Katherine Paronto is not usually a fan of bandwagon jumpers.
As a pep-band member for Minnesota’s women’s basketball team, Paronto knows a little about the bandwagon, but in the case of the Gophers’ current run to the Final Four, she is willing to make a few exceptions.
“I think it’s great that people are finally starting to pay attention to certain women’s sports,” Paronto said. “It’s something that we haven’t had a lot of at the ‘U.’ “
Paronto has seen the outpouring of fan support firsthand all season as a band member at the women’s games.
But the enthusiasm for this year’s squad continues to make an impression on and around campus even when the Gophers are miles away.
Tom Hutsell, one of the owners of Big Ten Restaurant & Bar in Stadium Village can attest to that.
“Before this year, we never got women’s basketball game rushes,” Hutsell said. “We’ve actually had to staff up for the women’s games this year. We’ve had lines out the door.”
Successful Minnesota teams have always been a boon to campus businesses, but according to Jon Landers, general manager of Stub & Herbs, the success of this particular team has drawn an entirely new crowd to campus.
“This women’s team has really dredged up some people that I don’t think would ever come to this part of town,” Landers said. “There are a lot of local people that feel like this is more of a family-friendly environment to bring their children.”
Hutsell agrees that these fans are especially enthusiastic and he said they have supported more than just the local restaurants and bars.
“They come all decked out,” Hutsell said. “They all have Minnesota stuff on, including their Goldy hats and Gophers beads.”
Although the fans have had an effect around campus throughout the season, the explosion of support during the tournament run has been considerable.
Despite the large number of latecomers, nobody seems to mind.
“It’s just nice to see the women’s team get a lot of exposure,” said Greg Altman, a campus worker. “The men’s teams usually get all the exposure.”
With a limited number of fans able to travel to New Orleans to watch the game Sunday, fan viewing at campus establishments only looks to grow.
The restaurants and bars in Stadium Village and Dinkytown will continue to accommodate those fans who want to come out and cheer on the team with others.
The Big Ten Restaurant & Bar will be offering Gophers Mardi Gras beads and a game-long happy hour special to fans who come out to watch while Stub & Herbs will run a food special and their typical Sunday drink special.
Sally’s Saloon & Eatery will run its usual Sunday night drink special for the game.
Bobby Z’s has not yet decided on a special, but the Dinkytown bar will be gearing up for the rush.
“We’re loading up on staff,” manager Eric Wright said. “It’s the first time in the history of the school this has been done, and that’s a big deal.”
No matter where fans go, they are likely to find a fun time.
“It’s really an exciting atmosphere,” said Tom Nesheim, a manager at Sally’s Saloon & Eatery. “The fans really cheer on every play.”
Even those that do not make it out for the game will likely be tuning in.
“I stood up at work and cheered when I found out they beat Duke,” University student Nick Beattie said. “There was like three people left at the time, but I yelled because I thought it was amazing.”
According to Paronto’s fellow pep-band member Christa Neau, cheering with others is the best, bandwagon fans or not.
“I wish I wasn’t a bandwagon fan myself,” Neau said. “But if I can’t go down there, I’m going to find a way to watch the game with the fans.”