When it comes to the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, Andrew Cottrell usually tries to figure out how he can watch as many games as possible. That usually means mixing work with basketball. Or maybe, mixing basketball with work.
“I make no bones about it, I love basketball and there is nothing better than the first weekend of the tournament,” Cottrell says. “I try and mix client entertainment with watching some basketball. Let’s call it watching basketball under the guise of client entertainment.” Cottrell, who graduated from Butler in 2011 and now works at Merrill Lynch as a Senior Financial Advisor in Cincinnati, will maintain that work-basketball mix until approximately Friday at 3:10 PM. “That’s when I will shed that coat and tie and trade it in for a Bulldog pullover,” Cottrell says. “The Butler game needs my full attention.”
Cottrell will be watching at a bar in Cincinnati with, maybe around 30 to 40 alums, he says. Among those in the crowd will be his wife, a former Butler softball player who graduated in 2012, and their six-week-old, decked out in blue with earmuffs on.
A similar scene will be unfolding in New York City.
Jennifer White, who graduated from Butler in 2000 and is an attorney in New York City, will be gathering with fellow grads, friends, and family members at Suspenders in the Financial District to watch No. 10 Butler take on No. 7 Arkansas. The timing could be tricky, she said, in terms of predicting turnout, but one thing is always guaranteed. “These gatherings are so much fun because you meet people from all different years and there is such a great community feeling,” says White, who double majored in English and music. “We all have such a great time together.”
And it is not just the Butler-affiliated people who get into it, she says. These gatherings are an opportunity to introduce Butler to the rest of the country, White says. Before 2010, people would sometimes confuse Butler for Baylor. Then, after Butler knocked off Syracuse, people in New York definitely knew who Butler was, White says.
“You can see there has been a huge shift in name recognition in New York,” she says. “I remember in 2003, we were watching a tournament game and we were losing at halftime and we had our Butler shirts on and no one heard of Butler. Then, we came storming back and everyone in the bar was supporting us. The fun thing is everyone loves an underdog and we always end up in a bar full of Butler supporters and people always end up asking about our school. It is a great opportunity to spread the word.”
White and her husband always attend Butler games in person if the team makes the Sweet 16 or better. But she never shirks her alumni event responsibilities. She has been in a hotel business center sending out emails to alumni to let them know about a chapter event. Last year, White was in London coordinating tournament plans from her laptop. She knows firsthand how important these events are. As a result of the New York City gatherings, White says, she has met people who have graduated way before her – one comes all the time who graduated in 1953 and spends an hour on the train coming to NYC events from his home in New Jersey. Others are way younger than her, she says.
“We know sports goes a long way for brand recognition, but also for us and for the opportunity to get to know all different people from the Butler family,” White says. “We try and take advantage of it and have a good time.”
In St. Louis, Rachel Gotshall will be trying to keep her husband from counting his chickens before they hatch on Friday. The Gotshalls followed the team almost everywhere when they were students at Butler, Rachel says. They have been to Maui, Memphis, Maine, Birmingham, to name a few. And now, Rachel is trying to make sure her husband waits until Sunday before making plans for Boston.
But on Friday, they will be at a Butler Bar in St. Louis with friends and fellow alums. Rachel, who graduated in 2009, has the day off on Friday. But her husband will be playing hooky. “These are truly some of our closest friends,” she says. “We all have a love for Butler in some way or another. The best thing is seeing more people come out and seeing new faces. That is what I look forward to the most.”