By Ryan McNeill
This weekend I started reading Michael Litos book “Cinderella: Inside The Rise of Mid-Major College Basketball” and I wanted to share an excerpt about George Mason’s run to the Final Four last March. While every college basketball fan is aware of George Mason’s miracle run in the NCAA Tournament last March, Litos made me aware of the “lucky tie” that the athletic director, coaching staff and players rallied around during the school’s winning streak last March.
Litos recounted the “Lucky Tie” worn by George Mason’s athletic director Tom Yeager in his book by writing:
Yeager had been attending NCAA meetings in San Antonio, and heavy storms wreaked havoc with flight schedules. So, while it wasn’t surprising that Yeager had arrived at the Hilton hotel ahead of his luggage, there was still the issue of his wardrobe.
Yeager had made himself comfortable on the flight by wearing a pair of clog-like shoes, carrying his jacket, and opting out of a tie. As you can imagine, the commissioner of a conference cannot attend important basketball games on national television in such casual dress. Most of the national media were dubbing this game an at-large big qualifier – the team that won would likely lock up an at-large bit to the NCAA tournament should it lose its conference tournament. The loser was likely on the outside looking in, given the same scenario.
Yeager was stuck. His only option for a tie was displayed in the hotel lobby gift shop – not exactly renowned for sartorial splendour. Running late, Yeager purchased the best quick option – a truly hideous burnt orange number, with slanting tan and green stripes, exactly the kind of tie you’d expect to find in a hotel gift shop – or a yard sale.
Three hours later George Mason senior guard Tony Skinn would hit a three-pointer with twelve seconds to play to give the Patriots the key road victory that day. Yeager jokingly told Mason coach Jim Larranaga that surely his lucky tie had something to do with it.
As further evidence, that same February day Michigan, a bubble team, was losing to Michigan State. Colorado, another bubble team, was losing to 110+ RPI Kansas State. The legend began to grow.
By the time George Mason had rallied from a 16-2 deficit against defending North Carolina – after dominating Final Four participant Michigan State – the lucky tie had morphed into the Magic Tie, and Larranaga’s players began rubbing it prior to games. The tie faithfully remained around Yeager’s neck through the Washington, D.C., regional finals, where Mason defeated Wichita State (again) and Connecticut.
It went with him all the way to Indianapolis.
If you find yourself missing college hoops this week after the NCAA Tournament wraps up tonight make sure you check out Lito’s book “Cinderella: Inside The Rise of Mid-Major College Basketball” and keep checking back here over the next few weeks for more excerpts from this book.