Carbondale prepares for historic Saturday

By Gus Bode

Perhaps the most eventful weekend in Carbondale sports history isn’t as big of a deal as it would have been years ago, SIU men’s basketball hall-of-famer Seymour Bryson said.

The home quarterfinal playoff game for SIU football and battle of two top-25 men’s basketball teams Saturday – billed “Super Saturday” by the athletic department – may be the busiest day in the history of Carbondale athletics, with both games being broadcast separately by ESPN networks.

But Bryson, SIU’s all-time leading rebounder and current associate chancellor for diversity, said the heights the men’s basketball team in particular has reached make the event less of a big deal because the university is becoming increasingly known for its top competition.


“The fact that you have two events like this on one day makes it a unique and special day, but in terms of basketball alone it doesn’t really stand out,” Bryson said.

The 8:30 p.m. men’s basketball game against No. 15 Indiana, broadcast on ESPNU, will tip just hours after the conclusion of the football team’s 2:20 p.m. quarterfinal matchup against Massachusetts, broadcast on ESPN Gameplan.

Bryson said he will attend both events, as an excited fan at McAndrew Stadium and later as an official scorer on the sidelines of the SIU Arena.

He said the basketball game in particular is not extraordinary because the team, which has posted an 80-3 record at home since 2001, is expected to compete with the elite.

“Just playing against Indiana is not as exciting as it used to be, because we now feel we belong at that level. We’re nationally ranked and they’re nationally ranked,” Bryson said.

He said he noticed the increased pride for the athletic program as a whole when he traveled with the team to Anaheim, Calif., last week for the Anaheim Classic tournament and witnessed alumni he hadn’t seen in years with a rejuvenated sense of Saluki pride.

The football team has also become accustomed to national success, having reached the NCAA Football Playoffs every year since 2003 and the quarterfinal round for three consecutive seasons.


Saturday’s matchup is the first time the Salukis have been at home for their quarterfinal game in that period, and coach Jerry Kill said the opportunity to correlate with a home men’s basketball game of such magnitude is a unique experience.

“I’ve only been here for seven years, but I’d say this probably goes down in history of having two big-time sporting events,” Kill said.

The correlation of the two large-scale events is historic for SIU, Athletic Director Mario Moccia said, but also means a hectic day for those in the athletic department in charge of coordinating the events.

Moccia said the day will certainly be the busiest the department has experienced as it attempts to balance staff and coordinate such issues as fan parking, designed alumni functions and the corresponding all-sports recruiting weekend.

“You’re running around after the football game to the press conferences, and if we win we’ll have to meet with the site reps about next week’s game,” Moccia said. “Then you’re planning for the basketball game that’s only an hour and a half away.”

Moccia said he has encouraged fans to be patient with any parking problems caused by the back-to-back events, and encouraged fans to leave their cars parked and enjoy Carbondale’s Lights Fantastic parade during the intermission.

Mark Gazdik, assistant athletic director for marketing, will not be afforded the break, as he prepares to direct both games.

Gazdik, who handles both games from a public address and event standpoint, said the fact that both games are televised is great for the university but creates a more rigorous schedule to maintain.

“When you have television, you’re down to the second as to when you have to tip off, so making sure that we tip off at the exact moment ESPN wants us to tip, that’s on me,” Gazdik said.

He said his day will begin at 7:30 a.m. and end at 11:30 p.m. as he attempts to balance the separate events.

“I have never been a part of anything this big,” Gazdik said. “I don’t think the spotlight has ever been on a campus like it is Saturday here.”

Sean McGahan can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 269 or [email protected].