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Bob Ryan

Big days on campus

Butler enjoying all that comes with Final Four berth

By Bob Ryan
Globe Columnist / April 2, 2010

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INDIANAPOLIS — Scenes from a euphoric campus:

1. The Bookstore

Enter the Butler University Bookstore, located inside the Atherton Union, and you hear a man barking.

Barking? Why is this man barking?

His name is Darryl Boyd, and he is selling Butler University merchandise. His favorite item is a Butler Bulldogs Final Four T-shirt, which, he says, was designed by a student. If you purchase one, he will bark.

“With every bite, you get a bark,’’ he explains.

I know the Bulldogs are in the Final Four, but isn’t this taking woofing to an extreme?

Business is very good at the Butler University Bookstore. “It’s mind-boggling, what’s going on,’’ says Richard Goodpaster, who is the regional manager of Follett Higher Education Group, a firm that manages many campus bookstores. “This is a phenomenal event for the folks of Indianapolis and Indiana. It’s been this way since last Thursday [when the Bulldogs knocked off Syracuse in the Sweet 16]. We’re selling thousands of shirts every day. We’re shipping them to Canada and Europe. People are calling up and saying, ‘Where’s Butler?’ ’’

The normal bookstore staff could not have handled the workload.

“We’re pulling them in from other stores,’’ explains Goodpaster, whose company runs campus bookstores in several states. “I’ve got people here from Kentucky, Illinois, and other parts of Indiana.’’

This being the Heartland, there’s no pushing, no shoving, no cutting in front of the line.

“The Indiana people are so nice, so kind,’’ Goodpaster points out. “They will stand here for an hour and a half waiting for us to unload. They’re incredibly patient, just great Midwestern people.’’

That goes for the team members, as well, according to Goodpaster.

“We delivered texts for the basketball team because they’ve been traveling,’’ he says. “Every player has sent us a thank you note. That’s the kind of class there is on this team.’’

2. Fraternity Row

Several fraternities and sororities line the street running in front of Atherton Union. Just about all have some form of tribute to the basketball team, with signs such as “Bulldogs playing the Butler way’’ and, “We love our Dawgs’’ typical fare.

One frat, whose sign is held up by three poles topped off with backboards and hoops, plugs into an obvious theme: “Let’s win this one for all the small schools who never had the chance to get here — Hoosiers.’’

(Incidentally, I’m told Gene Hackman will be making a Final Four appearance.)

But the best demonstration of Bulldog spirit belongs to the ladies of Triple Delta, who have planted 16 little signposts signifying the numbered jerseys for the 15 Bulldog players, plus one for coach Brad Stevens.

Samantha Polster and Emma Law, a pair of juniors, are enjoying the midday sun on the lawn, and while they were involved, they say the one who came up with the idea was Sarah Nedde, the sorority member in charge of decorations.

Both young ladies maintain they were true to their school even before Butler disposed of No. 1 Syracuse and No. 2 Kansas State. “We’re always behind our Bulldogs,’’ says Law, a native of Zionsville, Ind., which also happens to be the hometown of Coach Stevens (“We’ve always been proud of him’’). “This really is a close community, and we all support each other.’’

Both Law and Polster, who hails from Crown Point, Ind., are among the lucky ones who have scored tickets for the games. No hanky-panky, either. “No cheating here,’’ assures Polster.

3. The Fieldhouse

Hinkle Fieldhouse is kind of hard to miss. The iconic structure looms large on campus. Constructed in 1928, it still has the original floor and has been designated as a US National Historic Landmark, so how do you like that, Dookies? At 12:30 in the afternoon, it is a happening place. It’s been the scene of nonstop activity for television crews, both local and national, this week (Kenny Mayne arrived with an ESPN crew at 6 a.m. yesterday), but it is also being visited by wide-eyed tourists, among them the Maxey and Davis families, whose children were shooting baskets while their proud parents were taking pictures.

Troy and Carla Maxey live in Miramar, Fla., but Troy is an Indy native who wants to show off Hinkle for his wife, sons Ashton and Bryce, plus godson Bryant Hall.

Such carefree use of a famous court would not be permissible at many places, but Butler has never been in the pretension business. Why, Butler athletic director Barry Collier is standing there the whole time, and what the Maxeys and Davises were doing was all right with him.

This is a good time to be the Butler AD.

“I’m just loving every day,’’ he beams. “If anybody tells you this is not something you can enjoy, that is not my viewpoint.’’

Once upon a time, Collier coached the team, and he is the man who elevated the then-31-year-old Brad Stevens from assistant to head man when Todd Lickliter skedaddled to Iowa after six seasons and two Sweet 16 appearances.

“Sorry it took me 36 hours to hire him,’’ Collier jokes. “He is such a fantastic fit for the university. Great integrity. Highly intelligent. And he combines all his assets in the Butler way.’’

How could Butler buy or manufacture publicity such as this?

“The fact is, you’re here, and people are talking about Butler,’’ Collier reflects. “It’s great for the school.’’

When he’s done extolling the virtues of Butler University, Collier says, “Would you like to meet the mayor?’’ Thinking he was referring to some local celeb who carries that honorary title, I say, “Sure.’’

But, no, it really is the mayor of Indianapolis. His name is Greg Ballard (no relation to the smooth ’70s Washington Bullets jump shooter), and he is a first-term Republican who knocked off incumbent Bart Peterson in what Ballard himself says was “one of the biggest upsets in Indiana political history.’’

Mr. Mayor is an Indiana University grad (Class of ’76, the year of Bob Knight’s first championship team), but right now he is an honorary Bulldog.

“There’s no question what they’ve done is great for the city, and the fact is Butler really is a great school,’’ Ballard says. “I’m glad the nation is just now finding out what a gem Butler is.’’

OK, fine. But it’s early afternoon. What is the mayor of Indianapolis doing chatting up a visiting sportswriter when he should be tending to civic matters?

“I came to get a Shelvin Mack jersey,’’ he explains.

Welcome to Indiana. Welcome to Butler.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist and host of Globe 10.0 on Boston.com. He can be reached at ryan@globe.com.

Tomorrow’s NCAA semifinals
Game 1:
MICHIGAN STATE (28-8) vs. BUTLER (32-4), 6:07 p.m. (Ch. 4)
Game 2: WEST VIRGINIA (31-6) vs. DUKE (33-5), 40 mins. following (Ch. 4)