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    Tuesday, July 23, 2024

    The PC Friars: eastern CT’s (unofficial) team

    Mohegan – Fun fact in the wake of a weekend awash in college basketball here in our corner of the world:

    Attendance at Gampel Pavilion on Friday night for UConn vs. UNC Wilmington: 7,766.

    Attendance at Mohegan Sun on Saturday afternoon for Miami vs. Providence: 8,756.

    Wait. What? The Friars outdrew State U in … Connecticut? Oh, the humanity.

    Or maybe this has been festering for a while: The PC Friars are eastern Connecticut’s unofficial team.

    “We do have a large base of support east of the Connecticut river, especially along the shoreline,” said Waterford native Andrew Schoepfer, PC’s Associate Athletic Director for Ticketing/Data Analysis. “Between full and partial season tickets, we’re looking at a shade below 500 total seats with 75 percent as full season ticket holders.

    “The bigger pockets of fans live in Pawcatuck, Mystic, Groton and Waterford as well as pushing up through Norwich and Griswold. Interestingly, we have similar levels of ticket holders along the I-91 corridor as well, with concentrations in Glastonbury, Cheshire, and Southington.”

    Schoepfer said there’s normally high ticket demand for the Friars 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’ll be interesting to note whether the UConn women draw as many as 8,756 to Neon Uncasville when they play Florida State there Dec. 18. Last year, UConn-Louisville drew 8,204.

    But then, PC love has its roots in our history. In the old days before cable – yes, there were days before cable – television reception came through rabbit ears or the rooftop antenna. Eastern Connecticut residents would get Ch. 10 in Providence, which aired the PC games. This was before UConn was on television at all.

    And so our college basketball fix came via play-by-play voice Chris Clark, who called the games for New England’s most national program at the time. Cromwell native Don Lewis was among the pioneers for the Connecticut-to-Providence pipeline that would later graduate into Johnny Egan, Ryan Gomes and Kris Dunn, among others.

    “I’ve been going up there before the Gold Star Bridge had two bridges,” PC alum and Groton Long Point resident Bob Meyer said. “There’s just something that draws me to the place. The people. It’s comforting. The actual basketball experience is a fun place to be. You get to know everybody around you.

    “You’ll see people around here with PC bumper stickers quite frequently,” Meyer said. “Last year on the driving range (at Stonington Country Club), I saw a PC tag on a guy’s golf bag. You always run into someone at a bar with PC ties, way more than you’d ever think.”

    It’s a short trip up 95 or across Route 6 to PC games for most of eastern Connecticut, with the reward of a night in Providence. Sure beats Storrs, no? It’s like saying, “folks, your dinner choices tonight are the petite filet at Capital Grille or a can of Spam.”

    “The atmosphere is electric,” said Tom Harrington of Waterford, a longtime PC ticket holder, alluding to the newly named “AMP” (Amica Mutual Pavilion, formerly the Dunkin Donuts Center) which has been rollicking recently, what with ever-likeable coach Ed Cooley authoring last year’s Big East regular season title and trip to the Sweet 16.

    The AMP has been amped this year, even 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 night. You’re home in 45 minutes to an hour. Can’t beat it.”

    Meyer and his wife, Deb, have several haunts, including Capital Grille, Trattoria Zuma on Federal Hill and Hemingway’s by the river. Fun nights, all.

    “Some of the things we’ve experienced,” 33-year season ticket holder Stan Mickus of Mystic said. “I mean, last year Ed Cooley entered the floor through the student section. The place went nuts. The atmosphere is just electric. Last year, I turned to one of my friends and said, ‘This is what big time feels like.’”

    This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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