It was a fairy tale come true—and the Patriots basketball team captured the hearts
of Americans everywhere.
“Pinch me…this can’t be true.”
—Temporary tattoo on psychology professor Lou Buffardi’s forehead.
We were the underdogs, the Cinderella team that never should have been at the ball in the first place. We were the long shots that kept hanging in there, ruining everyone’s brackets in the NCAA Tournament. We were the kryptonite that crumpled even the strongest supermen. We were the most famous university in the country for a few weeks—keying in those who had never heard of us to our greatness. We proved that it is easy to be green—and gold—and it continues to be so. We realized what it means to be a Patriot, and we celebrated in that joy and pride. And we’re still dancing.
Senior Lamar Butler, BA Communication ’06, signs copies of Sports Illustrated.
“Excellence is not an act, it’s a habit.”
New York Times, March 19
Senior Jai Lewis displays the regional trophy to a crowd of 5,000 in the Patriot Center.
Mason scores big off the court, too
- Pulling Rank—Support for the team, which achieved the program’s highest-ever ranking, finishing eighth in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll, came from many circles, including Richmond. Gov. Tim Kaine was in the crowd cheering on the Patriots at the Final Four game in Indianapolis.
- Hoop Hits—Activity on the Internet reflected the excitement surrounding the team’s success. Before the Final Four game, searches for “George Mason basketball” jumped by 294 percent and into Yahoo.com’s top 500 searches. On the day of the Final Four game, “George Mason” was Google’s most-requested search.
- Feel the Love—Sheer joy from the basketball success motivated Mason’s 100,000+ alumni to reconnect—with each other and with their alma mater. E-mails, calls, letters, and contributions poured into the Alumni Affairs Office from around the country. Some even stopped by, including one jetlagged fan from the West Coast. Watch parties were hosted at 69 venues in 22 states.
- Memory Maker—The Center for History and New Media created the Mason Basketball Digital Memory Bank (hoops.gmu.edu). By the first week in April, the site had almost 4,000 visitors, who recorded 118 files, which included photographs, videos, audio, and text such as e-mails and blog postings. Contributions are still coming in.
- L Is for Legacy—Men’s basketball head coach Jim Larranaga signed a contract extension that will keep him at the university through the 2011–12 season. He was also the recipient of the 2006 Coach Clair Bee Award given annually by the Basketball Hall of Fame and Chip Hilton Sports.
“It was the beginning of an improbable week at the summit of college basketball, and across the campus was the sense that no matter what the outcome in Indianapolis, this was a moment to savor.”
—Washington Post, March 28, 2006
“Eleventh-seeded George Mason is a source of inspiration for anyone with a heartbeat. And, yes, the glass slipper is starting to look like just the right size.”
—USA Today, March 27, 2006
Here’s how the Patriots made basketball history:
- First trip to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen, NCAA Elite Eight, and NCAA Final Four in school history
- First NCAA Tournament win in school history
- First time the Patriots have defeated two top-10 teams, Connecticut and North Carolina
- First season in school history with 27 wins and 497 assists
- First season in school history to end with a 0.384 field-goal percentage defense and 58.9 scoring defense
- First team from the Colonial Athletic Association to reach the Final Four
Alumni Watch Parties
New York City
Fort Belvoir, Virginia
Camp Larranaga—Students camped out for days to get tickets to the Sweet Sixteen game at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. (top)
Coach Larranaga with the media
Buy George—In two weeks the
George Mason University Bookstore sold more than 25,000 NCAA-related pieces of clothing and nearly 1,500 hats, along with another 8,000 pieces of general Mason gear. According to bookstore manager Jack Smith, “We sold more clothing in one week than we did all of last year.” Above, the line for Final Four gear.
An impromptu parade on Patriot Circle
after the Elite Eight win.
Gunston in the Fairfax City parade
University President Alan Merten (center) with Alumni Association President Cathy Lemmon, BA ‘86, MA ‘93, and vice president–programs Ted Arnn, BS ‘93, at George Mason University Day, proclaimed by the Fairfax County government.