Students may still be on winter break, but Wednesday night, the Izzone was full – of former members reliving their college days.
The MSU Alumni Association and the Student Alumni Foundation teamed together to hold the first Izzone reunion for MSU’s 54-47 defeat of Wisconsin. The idea of an Izzone reunion had been brought up in the past, but had never been put into action, SAF adviser and Alumni Association Assistant Director Dan DiMaggio said.
“The idea has been around for quite a while but it’s something that just hadn’t been put together time-wise with everything else,” he said. “But this year, with the strong connection that we’re now really enforcing with the alumni association, we decided to go ahead and do this and the response has been unbelievable for the first year.”
Information was e-mailed to former members a few months ago and the response was overwhelming.
“Once the tickets went on sale, I signed up as quick as I could for it,” 2008 graduate John Eastman said. “I was shocked. Normally, it’s empty in here because of the holidays but they said they were doing this and I had never heard of it before. I was super excited.”
The response surprised many in SAF.
“We didn’t really know what to expect. For a weekday game, we didn’t know how tough it would be for travel purposes but in the first 12 hours we sold 400 tickets,” SAF Young Alumni Coordinator and former MSU basketball player Tim Bograkos said. “At that point we knew we had something special going.”
More than 800 tickets were sold. Former members were charged $40 for the game ticket, a T-shirt and a pregame meal. They also were allowed to buy one ticket for a guest. Head coach Tom Izzo spoke to the former members before the game.
“(Izzo) gave us more than 10 minutes of his time, which is very precious pregame, and answered questions from (former) students,” Bograkos said. “I think he enjoyed seeing all these people being back and they really enjoyed having him.”
The Izzone was created in 1995, and since then has become one of the premier student sections in men’s basketball. Thousands of students have participated in the Izzone and Wednesday night was an opportunity for former members to relive their past glory.
“When I found out I had this opportunity, I was like, ‘Holy Moly.’ I never thought I’d be able to actually get back in there and have seats that well again,” 2005 graduate Jim Jeske said “When I saw the opportunity come up and I saw my days off were Wednesday and Thursday, I was like, ‘Great, everything works out.’”
Junior guard Chris Allen said the support from the former members was amazing.
“That was great. At probably 3:30, they were here upstairs eating and I just went up there and said ‘hi’ to everybody,” he said. “That’s great for them to be here this early. There were people from California and everywhere, that was amazing.”
Izzo addressed the Izzone immediately after the game, thanking them for their support and joking that they were invited to the next MSU home game.
Bograkos and DiMaggio said they plan on continuing to reunite Izzone members in the future.
“I think it’s the first time any school in the country has done something like this, so we’re trying to be on the cutting edge of engaging our alums,” he said.
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