Pre-game tailgate to celebrate seniors

Courtney Scrib

March may only be a week away, but the madness is far from having just begun.

Even before the basketball season started, Villanova students and fans were already mapping out road trips to away games and booking reservations in postseason tournament sites. Since there has rarely been a game this season where the student section isn’t busting at the seams, dedicated followers (some dressed in kilts, others covered in body paint – regardless of the weather conditions) have lined up outside the Pavilion and Wachovia Center entrances hours before tip-off in order to secure a coveted front row seat.

Lately, more and more students have been packing into Kelly’s Bar on Monday nights for the team’s weekly live radio show broadcasts. All the while, tickets are being priced (and paid for) at a premium, and replica jerseys and other merchandise have been flying off the racks as retailers struggle to meet the ever-growing Villanova Basketball demand.

“Everybody is excited for the team,” Brian Papson, director of marketing and special events, said.

From Hoops Mania preparations to Wachovia Center celebrations, Papson and the other members of the sports marketing department often have been at the center of this excitement. Prior to and throughout the season, the marketing department has worked closely with head coach Jay Wright and other members of the men’s basketball program to bring together the team and their fans and to further generate enthusiasm within the student body. Their efforts certainly have not gone unnoticed, or unappreciated.

“[The sports marketing department] is a great group of people,” senior Brian Lamsback said. “They have a real thankless job and rarely do they get a thank you, [but] in the end, these guys make things work.”

In another event to connect the Wildcats and their student fans, the marketing department, in conjunction with Athletics, the student activities committee and the Alumni Association, has organized the first annual Senior Night Senior Student Pre-Game Tailgate.

The event will take place on Wednesday night at the Pavilion prior to the St. John’s game. Lobby doors will be open from 5 until 5:45 p.m. for all senior students who have tickets to the game and their Wildcard.

Once they arrive, guests will be directed to a designated area behind the student section where there will be free pizza, Philly pretzels, soda and other giveaways. At 6 p.m., the stairway of the student section will open for seniors to claim their seats before any other students arrive. Wright and some of the senior players are then scheduled to address the audience.

Actually, if it weren’t for Wright, the idea for a senior student party would have never been suggested.

“Coach Wright wanted to do something for the seniors and get the whole class involved,” Papson explained. “The students have been doing a great job all year.”

Later that evening, the team’s graduating players, including Allan Ray, Randy Foye, Jason Fraser, Chris Charles and Baker Dunleavy, and managers, Mike Claxton and Erin Wade, will be honored in a pre-game ceremony.

While there have been other pre-game gatherings in the past, including at last year’s home game against Boston College, Papson hopes to make the Senior Night pre-game celebration an annual event.

“We have a special senior class, and they deserve something special to done for them,” he said.

Ironically, as the season winds down, the sports marketing department’s workload keeps piling up. In addition to the Senior Night party and helping the Health and Wellness center coordinate a Villanova-Connecticut Watch Party at the Connelly Center this Sunday, Papson is also finalizing the details for Selection Sunday.

In a change from last year’s Selection Sunday event, the entire general public is invited to join the men’s team at the Pavilion on March 12 when they find out their NCAA tournament seed. The event will begin at 5 p.m., an hour before CBS will begin its live broadcast. Admission is free, and seating will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis. With the amount of local and national coverage that the event is expected to attract, attendants are encouraged to come dressed in full Villanova fan apparel.

“We want to put on the best show that we can for Villanova Basketball,” Papson said. “We want to pack the place and incorporate as many people as we can. When it comes to something like this, bigger is definitely better.”

For students looking to lend their support in a less visible fashion, Papson has also been working on enhancing the content of the ‘Nova Nation All-Access Pass. By logging onto the Villanova Athletic website (, clicking on the Audio/Video link and paying a $6.95 subscription fee, fans can find exclusive behind-the-scene coverage of the team and other special features. In addition, they can download teleconferences and post-game press conferences.

“People want to be a part of the team as much as they can be,” Papson said. “It definitely makes my job easier when people are already pumped.”