The Men’s A-Sun Story –
By Dick Allen
Some writers get all the great stories. They get to interview great stars, high fashion models, history makers, and even those who influence nations. Me, I get a call from the Lehigh Acres Gazette to cover the Atlantic Sun Men’s Basketball Tournament. Last time the Gazette called me, they sent me to cover the Republicans National Convention in Tampa, FL. I got some great stories there! But the Atlantic Sun Men’s basketball tournament in Fort Myers, FL?
Wait a minute, Fort Myers, FL…Isn’t that the same place as Dunk City, USA?
And so it is, I’m told by the publisher. So I take the gig. Chicago to Florida in mid-March…who wouldn’t!
So my assignment was to cover the stands. Not the players, not the coaches, not the locker rooms, not even the cheerleaders, don’t take photos, just find the “big” story that no other reporter will find I’m told. Human interest he tells me is what sells free papers. A story that’s never been told before… a one of a kind story!
Well, it took three games to discover that kind of story. As it turns out, our “story” is about no stranger to anyone who has ever attended a basketball game at Florida Gulf Coast University. And I mean from day one. I must admit that during the first game I was taken aback by some ”voice” in the stands that seemed to have the cheerleaders trained along with the over 4600 rabid fans to follow his lead. Time after time he would cry out “Go Eagles” and the cheerleaders would respond back “Go Eagles”. He would cry out again “Go Eagles” and then over 4600 fans shouted back “Go Eagles”. It was like he was in charge! All game long he led thousands of people imploring the players to exceed! And so they did. Win #1, but that’s another story.
The second game was much like the first. Rabid fans, bursting the seams of the stadium and raising the roof as The Voice cried out…. “Go Eagles”, and every one responded back “Go Eagles”. Make no mistake; Dunk City has a Superintendent of Cheer. His name is Bill Stauffer. A distinguished gray-haired gentleman who I am guessing collects Social Security and is a proud veteran of our Armed Forces as I was told he often leads Section F in the singing of our National Anthem. Bill lives in nearby Bonita Springs, is a University of Maryland alumni, and tells me he has been training the cheerleaders and fans from the very first game ever played at Alico Arena. Oh by the way, FGCU won game 2, but that’s still another story.
I found out more about Bill “The Voice” Stauffer during game 3. Which by the way did not go so well. In 2011 the FGCU cheerleaders presented Bill with his own personalized, signed cheerleading megaphone. He loaned that megaphone to University President Bradshaw who led the students’ section when the women played St. Bonaventure in Tallahassee, the first NCAA Basketball tournament game in school history. He told me about singing the Star – Spangled Banner at the final women’s home game in 2013. I asked what the most exciting time he has had as a fan. And quickly he told me of following the men on their historic journey last year to Philadelphia as a 15 seed. And witnessing the Georgetown and San Diego State upsets to become the first 15 seed team in NCAA history to reach the sweet 16. Then Bill and his megaphone traveled to Arlington, TX following the men’s quest against the Florida Gators. That game, much like Sunday’s Championship game didn’t turn out so well for the highflying Eagles.
Bill would make a great Chicago Cub fan. He’s excited about the prospects for the men’s team next year. Only losing a single senior to graduation and picking up a boatload of eligible players which would have been a the great help during Sunday’s final, Bill and the fans are excited about next year. So When you hear “The Voice” next time, check out section F, center court, and you’ll be able to put a face to the voice.