Alumni and fans make their way to Fairfax for Homecoming basketball

Alumni, students and community members came out in full force Saturday afternoon to cheer on the Patriots for their Homecoming contest against the Old Dominion Monarchs. (John Powell)

In the hours leading to the George Mason Men’s Patriots Homecoming basketball game against the Old Dominion Monarchs on Saturday, fans and alumni gathered inside Brion’s Grille to establish memories and show support for their university.

GMU athletic director, Tom O’Connor, was on hand to enjoy the festivities with the alumni.

“Alumni are your excellence,” O’Connor said. “Past people coming back to connect to the school is really special. They get to recreate stories that they had when they were here before.”

Many of those memories came from the players and fans involved in the famous 2006 NCAA Basketball Final Four Cinderella run.

“You bleed green and gold,” said Lamar Butler, an ‘06 graduate and key contributor to the team’s success during his senior year. “You put so much hard work into building this program up to be one of the top programs in the CAA.”

As Mason continually grows into a top sports program, the expanding campus caught the attention of many alumni, including ’09 graduate John Vaughan, another member of the team that reached the Final Four.

“It’s like they’re turning Mason into a little city,” Vaughan said. “Now we got hotels on campus and I just see this becoming a real college basketball town.”

Allison Feldman, a 2008 graduate, played on the women’s soccer team and couldn’t wait to come back to GMU this weekend to see her teammates and friends.

“I really enjoyed the school, the professors, and I came back because I wanted to stay in touch with a lot of the athletes who played here,” Feldman said. “It’s just such a good time every time we see each other.”

By coming back to Mason, the alumni are able to enjoy their time by continuing a unique relationship unlike any other.

“This past week, I was looking through old pictures and it really made me miss all my friends, the great memories I had here, and how great of an experience I had playing soccer,” Feldman said. “It’s definitely an experience that will last a lifetime.”

Just down the road on the GMU campus, fans were already lining up outside the Patriot Center waiting to watch their second-place basketball team prepare to face the third-place Monarchs.

“I’ve been back to a lot of games this year and I’ve been very impressed with the team’s chemistry that they’ve developed,” Vaughan said. “They seem to have really come together as a group.”

The team’s chemistry is similar to the relationship established by the GMU alumni and supporters from the area throughout the years.

“The community, fans and alumni around here really do a great job of coming together like a big family,” Vaughan said.

Being a GMU Patriot is passionately shown by all the alumni who came to support the basketball team and the school as a whole this weekend. The time they spent at Mason will never be forgotten.

“[Mason] means a lot to me,” Butler said.” It will always hold a special place in my heart.”

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