Football Fever Strikes Community
School spirit swells as the Golden Eagles head to the Final Four.
More than 500 green and gold–clad fans packed the visitors’ bleachers at Delaware Valley University Dec. 2. Eighty watched inside the Seymour College Union. More than 100 gathered at watch parties across Brockport and Greater Rochester. Thousands of other supporters followed the live stream or radio broadcast.
They held their collective breath as senior Brett Renzi lined up in an effort to kick the Golden Eagles into the Final Four of the NCAA Division III Football Playoffs. And they roared in unison as his attempt sailed through the goal posts to give SUNY Brockport a 31-28 victory.
Football fever has swept the Brockport community.
“Everyone is feeling it. It’s amazing. So many people are stopping by the office to congratulate us. After the game, [coach] Jason [Mangone] showed me his phone — there had to be more than 80 different text messages,” said Brockport Athletic Director Erick Hart.
“So many of our alumni are reconnecting with us. People are coming up to me and saying, ‘I played football in 1968’ or ‘I played football in 1972.’ Everyone is just so proud.”
The momentum started to build on opening day with a win over then-No. 14 ranked Hobart College. It escalated when Brockport defeated crosstown rival St. John Fisher College to claim its first Courage Bowl title. Several weeks later, the Golden Eagles celebrated Homecoming with a 45-0 blowout victory over Hartwick. By the end of the regular season, they stood undefeated as first-time Empire 8 Conference champions.
Sensing a renewed school spirit, Brockport Student Government threw a pep rally to send football into the NCAA playoffs and celebrate another women’s volleyball SUNYAC title.
“Seeing the genuine excitement of the students through the historic hard work of these young men is something that has done wonders for the pride and engagement of the students on this campus,” said Brockport Student Government President Elisha Madison. “There’s a vibe on campus that has students saying that it’s a good year to be a Golden Eagle.”
A first round win over Plymouth State drew 2,239 fans to Eunice Kennedy Shriver Stadium. A second round matchup with No. 13 Wesley University, on a cold and rainy afternoon over Thanksgiving weekend (while students were away on break), drew nearly 3,000.
But before they took the field that afternoon, Hart needed to figure out a way to feed more than 80 football players — who were unable to go home to celebrate with their families due to their practice schedule — Thanksgiving dinner.
“We love that the football team is winning. We’re incredibly proud of them,” Hart said. “But winning is expensive.”
Once his concerns started circulating among some supporters, the problem disappeared. More than 20 donors donated more than $3,000 to pay for a catered Thanksgiving feast and offset other expenses associated with the team’s success.
The overwhelming support exists virtually, too. An Instagram post from the College’s main account announced Mangone had won the 2017 D3 Football Fan Choice Coach of the Year award and set the account’s record for most “likes” of a post.
Next up for the Golden Eagles is a semifinal matchup with University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas. The Cru are the defending national champions and join University of Mount Union (Alliance, OH) and University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh to form the triumvirate of Division III football royalty. Those three programs join Brockport, making its first semifinal appearance, in the Final Four.
The Golden Eagles now take on the role of underdog. But they’ll be bringing Brockport Football fever with them to Texas as thousands of their supporters cheer from afar.
Football Watch Parties
Brockport takes on Mary Hardin-Baylor in the NCAA Division III Football Semifinals at 3:30 pm Saturday, Dec. 9. View the game at WatchESPN.com or on the WatchESPN app. Even better, stop by one of the College’s official watch parties:
- On campus
Seymour College Union, Ballroom
- Bill Gray’s Tap Room
4647 South Lake Road, Brockport, NY
- Stoneyard Craft Beer Hall and Grill
1517 Empire Blvd, Webster, NY
New York City, NY
- Offside Tavern
137 W 14th Street, New York, NY 10011
- Santora’s Pizza Pub and Grill - Millersport Highway
1402 Millersport Hwy Williamsville, NY 14221
Red Hook, NY
- Charlie O's
23 East Market Street Red Hook, NY 12571
- Tortoise & Hare Bar
567 23rd Street S Arlington, VA 22202
Details of watch parties in additional cities will be posted soon. Interested in hosting a watch party in your city? Email email@example.com.