COLUMN: A memorable welcome to WKU

Mary Barczak

I remember when WKU and I had our first meeting.

One chilly Saturday in October 2006, I piled into the car with my parents and started out on the long trek to the home of the Toppers. We got lost, had to stop and ask for directions and didn’t know where to park when we got there.

Eventually we filed out into the brisk afternoon and made our way to Downing University Center. Moseying along, a buzz of red and white entered my vision. Avenue of Champions was overrun with tailgaters (or “hooligans,” as my mother prefers to call them).

When I saw that, I was truly in love — in love with the crowd, in love with the people, in love with the excitement. I had never seen anything like this in my whole Catholic-schoolgirl life. I yearned to be a part of it. All of it.

There was the smell of chili simmering in crock-pots and burgers cooking on the grill. There was the chatter of some already drunk freshman girls with their short jean skirts, and fraternity boys blaring music and playing corn hole. I wanted to soak it all in. It was infectious.

And there I was, the girl trying to blend into the college scene with my navy blue Aeropostale shirt and semi-trendy jeans. I was walking a little ahead of my parents when the unspeakable happened.

A boy, wearing a tie, matching slacks and suit coat, turned my way. He smiled and made me an offer.

“Hey, you want a beer?”

I was utterly embarrassed and flattered at the same time. A college boy had just offered 16-year-old me a beer. And for that split second I was in.

I just stared back blankly at him until he noticed my parents. He shrugged and laughed in half apology.

I dared not look back at the surely scolding faces of my parents. Yet I found out later they somehow both were oblivious to the occurrence.

I don’t think that I’ll ever forget that story. I have told it many times to my friends and family. But oddly enough, I think it was that welcoming hand that was my “official” welcome to WKU.

And no, it’s not just because it was alcohol. It was the fact that I knew that by coming to WKU I was about to dive into a school full of spirit and camaraderie, which was a big change for me.

I’d never seen so many people cheer themselves silly, red faces to match their WKU-red shirts. I’d never seen people patronize a Big Red blob with high fives and crowd surfing. And it wasn’t just students, the crowds were just as enthusiastic, filled with young and old alike.

Everyone there beamed an aura of red. You could tell that they all genuinely wanted to be there. There to share their time and their food with each other to make the game into the ultimate experience.

So you can bet that when I became a freshman at WKU two falls later, I was at the very first home game of the season — decked out in my red and white and ready to cheer on my Tops with countless others who shared my passion.

It’s a tradition that I still continue to this day and will probably continue to partake in for the rest of my life even after I graduate and leave the Hill.

So, “Stand up and cheer,” WKU, because “today we raise the red and white above the rest.”

Go Tops!