Rally ’round the Dawgs

By Gus Bode

Maroon faces of all ages packed the SIU Arena Monday to cheer for members of one of the nation’s most dominant college basketball teams – even though there was no game scheduled.

In a celebratory pep rally, fans showed their appreciation to a team that earned SIU its first trip to the Sweet 16 since 2002.

Kip Dillow, a 1978 SIUC graduate, said he has been a proud Saluki fan for more than 50 years. He said he is optimistic of the team’s chance at making a deeper tournament run.


“I think we’re going to go to the Final Four,” Dillow said. “Beyond that, it’s anybody’s game. Against Kansas, I think it’ll be a close game. It could even go to overtime but I’d say we’re going to probably win.”

During the rally, SIU Coach Chris Lowery introduced senior guards Jamaal Tatum and Tony Young to thunderous applause.

Young said the team doesn’t feel any pressure.

“We just go and leave it all on the court. Whatever happens, happens,” Young said.

The senior from Schaumburg studying management said Thursday’s game against No. 1 seed Kansas is no different than other games they’ve played.

“We play a numerous amount of big games so there’s no reason to get worried about it now,” Young said.

After the celebration, junior forward Randal Falker said he knows Kansas has a lot of good players, but they can be defeated.


“That’s the biggest thing, the fact that they’re human – we can beat them,” Falker said.

The dreaded shot-blocker also said he appreciated the devotion Saluki fans showed traveling to Columbus, Ohio, for the first rounds and said he was thrilled with the support at the rally.

“It’s enough reason that they’re willing to come all that way and spend all that money to come and support, so that’s a big thing,” Falker said.

Three such fans at the rally had their faces painted to spell out “SIU.” Through the “I” on her face, Cherrylynn Schilling, a senior from Indiana studying civil engineering, said she is excited for the Salukis because their success will not only help the athletic department.

“I think it will not only bring a lot of media attention and recognition nationwide as an athletic program, but it might bring attention for academic strengths,” she said.

SIU President Glenn Poshard attended the rally, and expressed excitement for the team’s achievement.

“It’s already brought just tremendous pride, in the school, in the region, in the state,” he said. “We’re the only ones still standing in the state of Illinois.”

Poshard said the national exposure created by the team is excellent for the university and its alumni.

“They’re more likely to give to the school now,” he said. “They’re more likely to take pride in this institution even though they may live a thousand miles away. After Thursday, three down and three to go.”

Watch River Regions coverage of our Saluki Dawgs.

Save the Salukis as your desktop picture.

[email protected] 303-6436 ext. 266