Centre grads make habit of NCAA tourney

March 18, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

They've been friends, and basketball fans, since their days together at Centre College, and that has led to an annual NCAA Tournament trip for the Beta Theta Pi fraternity brothers.

Brian Miller and Shawn Lyons, who both work at Centre, left Danville Wednesday for Orlando to meet 10 other 1981 Centre graduates to watch two days of NCAA play that will involve eight teams and six games.

"We will have 12 people from six states, a record year for attendance for our trip," said Miller, who moved back to Danville in August to become Centre's director of campaign giving.

Miller said the group went on its first NCAA trip nine years ago because their wives were tired of hearing the same stories every time the group was together.


"They said we needed to get together with them to create some new stories so they wouldn't have to keep listening to the same ones," Miller said.

In the past eight years, the friends have watched NCAA games in San Antonio (twice), Austin, Birmingham, Greensboro, Lexington (twice) and Orlando. Now they are back in Orlando, where they have rented a house through Sunday. They have front row, midcourt seats for the games Friday and Sunday thanks to Miller, who used to work for Stetson University, the NCAA host school in Orlando.

Lyons, the associate vice president of development and alumni at Centre, and Miller also have plans to see the Atlanta Braves play Saturday on the NCAA's off day.

"They will play at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex where they have spring training," Miller said Wednesday. "Our house is only about 10 minutes from there. I got the idea and knew the timing was right."

Scheduled to join Miller and Lyons in Orlando today were: Danny Pawley, the sixth man on Centre's 1979 Final Four team who now is a chemist with Dow Corning in Elizabethtown; Dan Yates, president of the Portland Spirit, a dinner cruise company in Portland, Ore.; Steve Lownds, president of National Geographic Map Technologies; Tim Rush, a Louisville dentist; Seth Aldrich, a school psychologist in New York; Paul Burkey, a Navy captain in Washington, D.C.; Hart Sledd, who works for the State Auditor in Frankfort; Church Saufley, vice-president of human resources for the Kentucky Lottery in Louisville; John Bach, a coal originator for SSM Coach Americas in Houston; and Charles Holder, an information specialist in New York.

Burkey has missed the last three NCAA trips because he was stationed in Japan with his family. "It's going to be nice to see him," Miller said.

They are 0-for-9 in getting to see UK play

The group would like to see Kentucky play. However, because they decide where they'll go far in advance of when NCAA pairings are made, they are 0-for-9 on being at the same tourney site as Kentucky.

They will get to see Louisville play Xavier Friday and could see the Cardinals play Mississippi State Sunday if both teams win their opening games.

"Our primary objective is to go someplace warm, but we would also like to see UK play," Miller said. "This is overall a basketball-crazy group. We do it primarily for the chance to see each other and stay in touch, but basketball has been the glue. We've talked about golf trips or other options, but it always comes back to basketball."

Miller said the group normally finds a way to watch UK play, even though the Cats will also be playing on Friday and Sunday.

"John, Hart, Tim and Danny are especially hard-core UK fans," Miller said. The group also will have one other priority before heading home.

"I haven't even looked at our choices (for next year), but taking the vote on next year's destination is always an organized event during the trip," Miller said. "I don't know where we will go, but we will be going somewhere."

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