Western Washington University athletic director Lynda Goodrich admits she didn't get much sleep last weekend when the school played host to two regional tournaments in the NCAA Division II Tournament, but she's sure she must have been dreaming on Tuesday night, March 19.
"It was a dream situation," Goodrich said in a phone interview. "I can tell you before this all started, this was my dream scenario - having the women facing Simon Fraser and men playing Seattle Pacific before a full house. My dream came true, and then it got even better - we won both of those games. There were a couple of classic matchups between rivals for both programs. It doesn't get any better. There was superb basketball.
"I mean, if you are a basketball fan, you had to appreciate what happened on Tuesday. Those were two classic championship games, in my mind. ... I've been here 42 years, and that was one of the most exciting nights in my career. I like to chalk those kinds of nights up."
With the women's 75-58 victory and the men holding off the Falcons 62-58 in their West Regional championship games, the dream is just beginning for the Vikings and their fans.
Both teams now move on to the Elite Eight this week.
The women will face South Region champion Nova Southeastern at 4 p.m. (PDT) Tuesday, March 26, in San Antonio, Texas, while the men will resume their quest for a repeat national championship against Florida Southern at 3 p.m. (PDT) Thursday, March 28, in Louisville, Ky.
Getting two teams - one women's, one men's - from one school through to the Elite Eight is a rare occurrence in any sport at any level.
Western becomes just the third Division II West Region team to accomplish the feat in basketball since the region began crowning women's champions in 1983, joining Cal State Bakersfield (1994) and Alaska Anchorage (2008).
Each program has set a single-season record for wins (28 for the women, 30 for the men) and their combined 58-5 record (92.5 percentage) has the school on pace to break the record for combined winning percentage (90.0 in 1971-72).
"I think accomplishing this is a signature of how great our program is throughout," Goodrich said. "It isn't just basketball. We've won national championships in rowing. Our volleyball team is conference champs and went to the national championship match a few years ago. Our soccer programs are right there. Track and field is there. This is a showcase for our entire program.
"Obviously, it shows our basketball teams are very, very good, because it isn't easy to get through a difficult regional like ours and make it to the Elite Eight. ... Getting to the top eight teams in the country with two teams is pretty special. I think it shows how great our programs and our coaches are. I can't even put into words how thrilling this is, for me personally and for the institution."
And it was the entire institution that made it work.
Though the players and coaches, deservedly, get much of the credit, they likely wouldn't be in position to succeed if not for the hard work of a number of people behind the scenes in the WWU athletic department, Goodrich said.
"There are so many people that make this happen," Goodrich said. "They're all willing to work 24-7 when they're needed. That's just what they do. This is the icing on the cake for them."
Need proof? just look at the fact that Western was able to host not one, but two regionals concurrently with hardly a hitch. Handling eight teams at one time is tough enough, but hosting 16 over a five-day tournament is downright crazy.
Though other schools have accomplished the feat, the NCAA is conservative about giving a men's and women's regional to one host school in the same year, because they don't want to diminish the experience for the student athletes or the fans.
Goodrich said she repeatedly made her case to host both regionals as it appeared the Vikings would hold the top ranking in both regional polls, but it wasn't "until the 11th hour on Sunday (March 10) that we knew that we would get to host both. It was a real roller coaster and just an unbelievable feeling when we got that call at 8 p.m. telling us we got both."
Goodrich said some good planning ahead allowed the Western staff to perfectly pull off the double, and both teams obviously appreciated the home-court advantage that came because of their efforts.
"I got an email from one AD that was playing in the West Regional, saying that when it came to hosting both regionals with the staff we have, we were probably the only school that could have pulled it off," Goodrich said. "That makes you feel good to hear. I thought we did a great job with 16 teams and 14 games in five days. I can't sing the praises of our staff enough."
Now Goodrich and her staff get to enjoy the fruits of their labors, as they watch both teams in the Elite Eight.
The women's team was scheduled to leave for San Antonio on Saturday, March 23, while the men's team should leave for Louisville early this week.
Goodrich said she was planning to stay in San Antonio through the duration of the women's run in the Elite Eight, which wraps up Friday, March 29, with the national championship game, before she heads to Louisville to watch the men.
"I wanted to go to watch the men's first-round game, but I was worried if the women get to the national championship game I might not make it back in time," Goodrich said. "I would have had to change plains, and you never know what could go wrong. So I've decided to stay with the women as far as they go and then head up to see the men. If the women do not go to the championship, then I'll join the men before Thursday's game. It's a great problem to have."
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.