You’ll see a lot of Redbird fans screaming in the stands at Friday night’s Arch Madness opening game against Northern Iowa. But few have a history with Redbird hoops longer than Bill and Lynn Gaddis.
Bill is a 1968 business education and physical education alumnus, Lynn a 1971 grad who majored in education and English literature. The couple lives in Armington, outside Bloomington-Normal, but during basketball season—both men’s and women’s—you can find the season ticket-holders at Redbird Arena.
They’ve been following the men’s team—closely—since they went on dates at Horton Field House as students. On Thursday, they pulled into St. Louis for yet another Missouri Valley Conference basketball tournament.
“We believe this team can beat anyone,” Lynn said. “When everything clicks, it’s so exciting to watch.”
STATEside caught up with the Gaddises on Friday at Redbird Rally, a pregame event hosted by the Alumni Association and Illinois State Athletics at the Over/Under Bar and Grill in downtown St. Louis.
And when it comes to teams that click, the Gaddises have seen it happen time after time. They were there in 1997 and 1998, when Illinois State won the MVC championship, with Dan Muller on the court playing instead of walking the sidelines. (Muller went 8-2 in the Valley tournament.)
Those tournaments were “electrifying,” Lynn says.
“It was so fun, because every tournament you felt like you had a chance,” Bill told STATEside. “That’s kinda how it feels with this team.”
The Redbird alums, who were both educators in Central Illinois before retiring, have traveled with the team on MVC road trips, even to Cancun for a tournament. They love the game, but they always keep in mind that the coaches and student-athletes are real people—not just who they see on the court.
“These are real kids, who are putting their hearts into everything out there,” Lynn says.
As for this year’s tournament, Bill and Lynn like ISU’s chances. Perhaps another MVC title?
“Every team has that ‘clicking’ time, when everything clicks,” Lynn told STATEside. “That’s what you live for. That’s what’s fun. That’s what you hope for.”
Ryan Denham can be reached at rmdenha@IllinoisState.edu.