Cyclones AD basking in teams’ success

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 22, 2000

The Associated Press

Iowa State athletic director Gene Smith has been gushing a bit lately.

Wednesday, March 22, 2000

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Iowa State athletic director Gene Smith has been gushing a bit lately. With good reason.

It’s not every day that Iowa State gets both its men’s and women’s basketball teams in the NCAA tournament’s round of 16. In fact, it has never happened before.

”I can’t begin to explain to you how I’m feeling,” Smith said. ”I can ramble, but I can’t explain it. I’m just on cloud nine for these kids.”

Four other schools are experiencing the same success. Tennessee, Duke, North Carolina and LSU also will have both teams playing this week in the regional semifinals. For them, the round of 16 is doubly sweet.

”Is it nice or what to have two LSU teams in the Sweet 16,” women’s coach Sue Gunter said.

The joint appearances are a boon for the schools in terms of exposure and revenue, though it doubles the workload for sports information staffs that must prepare those voluminous postseason media guides. And it forces fans to make a choice. Which regional do they attend? Or do they just stay home and watch both teams on television?

Administrators also are forced to decide which game to attend, although in Smith’s case it was easy. He won’t be going to either. Smith is a member of the men’s basketball committee and was assigned to the East Regional at Syracuse.

The Iowa State men will play UCLA in the Midwest Regional at Auburn Hills, Mich., on Thursday night. The women meet Penn State in a Midwest Regional game in Kansas City on Saturday night.

”It’s a great experience for me. It’s an honor to work for the membership,” said Smith, who then added, ”But it sure kills me not to see our teams.”

The simultaneous success at Iowa State has been stunning. Both teams won the Big 12 regular-season and tournament championships and are 2-0 in NCAA play, all of which is putting a time and financial squeeze on the school’s devoted fans.

Bob Gitchell, an orthopedic doctor in Ames, went to all six of the Cyclones’ games at the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City. Last weekend, he caught the men’s first-round game in Minneapolis and both of the women’s games at home, missing the second men’s game only because he was on call and couldn’t find anyone to fill in.

”I feel a little bit like I was trapped in the movie ‘Groundhog Day,’ where that same scene happens over and over,” Gitchell said.

Gitchell and his wife are going to the men’s game in Auburn Hills, but have left themselves an out. They’ll fly right back if Iowa State loses and drive to the women’s game on Saturday.

At Tennessee, where coach Pat Summitt’s Lady Vols long have been the dominant program, the men made the regional semifinals for the first time since 1981, the year before the first NCAA women’s tournament. The women have been to the round of 16 every year – and have won six national championships.

The success of the Vols men has stirred excitement, and by Tuesday afternoon, the university had sold its allotment of 1,250 tickets for the game against North Carolina in the South Regional at Austin, Texas, on Friday night.

The women play Virginia on Saturday in Memphis, where Tennessee fans are expected to turn The Pyramid into a mass of orange.

”At Tennessee, you are expected to win,” men’s coach Jerry Green said. ”We’ve done a good job this year. It’s fun to have teams that are winning pulling for you.”

Summitt and football coach Phillip Fulmer, who won a national championship in 1998, both talked to Green’s team before it started NCAA play last week.

Duke, the No. 1 seed in the East Regional of the men’s tournament, plays Florida in Syracuse on Friday night. The women play LSU in the East Regional in Richmond, Va., on Saturday.

”We’re proud of what they’ve accomplished and I think we’ve kind of set an example of how you can pull for one another and share facilities and things like that,” men’s coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

The North Carolina programs both came into the tournament with questions. Many wondered why the men even got in with an 18-13 record. The women raised some eyebrows by getting a No. 5 seed at 18-12.

But the women played part of the season without point guard Nikki Teasley. She’s back now, and the Tar Heels have won eight of nine heading into Saturday’s West Regional game with Georgia in Portland, Ore.

The LSU teams are in the round of 16 together for the first time since 1986, when the men reached the Final Four and the women got to the regional finals. The men play Wisconsin in Albuquerque on Thursday night.