FAIRFAX,Va.,March 27 – George Mason University junior Dale Mast,wearing a college hat and T-shirt in forest green,viewed the more than 100 people outside the main campus bookstore Monday waiting to buy gear celebrating the basketball team's trip to the NCAA Final Four.
“It's almost like a once in a lifetime thing,” said Mast,23,who studies administrative justice at the university. “It's almost like a haze. There's a total buzz around campus.”
Although he said he was first person in line last week to buy a Sweet 16 T-shirt,he decided to watch a replay of Sunday's game between Mason and Connecticut on a big screen inside the George W. Johnson Center and said he would buy a shirt at another Mason campus.
The university is about 21 miles from downtown Washington where it beat the University of Connecticut in overtime to get to the tournament finals next weekend.
Fans who did wait in line were limited to five T-shirts each. Many worried about whether they would be able to buy gear. Some students said faculty were dismissing classes early,canceling classes,postponing papers and tests and receiving e-mails from the administration to “go easy on the students.”
Mike Klonarides,a business management senior at Mason who was standing in line,said the campus was filled with people excited for the team.
“I feel like I'm a part of something,” Klonarides said. “We're getting some recognition for something finally.”
Mason fans and siblings Gaye Wheatley,53,and Spencer Stokes,42,spent about $300.
One of Wheatley's sons applied to Mason's law school for the fall and her four children are fans of the university,she said,holding four bags of sweatshirts,hats and T-shirts.
Stokes said that,although he lives in Ogden,Utah,he often travels to Washington for business. He said he wanted to buy gear in support of the underdog team.
“It's just such a Cinderella story. You have to be supportive of them,” Stokes said.
Alissa Karton,director of the Johnson Center and university life programs for 10 years,stood outside the bookstore sporting the Mason logo on her right cheek and wearing a Final Four T-shirt.
She said the team has worked hard to reach a top spot in the tournament,and the accomplishment brings tears to her eyes.
“It's unbelievable. It's indescribable. It's absolutely amazing,” Karton said.
Outside the Johnson Center,a statue of the university's namesake,the author of Virginia's Bill of Rights and a delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention,wore a yellow cape emblazoned with “Go Kryptonite Kidz.” The popular nickname for the Patriots alludes to the school's green and gold colors and Superman-like status.
Donors and season ticket holders were able to begin buying $170 Final Four tickets Monday,and students will be able to buy tickets Tuesday online. Karton said 1,200 of 3,700 tickets are set aside for students.
Mast,who transferred to Mason last year from a Lancaster,Pa.,community college,said he would go to the Final Four in Indianapolis to cheer on his team in a heartbeat but money is an issue. He said he will be back at the Johnson Center to watch on big screen TVs and root for his team,and he hopes the rest of the country will watch in amazement.
“America is just finding out what George Mason is about and it's all because of this,” Mast said.