The past week or so has been quite dramatic for Ram Nation, related of course to VCU men’s basketball. This is certainly the type of drama that many VCU fans did not want any part of, but nevertheless, is part of the college basketball landscape for most programs not named UNC, Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, or Florida. Many coaches leave smaller schools, mid-majors, and even up-and-coming programs such as VCU for the so-called greener pastures of the Power 5 schools. Recruits change their minds. Uncertainty for the non “blue blood” programs can be a consistent feeling among fans.
The events that transpired in Richmond will test the mettle of even the most hardcore fans. The reactions from many VCU fans resembled the five stages of grief* – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. We can tell ourselves all we want that it’s only a game, but then we realize the degree of passion that exists for the VCU Rams… If you’re not familiar with this (if you’re reading this, it is highly likely that you are), I will point to the consecutive sellout streak at the Stu (or “that Animal” – in the words of the terrific Ram Radio color commentator Mike Litos), and the many passionate fans who regularly post on social media.
(*I’ll note here that I’m in no way minimizing the five stages of grief, which in fact are quite a real phenomenon when dealing with life events. Whether sports should rise to this level is a discussion for another time. The fact is they do!)
Ram Nation knows the events that transpired during the past week. I’ll list them here for reference purposes; there is likely no need to go into detail:
- VCU’s most successful coach, Shaka Smart, left us for Texas.
- VCU hired Will Wade, one of Smart’s assistant coaches from 2009-2013.
- A new assistant coach, Rasheen Davis, has been hired – he has a pipeline into talent from NYC.
- Incoming Ram recruits, a highly ranked and highly touted group, have been released from their letters of intent to VCU.
- Texas plans on using some variations of “havoc” in its branding.
So, where does all of this leave Ram Nation?
I posted the following earlier this week on the VCU Basketball Fans Facebook page, and thought it appropriate to include in this forum:
“I am excited for this next chapter of VCU basketball. So glad to have Will Wade back in the fold to lead the troops. I’ve been a fan since I was freshman in Johnson Hall in 1979, and I can tell you all first-hand just how far VCU has come since then. Not just basketball, but overall as an institution. I have full faith and confidence in the VCU administration to lead and do all of the right things.
It has now been almost one week since the shocking news of last week, and while it is normal to feel the myriad of emotions that we all have felt, it is now time to move on. VCU is now a national brand that has grown by leaps and bounds in the recent past. Let’s look to the future, to continue the momentum so that we can keep growing.
At this stage, I hope Ram Nation is all in. We have a lot to look forward to!
Based on what I have observed, it seems to me that most of Ram Nation has moved on, and looks forward to the next chapter of VCU basketball. At Coach Wade’s introductory presser on Wednesday, there were approximately 1,200 fans in attendance at the Stu, and another 1,000 or so fans viewing on YouTube. That is impressive, and speaks to the passion of Ram Nation. Coach Wade addressed this passion, and I’m sure assisted his decision to return to VCU.
And this from Coach Wade: “havoc still lives here.” That statement speaks for itself; nothing further needs to be added from me.
VCU may not have the long-standing traditions or years of success of more established college basketball programs. You know what? That’s okay. VCU has been a Division I basketball program only since the 1970’s, made its first NCAA Tournament in 1980, and for the first time since the early 1980’s, has seen sustained success in the very recent past. Our Rams have finished with winning records for 15 consecutive seasons, stretching across four coaches (McCarthy, Capel, Grant, and Smart). Over the past six years, VCU has won at least 26 games each year. The only other school to match that? Duke.
VCU is a unique university, and the fan base reflects that. We’re a diverse bunch that embraces the underdog, fights like heck for what we believe in, and share this crazy passion for the basketball team. The VCU administration did a fantastic job in building on the momentum of the Final Four appearance in 2011, and continues to do so today. VCU basketball is more than just the coach. It is the group of guys who play their hearts out game in and game out, it is the passionate, rabid fan base, the Peppas, the Gold Rush Dancers, and more.
With that behind it, the VCU Rams will be fine. Better than fine.