Retired faculty members Doris Henderson, Betty Keough, and Jo Workman gather at the president’s party.
Excitement is in the air for longtime Redbird fans at the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Women’s Basketball Tournament in St. Charles, Missouri. These super fans haven’t just been tracking the Redbird through the past season— they’ve been following them for years! STATEside checked in with these expert supporters to get their insight on the weekend ahead.
Retired kinesiology and recreation faculty members Betty Keough, M.S. ’52, Jo Workman, and Doris Henderson have rooted for the team since the Redbirds played in McCormick Hall.
Keough and Henderson forged their bonds with the athletes through their teaching, as most of the students majoring in physical education were also student athletes.
“We’ve been interested in the team for so many years because we knew the kids so well,” Henderson said.
Since retiring, the faculty members have continued to follow the team from season to season, especially for “the camaraderie, excitement, and great atmosphere the team creates,” Keough said.
Given the team’s 15-5 record for the conference and 21-9 overall, these Redbird super fans say the team could go all the way.
“We may win it, but Creighton could be a challenge,” Workman said.
Regardless of the tough competition facing the No. 3 seeded Redbirds, Henderson hopes that the team will continue to play beyond the weekend.
“It would be great to see them win the tournament and continue onto the NCAA,” Henderson said.
Avid Redbird fans Chris and Carolyn began watching the Redbirds because of former Redbird Coach Jill Hutchison. After mentioning to Hutchison that they were going to a Chicago Bulls game, the coach suggested that the couple check out the women’s team. That suggestion has led to more than 25 years of rooting for the Redbirds.
“We were impressed with the quality and caliber of the team,” Chris said.
Chris and Carolyn have continued to support the team by holding season tickets and regularly bring friends along to cheer for their team.
“The tournament always gathers a close-knit group, and many have become good friends,” Carolyn said.
The most memorable time for them was when the Redbirds entered the tournament as the No. 8 seeded team and ended up winning the championship. The couple even traveled to Seattle to watch the team in the NCAA tournament.
According to the longtime fans, the Redbirds may have a shot again this year.
“I couldn’t predict exactly how it will play out,” Chris said. “With some consistency they’ll do well.”
This year’s tournament is bittersweet for Illinois State University President Al Bowman and First Lady Linda Bowman.
“The MVC tournament is a blast. We’ll never miss it,” said Bowman, who will be retiring as president this year. “A lot of nostalgia surrounds the weekend this year for me. It’ll never be quite the same for me, but I will continue to be a part of ISU.”
The men’s and women’s MVC tournaments are favorite weekends for the Bowmans, who love the camaraderie that comes along with being ISU supporters.
Bowman is feeling confident in the team’s abilities going into the first game against Bradley.
“I expect the Redbirds to do very well. It would not surprise me to see them play on Sunday,” Bowman said. “Our coach is one of the strongest in the Valley, and the team has been performing well.”
Steven Barcus can be reached at srbarcu@IllinoisState.edu.