It began to breathe when Portland State fans screamed and shouted behind green masks of face paint before Wednesday night’s Big Sky Championship tussle. It took its initial steps forward when Deonte Huff intercepted an errant pass and threw down a breathtaking breakaway dunk in the first half.
It began to breathe when Portland State fans screamed and shouted behind green masks of face paint before Wednesday night’s Big Sky Championship tussle.
It took its initial steps forward when Deonte Huff intercepted an errant pass and threw down a breathtaking breakaway dunk in the first half.
It quickened its pace as Jeremiah Dominguez continually found Kyle Coston for several wide-open jumpers from behind the arc.
It picked up momentum while Brian Curtis celebrated with his teammates and dribbled out the final seconds of a hard-fought victory.
It was on the verge of bursting with the shuffling of hundreds of feet upon Rose Garden hardwood immediately following the final buzzer.
It came to life as Viking fans and players mingled at center court, bodies springing up and down, and arms flailing in celebration.
It received an identity. It earned recognition. It became legitimate. It became Portland State.
In many ways, Portland State’s 67-51 victory over Northern Arizona Wednesday night is more significant than a Big Sky Championship and automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.
The game itself was a crowning achievement, though the memorable student-player celebration at center court and the media blitz that has followed is almost like a baptism into the world of mainstream college athletics.
Like an angel receiving its wings, the Vikings were finally given the badge that states “Official Member of Big-Time College Athletics” when head coach Ken Bone, flanked by his players and assistants, hoisted the Big Sky Championship trophy.
And what’s even more powerful and notable is that the value of the badge to the Vikings isn’t confined to just the 16 players on the squad, or the coaches, or the fans who were on hand to enjoy the accomplishment.
No, the Vikings’ acceptance into the “big leagues” of college sports affects every aspect of the university. Like every college, Portland State and its athletic programs are inextricably linked, for better or worse. This time, fortunately, it’s for the better.
Most Portland State students are most likely unaware of the prestige an NCAA Tournament appearance brings to a university. Look at all the well-known, academically respected institutions. It’s quite conclusive that when basketball teams win on the hardwood, universities win too.
According to U.S. News and World Report’s listing of America’s Best Colleges 2008, Duke University comes in at number eight, which is slightly worse than the Blue Devils’ ranking of seven in the ESPN/USA Today college hoops poll.
Stanford is in a similar position, ranking fourth as a college and 11th as a basketball squad. Other hardwood powerhouses like UCLA, Georgetown, North Carolina and the University of Southern California are listed within the top-30 universities in the nation.
This just goes to show that having successful athletic programs goes hand in hand with having a respected university. Athletic programs garner revenue, recognition and exposure for a university, which is why the Vikings’ victory brings an identity not only to the basketball squad but also to the university.
So chalk up a 67-51 victory for Bone and Co. Wednesday night. However, remember that the NCAA Tournament appearance and national exposure is a definite victory for Portland State as an institution as well.
Now if only the Vikings could utilize the power of all the 25,000 students and thousands of faculty members at Portland State when they face off against a team the caliber of Duke, Kansas, Georgetown or Texas in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.