Just a few nights ago, on April 3, 2023, the University of Connecticut’s (UConn) male basketball team, known as the Huskies, brought the school to a March madness victory, winning the NCAA championship game in Houston against the San Diego State University Aztecs 76-59.
Before the game, students had gathered on the UConn campus in Gampel Pavillion, which was converted to a viewing area for students to watch the game Monday night. Later when the victory was announced, the campus erupted into celebration, with some students expressing their excitement more destructively than others.
This paper will discuss what is known about the incident, as well as a little bit about the basketball team that inspired such a stir.
During the “celebration,” the footage was shared on Twitter and other social media of people knocking lampposts to the ground, bashing in building windows, and ripping up road signs among other destructive behaviors. Despite this, one student cited that she was “… expecting something worse, to be honest,” in an interview with The Associated Press.
“We were on the streets, and people were going crazy,” she said. “[but] I was expecting to see cars flipping and fires everywhere and people breaking things, which happened but not to the extent I imagined.”
Furthermore, local news stations captured footage of flipped vans with smashed windows, bonfires lit on campus, and the chaotic scene of thousands of college students swarming around campus to celebrate the victory. Subsequently, as of Tuesday morning, 15 people had been arrested in connection with the destruction on campus, and 16 were hospitalized during the festivities.
Nevertheless, UConn officials have assured sources that the hospitalizations were not serious. University spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz released this statement assuring the public that none of the hospitalized students were injured.
“The vast majority of those celebrating the Husky victory last night did so safely and responsibly,” she said. “A small number chose to risk their safety and that of others by vandalizing or destroying property after the game.” Moreover, she assured people that the damage on campus was still being investigated to determine the extent of the destruction and that students involved in the vandalism would be subject to expulsions and legal action.
Additionally, the cost to repair the destruction of university property is still unknown. It is also unclear whether the money will come from increased tuition expenses, existing budgeted funds for campus repairs, or if the university will seek civil action against some of the students responsible for causing the damage.
However, the strong reactions from UConn students to the victory are in part because of this great season, as well as the historical reputation of and state loyalty towards UConn’s basketball teams. As someone born and raised in Connecticut, I can speak to the draw that UConn basketball has; I know of students who have come from out of state and chosen UConn as their university precisely because of the basketball team.
For example, this victory puts UConn at five total NCAA Tournament wins, tying them with Duke and Indiana as the team with the fourth most victories, behind North Carolina with six wins, Kentucky with eight, and UCLA with 11. Previously, they had won tournaments in 1999, 2004, 2011, and 2014; this most recent win came at the end of a successful season for the Huskies. Going into Monday night’s game, they were favored to win against the Aztecs, scoring an average of 8.6 more points per game than San Diego’s 71.5 average.
Moreover, Huskies coach Dan Hurley made the following statement after the team arrived back to the UConn campus following their victory Monday night. “The NCAA Tournament is a big deal. Playing in the Final Four is a big deal. And obviously, basketball is a big deal to the people of Connecticut. Men's and women's basketball, it's the pro sports team of the state, and you see the incredible pride people have in their Huskies.”
To demonstrate the reach UConn basketball has, even the Connecticut governor Ned Lamont was tuned into the game, tweeting, “The UConn Huskies men’s basketball team has been a dominating force in the NCAA Tournament, and it will be an honor for us to welcome the coaches and the players to downtown Hartford and give them the celebration they deserve,” in support of the team. The town of Hartford is organizing a traditional victory parade for the Huskies, but a date has not yet been set for the festivities, according to a local report.
In summation, the consequences of the Husky's win and the resulting damage to the UConn campus are yet to be known, but most students were able to celebrate the victory safely and peacefully. Ultimately, the potential legal action surrounding the campus destruction and arrests takes away from the skill and effort of the Husky’s basketball team.
Hopefully, if anything, the injury and arrest of some students will warn future classes to keep their celebration subdued out of respect for the athletes. However, the students and residents of Connecticut should never stifle their passion or support for their local team; this encouragement is what motivates the team to be incredible.
Edited by Whitney Edna Ibe
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