CATONSVILLE, Md. What a weekend to remember, thanks to an historical basketball game Friday, March 16, 2018, when the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), achieved an unprecedented feat with their unexpected victory over No. 1 seeded University of Virginia, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Maryland team won with a lopsided score of 74-54 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The victory caused havoc among most folks who opted to predict who would possibly win the annual national collegiate men’s basketball tournament. The win also put a first-time international spotlight on the small college located in Catonsville in Baltimore County.
Although the team would eventually lose in the second round on Sunday (March 18) during a hard-fought battle against No. 9 seeded Kansas State University (50-43), UMBC played proudly and won the hearts of millions who continued to support the “Cinderella” story of the 2018 NCAA Tourney affectionately known as “March Madness.”
While the hoop team garnered first-time fans, it should be known that UMBC has long been a stellar site when it comes to academic prowess and success. The school’s chess team is likewise considered a championship-caliber program within international ranks.
It should also be noted that prior to the hoop team’s recent success, it may be a little known fact outside Maryland that UMBC is led by African-American, Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski III who has been at the school’s helm since 1992.
Dr. Habrowski is the author of several books and was selected to chair President Barack Obama’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence.
As a youth, the Birmingham, Alabama native participated in a major Civil Rights protest at Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham in May 1963.
Carroll Little, a 1998 UMBC graduate, says he transferred from Morehouse College in Atlanta to attend UMBC.
“Being at an HBCU was important but I also appreciated Dr. Hrabowski’s positive influence on black males. That was vital,” he said noting Dr. Hrabowski’s role in developing the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, which has been at the forefront of efforts to increase diversity among future leaders in science, engineering and related fields.
Dr. Habrowski was featured on the popular news magazine show “60 Minutes” on CBS in 2013, where he was able to speak about the goals of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program.
Bookstore Marketing Director Erin McGonigle said the unexpected hoop success generated massive online orders for merchandise from throughout the nation. “Our online orders have already outnumbered our [usual] annual totals,” she said.
The Woelper family of nearby Pasadena, Maryland, made the Sunday drive to visit their former campus and stomping grounds. Jason Woelper along with wife Colleen Woelper, daughter Brenna, 7 and son Brodie, 5, posed at the school’s mascot statue “True Grit the Retriever ” dog.
Both Woelpers are alumnus. He is a mechanical engineer and she is a social studies department chair with Anne Arundel Rundle County Schools. They base their career success on academic foundations learned at UMBC.
“It’s always been a good school— now it’s good the basketball team has put us on the national map,” Mrs. Woelper said.