The celebration continues in Charlottesville.
Over 20,000 Cavaliers fans gathered at Scott Stadium Saturday afternoon to witness the championship celebration for the 2018-19 NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball National Champion Virginia. Scott Stadium was filled with orange and blue as Virginia alumni, fans and students came together to celebrate what Ralph Sampson called “the best story in college basketball history.”
A three-time College Player of the Year, Ralph Sampson spoke at the event Saturday to celebrate the national title that had evaded him in his time at Virginia.
Dave Koehn, the radio announcer known as the “Voice of the Cavaliers,” emceed the event.
Despite winning in Minneapolis Monday night, “The road to the national championship ends right here, in Charlottesville, Virginia,” Koehn said to a roar of thousands of Cavaliers fans.
Virginia Athletic Director Carla Williams then came out to speak. After witnessing the players’ despair after Virginia’s historic loss to UMBC last year, she was impressed by how the team was responding early this season.
Named Athletics Director in 2017, Carla Williams has had her fair share of experience in the NCAA Tournament as a point guard on the Georgia Bulldogs in the 1980s.
“I saw a sense of resilience in that team,” Williams said.
Then, the team came out. Coach Tony Bennett said he was in awe at the size of crowd that came to celebrate his basketball team. Bennett made the team’s motto for this year be “United Pursuit.”
"It's pursuit, when you pursue something or seek something, you have to do it with all your might," Bennett said in a press conference at the beginning of the season. "It involves our pillar of passion. It's a pursuit, but it has to be united.”
When he saw the size, togetherness and passion of the crowd at Scott Stadium Saturday, Bennett saw it as “a united celebration of that pursuit.”
It was pure joy for Coach Tony Bennett Saturday, as he brought home the first men's basketball national championship in school history for Virginia.
“[These players] are part of one of the greatest stories I’ve ever seen written, and it will be told over and over again,” Bennett said. “It united the community, and it certainly united our team beyond basketball.”
The jubilation at the celebration at Scott Stadium, made all the hard work, all the defeats, worthwhile, Bennett said.
“When people are coming up to you, and their eyes are welling up because it means so much to them, that drives it home,” Bennett said.
After Bennett spoke, Virginia basketball players took the podium to talk about the meaning of their miraculous national championship run.
Virginia's big three of Hunter, Jerome and Guy were all part of Bennett's 2016 recruiting class and came to Virginia to win a national championship. They've done it.
“It means the world, and I hope it means the world to [the Charlottesville community], too,” junior guard Kyle Guy said.
The celebration ended with some brilliance on the keyboard by redshirt freshman forward Francesco Badocchi, who played “One Shining Moment” on the piano to recap the Cavaliers’ tournament run.