway across the country, and he wanted to keep it there.

Contact Mike Jensen at Follow on Twitter @jensenoffcampus.

comments powered by Disqus