Class of 1969 starts own Twelfth Man tradition
Alumni group attends home games after Blair calls for support
Published: Monday, March 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 22:07
Thousands flock to Reed Arena during basketball season: fresh faces, seasoned fans, children, students, alumni and countless in-betweens. The ocean of maroon and white shirts changes in composition — if not in passion — as the games pass by. But in section 108, when the women took the court, 48 members of the Twelfth Man remained constant.
Four years ago, Aggie women’s basketball head coach Gary Blair issued a call in The Battalion for current and former students to rally around his team and increase attendance. A contingent from the Class of 1969 answered his call in a major way, and four years later the Class of ’69 Family and Friends group thrives at every women’s basketball home game.
“We started to support the women’s basketball team because Coach Blair was saying that the students did not support his team, so our class decided that we would as former students,” said Freddie Wong, a member of the Class of ’69 and women’s basketball season ticketholder. “I believe we have about 48 tickets, which includes classmates, spouses and other family members.”
The group began with 21 members who attended four conference games together four years ago and has grown in size each year. Wong credits another member of the group and a former classmate, Phil Callahan, with coordinating tickets and organizing the group’s first effort.
Callahan and the rest of the group are well aware that their support for the team dates prior to the 2011 NCAA championship run and the wealth of publicity that came along with it.
“We are proud of the fact that we got behind Coach Blair’s program and teams before they won the national championship,”
Wong, who remains active in the A&M community through involvement in groups such as the Reveille Club, said the bulk of the group consists of classmates who have retired and settled in the Bryan-College Station area.
“We have also extended an invitation to all our classmates who may visit the Bryan-College Station area from time to time to come and join us,” Wong said. “We also have a few who will come on a regular basis from as far as Yoakum.”
It’s an eclectic group, with former cadets, non-regs and a diverse set of backgrounds — even with a few familiar faces from around campus today.
“Many of us retired from military service and went on to civilian careers,” Wong said. “Others have retired from major corporations, education, small business, et cetera. There are some who are still working, on campus as well as [in] the local community. We have folks in real estate, an optometrist, several lawyers, ranchers and farmers. Several retired from major corporations and are now working on campus helping students.”
Sports such as football and men’s basketball have historically drawn larger crowds than women’s basketball. Blair, the student-athletes who compose the women’s team, and a number of devoted fans — the Class of ’69 Family and Friends included — might argue that this disparity is unfair. After a 22-10 season, the Aggies earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament and finished their final home game Monday night with a thrilling 61-59 second-round victory against the University of Arkansas with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line.
Wong said the Class of ’69 will continue to support the Aggie women regardless of the season’s ultimate outcome.
“We Aggies have a long history of supporting our team, regardless of the win-loss record,” Wong said. “We need to keep that tradition up.”