Though the Owls lost their first-round NCAA matchup to Arizona State, the students of the Cherry Crusade returned from Miami feeling like winners.
For K.C. Carfagno, the opportunity to support the team made the long trip worthwhile.
“We love watching the basketball team, and they needed some support,” the junior psychology major said. “Without us, it would have been just alumni.”
The 30 students in the Cherry Crusade who attended the game were the majority of the students who made the trek.
“To go down there and to give all that we could like we did all season was completely and entirely worth it,” said Luke Butler, a junior neuroscience psychology major and president of the Cherry Crusaders.
The crusaders sat in the corner of the arena, opposite the Temple bench with about a dozen of non-Cherry Crusade students, alumni and the players’ families, Butler said.
The highlight of the trip came when Temple trailed by only three points in the first half, and the Crusaders united to cheer on the Owls.
“It was absolutely the defining moment of the trip for me,” Butler said. “The students encouraged the alumni to stand up, and everybody stood up and one side yelled ‘T’ and the other side yelled ‘U’ in one big Temple chant. It sent chills down my spine.”
The original plan for the crusaders was that if Temple lost, they would go home Saturday morning. But Friday night, they decided since it did not cost anything to keep the bus an extra day, they would spend an extra day in Miami and return to campus on Sunday.
“We went to the beach. It rained a little. Then we just walked around looking at shops and stuff like that,” Carfagno said.
Everyone was in good spirits despite the loss, and they even received compliments on their efforts from Siena fans, who were also in Miami.
“The overall tone from everybody was that we did what we wanted to do,” Butler said. “We were an excellent student section.”
Deciding whether the Cherry Crusade will travel next year depends on the outcome of Temple’s season and the location of the next possible NCAA Tournament game.
Last year, the Cherry Crusade did not go to Denver, where Temple played, because of the distance.
“The rule is if it is east of the Mississippi River, we will make it work,” Butler said. “In the western part of the country, it is too far and too costly.”
Making another trip would also require some fast fundraising. All the money for the trip was raised between 11 a.m. Monday and 3 p.m. Wednesday during the week of the game.
The entire trip cost $15,500, and $6,000 came from the students who each contributed $200. The other $9,500 was raised via PayPal donations from alumni, Butler said.
For next year, Butler is looking for more ways to efficiently raise money, such as offering refundable deposits before Temple is confirmed to go to the NCAA Tournament.
Even though Temple lost and the bus rides were long, the students of the Cherry Crusade said they enjoyed Miami.
“On the way there, everyone sat with their own group of friends, but on the way back, the deck was completely shuffled,” Butler said. “People were hanging out and sitting with friends they made on the trip.”
Brian Dzenis can be reached at email@example.com.