Late Thursday night,an impromptu party erupted on the campus of Hampton University.
Hampton University. If you don’t recognize the name,you’re not alone. Even native Virginian and NBC Today Show co-host Katie Couric didn’t know where Hampton was before Friday morning.
But Couric – and millions of college basketball fans – know all about Hampton now,after the Pirates’ stunning 58-57 upset over Iowa State in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Boise,Idaho.
“This is a monumental event in the history of Hampton,” said HU senior Akil Kennedy. “This is the first time anybody at HU has experienced anything like this.”
Located in Hampton,Va.,about halfway between Williamsburg and Virginia Beach,the school was founded in 1868 and is home to about 6,100 students. Like many historically black colleges on the East Coast,the university is a member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
Hampton’s sports teams are often overshadowed by larger state schools like the University of Virginia and Old Dominion. Thursday night,however,Hampton put itself on the sports map,becoming only the fourth No. 15-seed in NCAA history to defeat a No. 2 seed.
Throngs of students gathered in Holland Hall,the school’s gymnasium,to watch the game on a large screen. With the game starting around 10 PM in Hampton,others stayed in their dorm rooms,content to watch the drama unfold on tabletop televisions.
“A lot of people on campus felt we had a good chance,” said Kennedy. “The team was real confident. It was like nobody expected them to win,so there was no pressure.”
Added junior Lydia McCoy: “It was a really good game. We were up at the half and then we fell back 10 or 12 points.”
As the Pirates closed the gap and time started running out,students were on edge.
“When Tarvis took that last shot,you could hear screams,” said McCoy of the winning shot by senior forward Tarvis Williams with 6.9 seconds left.
Hundreds of students,including Kennedy,gathered around the Science and Technology Building as soon as it was over.
“Everybody just ran out,” said Kennedy. “It was a celebration. People in their cars,people singing and doing school cheers. It was just happiness. I was hugging people I haven’t hugged or associated with for awhile.”
With a university police presence,there were few interruptions to the revelry,which finally ended in the wee hours Friday morning. Hampton’s victory propelled the Pirates into a second-round game Saturday against Georgetown University.
“People are really anticipating the game on Saturday,” said Kennedy. “If we win Saturday,it will be pandemonium.”
A Friday afternoon pep rally in the student center bumped campus spirit up one more notch as the students were encouraged to gather once more in Holland Hall to watch Saturday’s game.
“People had signs that just said ’58-57,'” said sophomore Kyle Jones. “Everybody is still really excited and looking forward to Georgetown.”