WNPR

UConn Looks To "Big Red" In Time Of Uncertainty For Men's Basketball Program

Jan 3, 2018

Game attendance for the University of Connecticut men’s basketball team is dropping.

But some fans are forever. This past weekend, the university honored its biggest fan at halftime.

The Huskies are off to a mediocre 7-6 start, which includes a 10-point-loss to Wichita State Saturday. If they don’t get better, the Huskies could miss out on the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four years.

The poor play may also be something that’s driving down attendance. At this point in the season back in 2014, the year the Huskies won their last title, about 9,800 fans went to a game at the XL Center in Hartford.

Before Saturday’s game, for this season, it averaged about 5,500.

“Whether they win or lose, it doesn’t matter,” said Tom Emery, the fan honored by the university Saturday. “It should be, ‘We’re still a UConn fan.’”

They call Emery “Big Red” for his trademark red hair and beard. This game was billed as “Big Red Appreciation Day.” The Meriden native has had season tickets for 40 years and has cheered the Huskies through four national championships with his infamous UConn battle cry.

“It has nothing to do with me. It’s really about those 12 kids on the bench and the 16,000 fans that come to the games,” said Tom Emery before UConn's 72-62 loss at home against Wichita State.
Credit Frankie Graziano / WNPR

He’s still a big Husky fan, even though ticket prices keep going up.

“This is my vice and this is what I pay for,” Emery said.

On Saturday, the arena was full.

Big Red was front and center during halftime. He received a ball signed by the team and a big ovation at midcourt.

“It’s not about me,” Emery said. “It has nothing to do with me. It’s really about those 12 kids on the bench and the 16,000 fans that come to the games.”

UConn begins the 2018 portion of its schedule at Tulsa on January 3.