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Classes, cold can’t stop fans gunning for courtside

Katie Perry | Wednesday, February 9, 2005

When it comes to attaining prime seating at home Irish basketball games, there is only one rule – fair-weather fans need not apply.

Fourteen Domers slept outside the Joyce Center Monday night to obtain the most coveted seats in the Notre Dame student section, or more colloquially dubbed, the Leprechaun Legion. The earliest students arrived at the JACC was approximately 10:30 p.m. – over 20 hours prior to tip-off.

Through Monday night and into Tuesday, fans amassed in front of Gate 1 to ensure courtside seating at last night’s game against Boston College.

Seated in lawn chairs and draped in blankets to block the unseasonably warm but still frigid air, diehard basketball fans spent the night playing cards, futilely attempting homework and sleeping. Rest was minimal, however, as one student noted, they had only slept about “three or four hours.”

For many of the students, Tuesday classes took a backseat to the big game. Freshman Michael Cimino admitted he missed two, but felt the importance of the game was justification enough for his nonattendance.

“I consider them excused absences,” Cimino said.

Many fans wished to remain nameless for fear of negative reactions from faculty members. But according to the students, responses from passersby were not much better.

Despite the bewildered looks and puzzled inquiries of bystanders, members of the Irish coaching staff received the students warmly.

At noon on Tuesday, head coach Mike Brey delivered “care packages” to the dedicated fans. The large cardboard boxes brought to the students contained chips, other assorted snack foods and soda. According to students, Brey has made a habit of providing food as a token of his gratitude for their enthusiasm for the program.

“Brey is probably the nicest coach on campus,” freshman Kevin Baker said. “He is a really cool guy.”

Brey was not the only coach who paid the devoted fans a visit, however. In the early morning hours, assistant coach Lewis Preston made a declaration as he passed the JACC.

“It ends tonight,” Preston said, referring to the Eagles’ previously untarnished record.

Preston’s prediction proved true, as the Irish rode to victory on solid play as well as the electricity of the student section. Ironically, some of the most energized fans at the game were those who had spent the night outside the JACC. An ESPN cameraman’s dream, the students painted their bodies in blue and gold and riled the rest of the Legion for the entire game.

Students agreed their quest to obtain the best possible seats was not driven by the desire to appear on television. Instead they cited a deep passion for the team and especially the magnitude of this particular game.

“I’m here for one reason,” sophomore Johnny McDermott said, “pure, unadulterated hatred for Boston College.”

Instead of hatred of the opponent, Baker arrived at the JACC several hours before the game because he is “addicted” to the first-rate seating granted through his sacrifices.

“You do it once, and you get hooked,” he said.

Cimino voiced his rationale in the form of prophesy.

“It’s going to be a marquee moment in Notre Dame history,” he said of the game.

He could not have been more right.