Bucknell gains unlikely backers

Sunday, April 3, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:36 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 14, 2008

‘Bison fever’ seems to be contagious.

Support for Bucknell, the tiny liberal arts school in Pennsylvania that pulled off an unlikely upset against No. 3 Kansas in the NCAA tournament, has spread beyond the little town of Lewisburg.

Apparently Kansas, if not successful on the basketball court, is at least successful in eliciting a common enmity.

Keeping the Bucknell University bookstore busy, Missouri and Kansas State fans have been placing nearly 250 apparel orders daily to show their appreciation of Bucknell’s surprising victory. Hope Greiner, a 25-year employee of the Bucknell bookstore, said she had never filled so many orders for shirts.

Nearly 1000 miles away, Bison fans had little previous knowledge of the intense rivalry that exists between Missouri and Kansas. It wasn’t until bookstore employees began reading the comments included with the orders that they fully understood why their shirt sales were increasing phenomenally.

One commentary read, “Thanks for beating the lowly Jayhawks, everyone in Columbia, Mo., loves you, Go Bison!”

Another customer even paid the bookstore to anonymously send a Bucknell postcard, taunting an unlucky Kansas fan with just the numbers 64-63.

With only five scholarship players, Bucknell’s 64-63 first-round victory made school history. It was the first NCAA tournament win in the Bison’s 110-year history of play. Bucknell is the first member of the Patriot League to win a tournament game.

Bucknell also became the first team since 1978 to knock Kansas out in the first round of the tournament and the first No. 14 seed since 1999 to win in the first round.

No one expected the Bison to win. The Bucknell band didn’t even show up to the game. Spring break had apparently taken priority, so the band from Northern Iowa disguised itself in Bucknell orange and led the crowd.

But Bucknell is not hurting for fan support now, either in Lewisburg or Missouri.

March 22 was declared Bison Men’s Basketball Day in Lewisburg. After Bucknell was eliminated by Wisconsin in the second round, 3,500 people turned out for a welcome-home parade. Bucknell president Brian Mitchell said he felt, with the victory, the Bison would become more of a household name.

That has certainly been the case in Missouri.

The Missouri men’s basketball team did not qualify for the NCAA tournament, making the defeat of an archrival the lone consolation for Tiger fans. With Kansas’ flop, a new color will at least be temporarily integrated into Missouri fans’ wardrobe.

Black, gold and orange?

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