A small college in New Jersey shocked the nation — and maybe even itself — when its basketball players knocked out the number 1 team in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Fairleigh Dickinson University, a 16-seed team based in Madison, New Jersey, beat 1-seed Purdue University 63-58 on Friday night. The surprising upset marked the first time in five years, and the second time ever, that a No. 16 team beat a No. 1, per ESPN.
Ahead of its history-making win, the school had a bit of a scramble as it prepared to play the Boilermakers on a national stage
FDU doesn’t have its own marching band, so after getting an assist from a high school band in its game against Texas Southern, the University of Dayton sent its pep band in to quickly learn the school’s fight song ahead of its game against the Boilermakers. Trombone player Cole Joniak told ESPN that they learned FDU’s fight song (which is called, yes, “FDU fight song”) just minutes before the tipoff.
FDU doesn't have a band, so the University of Dayton's band stepped up to help cheer on the Knights ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/k4vupCpwYo
But amusingly, the FDU players were not familiar with their own song, and didn’t initially recognize it when UD’s longtime band director, Dr. Willie Morris, struck up the band.
“I had to tell them, ‘Hey guys, this is your fight song. You might want to clap to it’, ” he told the Dayton Daily News. “We played it for them so much tonight, I think they’ve got it now.”
Morris he knew the FDU players were skilled but thought “Purdue would be able to handle that,” meaning it would be unlikely to see FDU in the next round. But as it became clear they were headed for a bracket-busting upset, his band’s commitment to the FDU hype became real.
“They never stopped cheering for Fairleigh Dickinson. They cheered for them just like they cheer for the Flyers,” he recalled. “As the clock started ticking down, they got louder, and really got the crowd into it. The crowd loved the band.”
Initially, the Flyers pep band had worn their own gear, but ahead of FDU’s next game against Florida Atlantic University, they donned FDU “Going Dancing” tees and brought plastic swords (a nod to FDU’s mascot, the Knights) to be a visible part of FDU’s cheering section.
Morris continued, “We kind of changed the words to to the ‘Go Dayton Flyers’ cheer to their school.”
Also pitching in for a small school on a national stage was FDU junior, Jordan Sarnoff, who served as the school’s full-time official Director of Athletic Media Relations for the basketball team and other sports.
In a video captured by March Madness Men’s Basketball TV, Sarnoff proudly sat in the media row representing his school.