Dukes fanatics ponder the future

Brentaro Yamane | Multimedia Editor | Duquesne University President Ken Gormley shares an emotional embrace with Dukes center Chabi Barre after the buzzer at last Sunday's A-10 Championship game where the Dukes beat VCU 57-51.

Megan Trotter | News Editor

Dedicated fan and Red & Blue Crew member Matthew Magnani drove over 24 hours from Pittsburgh to Omaha to watch the Duquesne Men’s Basketball team play a two hour game in the NCAA Tournament.

After winning the Atlantic-10 Conference for the first time in almost 50 years, the Dukes are making fans proud.

When the buzzer sounded at Sunday’s game against VCU Duquesne President Ken Gormley was first to run onto the court. He embraced Dae Dae Grant and Jimmy Clark III, a moment seen nationally on CBS.

His enthusiasm continued at Tuesday’s send-off for the men’s team at UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse.

“Today is my birthday,” Gormley said. “I only want one thing for my birthday, and that is a big win on Thursday in Omaha.”

Lifelong fan Paul Jankowiak has only missed four home games since he started his freshman year at Duquesne in 1968.

The alumnus said he wasn’t sure he’d live long enough to see The Dukes back in another tournament.

“It was very emotional,” Jankowiak said. “The tears started to flow … I’m still on Cloud Nine.”

At the end of Sunday’s game, the coaches, players and Gormley came up to his seat to thank him for his support.

Jankowiak was even given a snippet of the winning net the team cut down in Brooklyn. The superfan said the piece of net and confetti from the floor will hang with a picture of him and the A-10 trophy in his family room along with other football and basketball memorabilia from Duquesne over the years.

Jankowiak said that the team’s kindness meant more to him than the actual win itself.

Paul Hightower, the assistant athletic director since 1990 shared a similar sentiment about the team.

“We have a great mix of talent and heart,” Hightower said. “They’re committed to playing hard and playing both ends on the court. And they’ve been very selfless. They all get along. They’re good guys. It’s a very easy group to be around.”

Many fans are excited about the opportunities March Madness means for Duquesne.

Alumnus and professor at Duquesne, Robert Healy said the new visibility from March Madness will garner national attention and help drive admissions.

“As an alumnus, it means it’s just a greater source of pride than being a regular sports fan. And I think that’s the magic of college sports,” Healy said. “When our teams … represent our Alma Mater, … we feel a greater sense of attachment to it than I think normal sports fans feel about their favorite [local or national] teams.”

Magnani will be fulfilling his job as a crew member, “promoting school spirit, school unity and awareness of athletic activities,” according to Duquesne’s website, when he travels to Omaha for the game.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for the team. I think we definitely have a chance to win and make some noise and really show people who we are on a national scale,” Magnani said.

Graduate assistant of marketing and fan engagement Carson Zaremski is in his first year at Duquesne overseeing the Red & Blue Crew.

“It’s really big for us. We want to build off this momentum. And hopefully they do well in March Madness. But regardless … they’ve already succeeded in our eyes, and I think it’s a huge step in the right direction, considering how it’s gone the last 47 years,” Zaremski said.

The Red & Blue Crew has already begun preparing for increased attendance at next year’s games and put out new applications for Red & Blue Crew members.

Second year law student John Fazio has grown up watching the Dukes play.

“I came to Duquesne games as a kid and always rooted real hard for them,” Fazio said. “I knew this program had what it would take to be successful; it was just a matter of time.”

Since Head Coach Keith Dambrot announced his retirement at the end of the season on Monday, there has been lots of conversation reflecting on his time coaching.

“You’re going to be hard-pressed to find a game where [Dambrot] is going to be out coached,” said Vice President of Athletics Dave Harper. “It was just about sticking to our principles.”

“I’ll just say, today is about Keith Dambrot, period. He deserves this, he deserves all of what’s going on. The team deserves this week, he deserves this week, and that’s what today’s about,” Harper said.

Zaremski said he believes that making it into the tournament is going to be tremendous for the next few years of recruiting.

Marketing intern and newest member of the Red & Blue Crew Tyler Grupac is excited about this possibility.

“I think that this run for Duquesne is a really great thing to see with all the national attention and just all the attention Duquesne is receiving. This team has played really good throughout the season,” Grupac said. “It’s just nice to see them being rewarded like this.”

Contributions from Duke Editors: Emily Fritz, Emily Ambery, Isabella Abbott, Eliyahu Gasson and Emma Polen