Local fans head to Texas to watch Wisconsin in the Final Four
JANESVILLE—Jon Paulson and his brother Andrew are all about experiences, and they weren't going to miss the opportunity to don their red and stand in the stands cheering on Wisconsin in the Final Four on Saturday night.
The Paulson brothers headed to Arlington, Texas, bright and early Friday morning by plane to catch some of the festivities, including performances by Bruce Springsteen and Tim McGraw, before Saturday's big game against eighth-ranked Kentucky.
“I'm a basketball junky, always have been,” Jon Paulson said. “This is a good moment to go down and have fun.”
John and Sue McGinniss of Janesville are also traveling to Texas.
The two hopped in a car Thursday afternoon and drove to Dubuque, Iowa, to pick up their son Taylor and his fiancé, Heather Faherty.
The four then drove through the night to Arlington.
The Badger fans arrived Friday morning and met up with the McGinniss' other daughter, Natalie, who flew in from Boston on Friday night.
“It was one of those things that was spur of the moment,” said John McGinniss, who is retired from General Motors. “You think, 'OK, if we can get tickets, who is interested?' We threw it out there.”
Also meeting McGinniss and his family are his brother and sister-in-law and their daughter, who drove down Friday morning from Illinois.
The game is at 7:49 p.m. Saturday.
McGinniss and Paulson are not UW-Madison alums, but they bleed red and white.
McGinniss has followed the team since 1971 when a good friend received a scholarship to the university. He has had season tickets since 1978.
Paulson is a native of Viroqua, worked at Chase Bank in Edgerton for 25 years and has been director of commercial lending at Blackhawk Community Credit Union since May 2011. He and his wife, Georgia, live in Edgerton.
Paulson grew up going to Wisconsin football and basketball games with his dad. He's been a season ticket holder for about 12 years.
This isn't either Badger fan's first rodeo.
Both went to the 2000 Final Four in Indianapolis. Michigan State knocked out the Badgers in the semifinals, 53-41.
“It's really quite an event, so we're just going to go down and enjoy it all,” McGinniss said.
In 2000, McGinniss sold his ticket to the national championship game to Michigan State fans. If UW repeats history and loses Saturday, he will do the same and head back north Sunday morning.
“There will be Kentucky fans just chomping at their bits to get tickets for Monday,” McGinniss said.
If UW wins Saturday, McGinniss and the family will be among Badger fans packing the stands at AT&T Stadium for the championship game Monday night.
Paulson plans to stay either way. At a car rental place outside of Dallas on Friday morning, he saw college basketball coaching legend Bobby Knight.
"He said, 'Hey, I hope Wisconsin wins it,'" Paulson said.
The last time UW won the national championship was in 1941. The team has made 20 NCAA tournament appearances, including 13 straight under coach Bo Ryan.
Saturday's game will be Ryan's first Division 1 Final Four as a coach in his 30-year career.
A mentor and fan of Bo, his father William “Butch” Ryan, will be missing. Butch died in August at age 89. The two attended the Final Four together for years.
Saturday's dramatic overtime win wasn't just an Elite Eight victory against top-seeded Arizona. The day would have been Butch's 90th birthday and brought a win that both he and Bo had been waiting for.
“It's an interesting, fun story for the coach,” McGinniss said. “He gets to take his dad again, if you will, to the Final Four.”
Bo came to UW in 2002 from UW-Milwaukee, where he coached the team for two seasons. Before that, he spent 15 years at UW-Platteville, where he won four Division 3 national titles.
Dale Barry, former Janesville School District athletic director and basketball coach at Parkview and Janesville Parker, knows Bo and said he is a good guy with a great sense of humor.
Barry remembers a Brewers game a few years ago where Bo was throwing out the first pitch. Barry bumped into Bo outside the stadium before the game. Bo asked where Barry was sitting. Barry said he told Bo his seats were higher up.
“He said, 'Good, I'm throwing out the first pitch, and I'd hate to hit ya,'” Barry said with a chuckle.
Barry hopped on a train Thursday morning headed to Texas for a week-long vacation with his daughters and to partake in the NCAA events.
Barry's group of six is not attending the game because of ticket prices and the fact that he couldn't find seats together.
“We were looking at some $400 (tickets), but you're quite a ways from where the action is, and my eyes aren't the greatest at 82,” Barry said. “I'd hate to pay $400 and not be able to tell who's making the basket because I can't read the number.”
On Tuesday, Barry said his tentative plans were to go to Friday's open practice and tailgate at AT&T Stadium and attend Saturday's pep rally at the Arlington Convention Center before hunkering down to watch the game on TV Saturday night.
On the NCAA Ticket Exchange website Thursday afternoon, tickets for the semifinal and final games ranged from $190 a pop for nosebleed seats to up to $47,600 for a suite.
McGinniss, who entered the lottery to receive Final Four tickets as a season ticket holder, said each ticket has a $300 face value and gets the holder into both semifinal games and the championship game.
McGinniss, Barry and Paulson hope the Badgers bring home the title of best men's basketball team in the country, but they are happy with the opportunity to experience a piece of NCAA and Badger history in person.
“It's really quite an event, so we're just going to go down and enjoy it all,” said McGinniss, adding he will sport all of the red he can but leave most of the partying to the college students.