OGDEN — Weber State University is basking in the limelight of the NCAA tournament. Matched against one of the top teams in the nation today, the school is enjoying just being a part of the competition.
Students were amped, hosting a big viewing party and purchasing lots of official Weber State merchandise.
“It’s always fun to see. As our team got closer and closer to clinching the (Big Sky Conference) championship, we start ed to see more people buying purple,” said Ben Taylor, Weber State’s campus store marketing manager. “They realize, hey our team might have a chance at taking this thing, so let’s show our support, get into some purple and go to some games.”
A couple hundred students gathered for a viewing party on a giant screen TV in the student union building Friday afternoon. Weber State went up 7-0 in the first five minutes of the game, even though a number 16 seed has never beaten a number 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, hopes were high.
“I think it’s awesome and I just love the underdog story. Nothing better than being the underdog. Hopefully doing good,” WSU student Richie Stevenson said.
At the final buzzer, it was not to be, but, Friday's appearance in the tournament, and the build-up to it was huge. As the game progressed, the crowd got a quieter and started to thin out. And while a long-shot win would have been nice, Weber State is certainly on the map.
“It’s just exciting to make Weber State a household name again,” Taylor said.
When Weber State won the Big Sky tournament, to get into March Madness, there was a run of Wildcat merchandise at the campus stores, here on campus and at its downtown location. Each day, more and more people came in, to buy anything purple to support their team. The Big Sky championship shirt is the store's biggest seller right now.
It happens at all schools which qualify for postseason play: when a team plays well, it benefits the entire university. And not just economically.
“We work with a lot of vendors and people outside of the state. And they always refer to us as ‘Webber’ State,” Taylor said. “But with us being on TV and in the tournament, people are starting to realize it’s Weber State, those guys in Utah, they’re the guys who have the purple. So we’re just excited to get the attention.”
The national attention, also gets the phones ringing on campus from potential students who become interested in possibly enrolling.