Mohegan – Fun fact after a weekend of college basketball here in our corner of the world:
Viewership at the Gampel Pavilion on Friday night for UConn vs. UNC Wilmington: 7,766.
Attendance at the Mohegan Sun on Saturday afternoon for Miami vs. Providence: 8,756.
Wait. What? The brothers overtook U state in…Connecticut? Oh humanity
Or maybe it’s been simmering for a while: The PC Friars are Eastern Connecticut’s unofficial team.
“We have a large support base east of the Connecticut River, particularly along the coast,” said Andrew Schoepfer of Waterford, associate athletic director for ticketing/data analytics at PC. “Between full and part-season tickets, we’re looking at a shadow below 500 total seats, with 75 percent being full-season ticket holders.
“The bigger fans live in Pawcatuck, Mystic, Groton and Waterford and crowd through Norwich and Griswold. Interestingly, we also have a similar number of ticket holders along the I-91 corridor, with concentrations in Glastonbury, Cheshire and Southington.”
Schoepfer said there is usually high ticket demand for the brothers at Mohegan Sun Arena. They showed up en masse for what became a disappointing weekend, losses to Miami and Saint Louis in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament. Still, it will be interesting to see if the UConn women’s draw up to 8,756 to Neon Uncasville when they play Florida State there on December 18th. Last year, UConn-Louisville drew 8,204.
But PC love has its roots in our history. In the old days before cable – yes, there were days before cable – television reception came via rabbit ears or the roof antenna. Residents of eastern Connecticut would get Ch. 10 in Providence, where the PC games were broadcast. That was before UConn was even on TV.
And so our college basketball fix came via play-by-play voice over Chris Clark calling the games for New England’s most national program at the time. A native of Cromwell, Don Lewis was one of the pioneers of the Connecticut-to-Providence pipeline that would later produce Johnny Egan, Ryan Gomes and Kris Dunn, among others.
“I walked up there before the Gold Star Bridge had two bridges,” said Bob Meyer, a former PC grad and Groton Long Point resident. “There is just something that draws me to this place. The human. Its relaxing. The actual basketball experience is a fun place. You get to know everyone around you.
“You’re going to see people with PC bumper stickers quite often around here,” Meyer said. “Last year I saw a PC tag on a man’s golf bag at the driving range (at Stonington Country Club). You’ll always run into someone in a bar wearing PC ties a lot more often than you’d ever think.”
It’s a short drive up the 95 or via Route 6 to PC gaming for most of eastern Connecticut, with the reward of a night in Providence. Surely Storrs beats, right? It’s like saying, “Guys, your choice for dinner tonight is the Petit Filet at Capital Grille or a can of Spam.”
“The atmosphere is electric,” said Tom Harrington of Waterford, a longtime PC ticket holder, in reference to the newly named “AMP” (Amica Mutual Pavilion, formerly Dunkin Donuts Center), which has been boisterous lately, what with an always Likeable coach Ed Cooley penned the title of the Big East regular season and journey to the Sweet 16 last year.
The AMP was even boosted this year for non-sexy home games against Rider (11,018) and Northeastern (12,011).
“And there are so many options,” Harrington said. “Dinner on the Hill (Federal Hill), downtown, or maybe at the cigar bar. Just a fun evening. You’ll be home in 45 minutes to an hour. Unbeatable.”
Meyer and his wife Deb have several favorite places including Capital Grille, Trattoria Zuma on Federal Hill and Hemingway’s on the river. Happy nights everyone.
“Some of the things that we experienced,” said Mystic season ticket holder Stan Mickus, 33. “I mean, last year Ed Cooley came on stage through the student department. The place went crazy. The atmosphere is just electric. Last year I turned to a friend of mine and said, ‘This is what big time feels like.'”
That’s the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro