Cold weather didn’t keep students and fans from filling Villanova’s football stadium to celebrate the return home of the NCAA Men’s Division 1 Basketball Champion Wildcats on Tuesday.
First-year Athletic Director, Mark Jackson welcomed home the championship team and the Naismith Men’s College Coach of the Year, Jay Wright, when they arrived, after receiving a police escort from Philadelphia International Airport to Villanova’s campus.
“This group of athletes, this staff, this community have all rallied behind this team and have welcomed us every step of the way, but it wouldn’t be possible without the greatest coach across any sport at any level,” Jackson said.
Wildcats head coach, Jay Wright took the stage and thanked the nearly 3,000 students and fans in attendance, and immediately led them in a call-and-response cheer “When I say, Nova, you say, Nation,” Wright said.
Arianne Wilson was one of the many Villanova students there to show her support. She said the victory was a win for the entire community.
“As a senior like I just love this school for four years and put so much of my heart and soul into cheering the team on and this win — its big for them and its big for all of us at the school,” she said.
During a press conference after the rally, head coach, Wright said the victory not only brings a lot of positive attention to the University, but it also helps to further unite the school’s already strong alumni community.
“We have a very strong alumni base, you know we had the most fans in Houston. It was obvious. It was the loudest fan base in that arena and its been that way all the way, every game in that tournament except that game against Kansas because they were the one seed and they were the closest. But, it just unites them even stronger. They take great pride in basketball here. We have all of the great sports but basketball is what they really kind of rally around and identify themselves with.”
Rich Aljian graduated from Villanova in 1988. He was there when Villanova won their first title in 1985, and he was in Houston when they won this year’s tournament.
“I was at the final game in Lexington in 1985,” he said. “That was my freshman year, went to Detroit in 09, and i just got off a plane about two and half hours ago, got my son out of school and came here so he can experience the same thing I’ve been experiencing.”
Ryan Arcidiacono was one of the players who helped the team reach championship victory. The Langhorne, Bucks County native was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player by the Associated Press. During the game’s final seconds, he threw the pass to Kris Jenkins, who threw the winning 3-pointer. Arcidiacono was grateful for the reception the team received from fans, but now he’s ready to resume life as a student
“Even though we’re national champions,” Arcidacono said, “we still have to go to class we still have to remain humble and hungry and that’s not going to define us as people but it’s just going to be a special part of our lives.”
But, the celebrating isn’t over yet. A parade is planned for Friday March 8, at 1 p.m., starting at the intersection of 20th and Market Street, and ending at Dilworth Park.