Fall Festival gives exposure to basketball teams

Sarah Loesch

A tradition started in 2003 by former Men’s Head Basketball Coach Rick Herdes has stayed strong throughout the years.

Every year, the USI basketball teams are introduced on the main stage at the Fall Festival for all attendees to see.

When current Men’s Head Basketball Coach Rodney Watson took over in 2009, he was contacted by the West Side Nut Club to see if he was still interested in participating in the event.

Watson said it was a tradition they would “absolutely want to continue.”

He sees the introduction as a big help to the teams.

“Where else can you put your team in front of probably 20,000 people on a stage in the second biggest street festival in existence?,” he said.

Putting the teams on stage gives them each the opportunity to say a few words to the crowd and to get the festival goers excited for the upcoming season.

The teams took the time in the spotlight to mention upcoming events that would be interesting to fans and gave a little bit of information about themselves.

The community learned where the players are from and what they are majoring in.

“It is always nice to be introduced to everyone around here,” said Autumn Miller, senior finance major. “To get them to come to games and just to meet people.”

Besides being on stage, the teams also put in a little leg work walking up and down Franklin Street passing out schedules to festival goers.

“It just gives us a chance to get out in front of our fans and just kind of mix and mingle,” said Rick Stein, women’s head basketball coach. “The first full week of October is Fall Festival time. There’s no place we’d rather be than out here on the main stage. We appreciate the West Side Nut Club for having us out.”

The benefit of the event is something that both head coaches are well aware of. With the season quickly approaching, they both know it is time to make the public aware of games and of the teams in general.

“This is a big help,” Watson said. “Anytime we have a chance to get face time with one person or 20,000 people, it is always a benefit.”

Knowing that the Fall Festival is an event that attracts a majority of Evansville and even people from some of the surrounding areas, Stein said it is an opportunity to get the people thinking about basketball.

“Obviously there is a lot of people down here who will be interested in our teams tonight,” Stein said.

Stein and Watson are both excited for what the season has in store for their teams. While the women’s team is focusing on its strength in veteran players, with seven returning seniors on the roster, the men’s team is finding opportunity with new players.

“We got a new group of guys with new energy,” Watson said. “We think this could be a team that plays a little different than we have in the past, so we are excited to get going.”

The Fall Festival introduction is a great opportunity for the teams to be introduced to a community that will come out and support the Screaming Eagles on game day,

“I think Evansville is a great place because the community really understands the sport,” Stein said. “They’ll be out to cheer for all our teams.”

The first opportunity for fans to come out and cheer the women on in regular season play will be Nov. 14 at the Physical Activities Center against Malone University.

The men’s team is scheduled to start its season Nov. 15 at the Physical Activities Center in a game against Davis & Elkins College.