NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - There are fans then there are super fans and then you have fans that are so close to the team that they are practically family.
A group of SFA fans met in the dark student center at Nacogdoches First United Methodist Church to cheer on their team to a 70-56 win over number three seed West Virginia. These fans are considered family to may of the players.
When coach Brad Underwood came here three years ago he wanted to do something to get the community behind the team," coordinator Leon Hallman said. "Coach was surprised to see how empty the campus was over the holiday break and he came to us. Each year we have grown. We have adoptive family members from 2 years to 95 years of age."
The program works to wear community members step up and become an adoptive parent to one of the players.
"It's made people closer to the team," Patricia Simmons said. "There's a lot of rules we have to follow because we do not want to get in trouble. We cut out their pictures from the paper and save it for them. We can give them a small bag of snacks and we can have them in our house one time. Last year we went down the tunnel and talked to them after the game."
For the players it is a chance to have someone connect with them in the community and know they have support when they are so far away from home.
"Some of the players have never sat down at a dinning table and have a meal with a total family," Hallman said. " Their backgrounds did not match that. It has helped them grow and develop. It has made them more aggressive with reaching out in public."
As the game went on, the adoptive parents looked more like real parents. At points the fans could be heard giving advice. At other points of the game they were clinched over in agony as if their own child missed a shot. But when any of the Jacks would hit a big shot and bring victory closer to home, they had tears of joy only a parent could have.
"We are proud of them all, especially since they are such gentlemen no matter what win or lose," Amanda Oldham said. "It helps us as much as it helps them. They know we are there and it lets us get out and go to the games."
The group said as long as the Jacks are on the hardwood, they will be there showing support.
"We were hoping they would get to go to Oklahoma City and we could carpool up there," Hallman said. "we even planned on taking a train ride to St. Louis, but I guess the NCAA committee didn't want to listen to our suggestions. it is amazing what coach Underwood has done. To win 20 plus games in any conference is amazing."