Just like they do every morning when they’re on the road, the Kansas State University band, cheerleading squad and dance team met early Friday to touch base on the day’s schedule.
But unknown to the group assembled in a downtown hotel conference room, this meeting would be a little different.
“We’re going through the meeting and I look over and I kind of did a double take,” said yell leader John Doan, a sophomore from Wichita. “And there was Coach (Frank) Martin, right there in the conference room with us. I couldn’t believe it.”
Martin and K-State athletic director John Currie came to the meeting to deliver a message the night after the Wildcats defeated Southern Mississippi 70-64 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
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“They just wanted to thank us for being here. It was an excellent surprise,” K-State band director Don Linn said. “They said they appreciate all the things that we do, and that they respected how we always handle ourselves with class and respect.”
K-State plays top-seeded Syracuse at 11:15 a.m. Saturday (KWCH, Channel 12) in an East Regional game. The winner advances to the Sweet 16 next week in Boston. The Wildcats reached the regional finals two years ago, losing to Butler in Salt Lake City.
The NCAA allows every school to bring 29 band members, one conductor, 12 cheer/dance members and one mascot to tournament sites. K-State also sent another contingent with the women’s team to Bridgeport, Conn., where the Wildcats take on Princeton at 10:20 a.m. Saturday (ESPN2, Channel 33).
Doan, who graduated from Kapaun Mount Carmel, went to the NCAA Tournament last year with the women’s team in Storrs, Conn.
“This experience has been amazing,” Doan said. “Our team always fights so hard; to get this opportunity for the entire school is really special.”
The band and cheer squads – split evenly between cheerleaders and K-State’s dance team, the Classy Cats – prepare for the games in cloaked-off areas backstage, right next to the same squads for the other teams at the tournament.
They’re constantly escorted by NCAA officials who have them adhere to strict policies, although some things don’t change from the regular season.
“The bands have certain times they can’t play, and there are more specific rules about tumbling on the court and stuff like that,” said Kent Hollinsworth, a sophomore yell leader from Shawnee. “And we can’t yell or cheer toward the court but when we see Rodney (McGruder) put up a three, I think we all still stop and ”
Hollinsworth smiled, looked up and made the sign of the cross across his chest.
“You’re just praying that thing goes in.”