The roar of the crowd. The squeak of sneakers on the court. The swish of the basket. These sounds – and the exciting atmosphere surrounding them – are just one part of what keeps UMBC basketball season ticket holders coming back game after game.
Just feet away, you have a different kind of excitement coming from a particularly dedicated brand of black and gold bedecked dawg – the season ticket holder, whose energy is infectious and absolutely vital to the team. As the men head into late season play with wins in nine out of their last ten appearances – including two victories against the University of Vermont, the Catamounts’ first losses of the year – they do so with Retriever Nation loudly cheering them on.
“Our team has been so pleased with the fan support this season in our first full year in the new arena,” says men’s basketball head coach, Ryan Odom. “Our players feed off of our fans’ passion for UMBC and we are hopeful that it will continue to grow in years to come. The Event Center has become the place to be and our team is so thankful for the support.”
Fans have come to know Odom and his coaching style well since he took over the helm in 2016, helping the team secure their spot in history last March. “Coach Odom is such a positive mentor,” says Kathie Jarva, an avid fan and ticket holder since 2002. “We appreciate his approach and demeanor. He makes each game much more pleasing to us these last three years.
The academics-first approach by the program and by the America East have always appealed to Jarva.
“We know that these young people are learning many important life skills while practicing and playing competitively, while balancing their studies and their love of the sport, while winning and while losing.”
James L. Wiggins Esq. ’75, political science, has been attending games since 1971, never losing the love of the sport over the many lean years.
“This season has been most satisfying. With the number of injuries the team has suffered so far this season, I believe that Coach Odom is doing his best coaching since being at UMBC,” says Wiggins. “The team plays an exciting style of basketball. They are well coached and the players puts forth maximum effort each game. You can’t ask for more than that.”
Reflecting on the growth and changes over the years, Wiggins can certainly see a difference.
“Now the energy around the program is off the charts. The sports marketing department is doing one heck of a job keeping alumni informed. You can feel the administration’s commitment, through the athletic department, to provide the teams the resources to be competitive.”
John Lotz has been buying tickets for UMBC basketball for years. One might assume it’s because he’s an alumnus, that he was predisposed to bleed black and gold. However, this Boston University graduate attended his first game on a whim and has been hooked ever since.
“I started going to away games, when UMBC would play at BU in Boston. I realized that I enjoyed seeing UMBC play at other locations, so when I’m able to get out of town I try and go,” says Lotz. He travels to other America East schools and non-conference games up and down the east coast, and has even had the chance to witness some defining moments in Retriever history.
“My favorite moment as a fan was being able to be in Vermont last year to see UMBC beat Vermont for the America East championship. Seeing the team being able to cut down the net was very moving,” recalls Lotz.
Defeating UVM was a pivotal moment that would define the history of UMBC men’s basketball. But what came next for fans was definitely one they would never forget.
Brian Ault ‘80, sociology, was at that history-making game last March. He’s been a season ticket holder for 12 years and traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina for the big dance. He describes the atmosphere in the Spectrum Center as “total euphoria. The mass of UMBC backers was so loud and confident as the game wore on. It was like we collectively willed them to the big victory.”
So what does it mean to be a fan? For Mimi Dietrich ‘70, American studies, “it means connecting with people at the games…old friends, new friends, professors, and sometimes getting a hug from Dr. Hrabowski after the game!”
As one of the first university graduates and an integral member of the Fab Four, Dietrich has truly seen the evolution of UMBC basketball.
“My husband and I have watched games in Gym I, the RAC, and now we love the new Event Center. Growing up, we always played basketball and went to high school games,” says Dietrich. “As a fan, I appreciate all the work that goes into the game plan, and I like understanding the referee calls.”
The Retrievers have now defeated University of Vermont both on the road and at the Event Center. Fans will surely remember the last time UMBC stunned UVM with the March buzzer beater to give the Retrievers the 2017-2018 conference title. With the latest slew of wins, Academic All-American graduate student Joe Sherburne ’18, moves into seventh place on UMBC’s all-time scoring list and the Retrievers are second in the conference.
This article was updated February 22 to reflect UMBC’s latest win against University of Vermont. The Retrievers travel to University of Albany for the next game on February 23.
Header Image: Retriever fans take fashion to new heights. Photo courtesy of Marlayna Demond ‘11.