Country music and maroon-and-gold scarves filled PBR, a country bar in St. Louis’ Ballpark Village, as the Loyola athletics department hosted its opening reception at the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) men’s basketball tournament Thursday night.
About 100 alumni, fans and athletics department staff members attended the event, which took place one day before the Loyola men’s basketball team’s first game of the tournament, better known as Arch Madness.
Matthew Hall, a 2007 Loyola graduate, said even though he arrived a day before Loyola’s first game, the event was worth coming to St. Louis early.
“This event’s always been good every year,” Hall said. “It’s always a good thing to get down here early and start the weekend. Everyone looks forward to it, the weekend’s always a blast. This is always a good reason to take a day off work and get down here early.”
Another alumnus, Tom Owens, has seen Loyola’s program develop for decades. He graduated in 1962, one year before the Ramblers won the NCAA Tournament.
Owens went back to Loyola for his master’s in business administration in 1976 and said the team’s Final Four run in 2018 renewed his fandom. So, he decided to make his first trip to Arch Madness this year — 58 years after he got his undergraduate degree.
“After we went to the Final Four, we knew all of the ‘63 team that went to the championship, we said, ‘We have to get back involved in this’ and it’s been a blast,” Owens said. “This year, we said we were going to go down to Arch Madness because we think we can win this.”
Athletics director Steve Watson, team chaplain Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, BVM and head coach Porter Moser all gave speeches about what they’re looking forward to this weekend and updating the state of the athletics department.
All three said they were excited for what’s shaping up to be a crazy weekend of basketball. But Sister Jean passed her confidence along to the team in one of her regular emails.
“In my email to the team the other day, I said, ‘I know you can do it, you know you can do it. So just do it,’” she told the crowd.
Alumni weren’t the only ones present, though. A fair amount of players’ parents were also in attendance. When Moser spoke to the crowd, he rattled off a number of parents in attendance and some former players’ parents, as well.
Lori Krutwig, whose son Cameron finished second in MVC Player of the Year voting, said the moms have a big group text message chain with each other. She rounded up a big group to come to St. Louis — some of whom have never been — and said more would be coming in time for the game.
“I tried to get all the players’ moms to come,” said Lori, who’s been to all three tournaments in which Cameron has played. “Not all of them have gotten here, but I sent out a text earlier this year to tell them that they all should come to the event to mingle with the alumni to have a good time.”
Loyola is scheduled to open Arch Madness March 6 against No. 7-seeded Valparaiso University at 6 p.m. on the MVC TV Network.