One of my unforgettable college basketball experiences transpired during the NCAA Tournament in Nashville in 2005. This was final year of membership in Conference USA, and the University of Louisville was eagerly anticipating its initiation into the Big East.
The Cards were to play the Georgia Tech in a second round match up that day. Â Card fans started to fill up the arena, which was expected, considering how well we travel and the close proximity to Louisville (2.5 hours away). The second half of the Villanova/Florida game was underway and it was a tight one as Planet Red descended upon the arena. A small contingent of Nova fans were cheering on their team with the Let’s go NO-VA chant. Anything short of intimidating to their opponents, I’m sure.
We were anxious for our team’s game to get going so we started firing each other up with the C-A-R-D-S cheer, which had to be impressive to the Gator fans and Villanova fans due to the sheer number of UofL supporters. Â Maybe even a little rude, considering we weren’t even on the hardwood yet. That didn’t matter, and was kind of a message that, hey, we’re here and ready to be a factor.
The VU/UF contest was coming down to the wire. Nova fans were still rooting on their cats when their future Big East brethren decided to pick up the slack. Â Almost at once, thousands of UofL fans started in with the LET’S go NO-VA. After a few rounds, the Villanova fan section cheered to us as if for a collective Thank you! Nova went on to skin the Gators and we Card fans like to think we had something to do with that.
Fast forward to the UofL/GT game, which ended up being a rout with the Cards winning big. But that didn’t stop Villanova fans from returning the favor. At some point during the game, they broke out with the C-A-R-D-S chant, which was responded to with a collective cheer from the Cardinal faithful.Â One of those feel-good moments in college sports fandom. And for good measure, near the end of the second game, both sets of fans were harmoniously chanting BIG EAST! (stomp, stomp) BIG EAST! (stomp, stomp)
Not often does a group of fans cheer for another school. But that’s the brotherhood of teams that is the Big East. Everybody cheers for each other out-of-conference, adamantly even. A victory against the SEC, ACC, whoever, is as good as a victory for your own team.
When we play each other, however …