INDIANAPOLIS - Brian Zajac couldn't possibly have known what he was getting himself into.
Zajac, general manager/operating manager of Scotty's Brewhouse in downtown Indianapolis, had partnered with the Indiana Sports Authority to act as the host site for an Alumni party for whatever team won the East Regional in the NCAA Tournament.
"We knew we were going to have Kentucky or West Virginia, we knew both of them traveled well. At this point," Zajac said, wading through a sea of blue-and-gold clad patrons, "I'm glad Kentucky got beat."
Photo by Jim Elliott
West Virginia University cheerleader Merideth McDiffitt smiles at a party hosted by the WVU Alumni Association at Scotty’s Brewhouse Downtown on Saturday afternoon.
Scotty's has an occupancy of 450 but Zajac estimated there were more than 600 WVU faithful inside the building, plus nearly 800 more outside under a tent and surrounding the property midway through Saturday afternoon.
He said it was a testament to the great West Virginia fans to stand in line for 2 hours, only to find out there would be a 4-hour wait for food.
Among those outside under the tent, where three 50-inch flat screens replayed West Virginia's Elite Eight victory against Kentucky, was the Sapon family from Wheeling. It traveled in a party of four, meeting with a pair of California residents to witness what they called a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We were talking about it after the Elite Eight," said Mark Sapon, a 2001 Wheeling Central graduate. "Once it became a reality we could get tickets, there was no turning back. With it being 51 years since we went to the last Final Four, when may we see this again? Making the field of 65 is tough enough. Getting to this point, we may never get this opportunity again."
Also on hand at the Alumni party were Wheeling Park and WVU graduates Andy Seals and Matt Golein.
"(My wife and I were lying on the couch in my house and she said, 'I know you want to go, just go, so ' '' Seals said.
So he called Golein, who has since relocated to Charlotte, N.C., and found the tickets on eBay.
Seals was not surprised by the big Mountaineers following, which eventually spilled over into another establishment across Virginia Street (due West).
"I've been to some bowl games," Seals said. "It seems like whenever there's a chance to travel and represent the team and the state, it seems like they always represent it well."
With an hour left in the event, the WVU pep band and cheerleaders showed up to perform. Among those in that crowd was fourth-year nursing student and cheerleader Merideth McDiffitt, a Pine Grove native and 2006 Valley High School graduate.
The WVU cheerleaders had just left another pep rally and were to teach kids how to cheer at the Alumni gathering. McDiffitt had a feeling there'd be little room for the routine.
"Oh yeah," she said, "our fans follow us everywhere. We count on them."
She'd seen some big events in her days as a Mountaineers cheerleader.
"The Final Four ranks right up there with the best of them," she said. "These are the memories that will stay with me the rest of my life.''