Shockers and Ducks ... Oh my!
Our infamous Cowgirl checks in with notes from the road
Posted: Wednesday February 14, 2007 12:18PM; Updated: Wednesday February 14, 2007 12:35PM
Toto, I don't think we're in Tallahassee anymore. In case you haven't been paying attention, I've been traveling the country the past few weeks in search of the greatest college hoops venues, traditions, and fans America has to offer. My journey started off in Wichita, Kan., the same weekend of Super Bowl XLI. I know what you're thinking: What was I doing in Kansas the weekend of the Super Bowl? Well, that's where my story begins.
Wichita State proved to be a much worthier venue than one would suspect. Nestled in the heart of the chilly Midwest, my crew and I braved the single-digit temperatures to bring you footage like no other. Here are just a few highlights from my trip to the heartland:
The Shocker is more than just an obscene hand gesture. In fact, the Wichita State student body caused such a huge controversy in past years when they were shown displaying the three-finger hand arrangement in the national media, prompting the administration to take action. The school deemed the hand gesture appropriate only when the thumb was added to the mix. The students seem to have obliged and even encouraged me to get it right.
Although it has have great talent on the diamond and the court, Wichita State does not boast a football team. In fact, the Shockers experienced their own episode of We Are Marshall when a plane crash on Oct. 2, 1970, killed numerous members of the team and staff. The school attempted to re-establish the program, but rebuilding efforts proved futile, and the program officially ended in the early 80's. Still, the students are proud of their athletic department and its rich history, and support the school's other teams.
Basketball coach [Mark] Turgeon and I spoke at length about his connection with the students. Though Turgeon says he is not likely to sport body paint anytime soon, a la Bruce Pearl, you can expect to see him make appearances at game day rallies and Koch Arena camp-outs. Coaches like Turgeon, who took time out of his busy schedule to shoot hoops with students at a Friday night camp-out, have a deep appreciation for the student section's enthusiasm and dedication to the team.
You can say we followed the Yellow brick road, or maybe just took the Oregon trail, but our next adventure lead us all the way to the Emerald City of Eugene Ore., home of the Fighting Ducks. Here are a few highlights.
Few people know that Oregon is the only school with an actual contract with Walt Disney to secure the rights of their mascot, none other than the likeness of Donald Duck. Originally, the role of mascot was played by Puddles, a live waddling, quacking duck until the Animal Rights Activists and Humane Society rained on their parade. Subsequent mascot renditions really did not do the Ducks justice, until they began a partnership with Disney to use Donald's likeness in creating the costume. It wasn't until after Walt Disney's death that the school and Disney came to a formal agreement, based solely on a photo of Walt himself posing in a Oregon letterman's jacket, complete with a rendition of Donald in the middle of the "O."
I may not have met the Wizard while in Emerald City, but I did manage to snag some interviews with other famous faces and alumni: Ahmad Rashad, Joey Harrington, and Nike founder Phil Knight. But perhaps the most surprising of all encounters was that of my "maker." Yes, I met the man that made the "statement that launched 15,000 applications to Florida State," or at least got their attention on that fateful Monday night telecast that thrust my girlfriends and I into the national spotlight -- Brent Musburger. Musburger was on hand to call last Saturday's game against Arizona, and graciously took time from his busy schedule to speak with me about that night, and the events that followed. In the end, all I could really do was thank him for a seemingly innocent statement that sent this girl on the wildest adventure of her life.
My guide while in the Emerald city was not made of tin, straw, or fur, but he did sport an interesting gladiator get-up -- Nick Harrington. Nick is the little brother of former U of O quarterback and current Miami Dolphins quarterback Joey Harrington. Nick proved to be well-versed in everything Oregon sports, particularly football, due to his family's background at the university spanning several generations. He and Aubrey took me through the football facilities that I can only describe as a locker room from MTV's cribs, complete with plasma TVs, playstations, and the latest and greatest of Nike.
So, as you can see, my trip across the Oregon Trail was a huge success. Catch more from my excursion to the University of Oregon in this week's edition of The Jenn X Road Show. Thanks to the Ducks and Shockers for being such accommodating hosts and to the student sections that let me be a part of their school's traditions.
This weekend we're heading up to snowed-in Syracuse. I am braving sub-zero temperatures and record-breaking snowfall to bring you one of the greatest rivalries college basketball has to offer (Syracuse-UConn), not to mention one of the most popular sports arenas in the land. Maybe next week they will let me thaw out at say ... the University of Hawaii or something.
So get ready Orange, because it's gonna take more than a few feet of snow to keep this cowgirl from getting rowdy on game day. Think you can handle the Jenn X challenge? We'll see, 'Cuse. We'll see.
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