CHARLOTTESVILLE — The evidence of a night of revelry was swept away by midafternoon Tuesday. Groggy students wearily made their way to restaurants and to class, some still awestruck by what had happened the night before, when the men’s basketball team clinched the NCAA championship in a nail-biting game that bled into overtime.
But even as this city returned to normal, even as the streets were cleared of beer cans and other remnants of celebration, the elation had yet to wear off.
“It was just so weird to wake up and realize we had won the national championship,” said Sarah Pettycord, a first-year student. On her legs, she had scrawled "WaHooWa!” and the entire roster of the men’s basketball team appeared on her thighs and knees in marker. It had yet to fade.
She and two friends watched the game at a fraternity house, and then rushed out to the Corner — the intersection of two thoroughfares near campus — where a group had gathered to celebrate the victory. Then, like dozens of other students, she headed over to the Rotunda, peeled off her clothes and went streaking across the Lawn.
“It was the best day of my life, no lie,” Pettycord, 19, said. “It was the most exciting thing I have ever experienced.”
The victors returned early Tuesday evening, receiving a hero’s welcome, their bus pulling into the parking lot of John Paul Jones Arena. Hundreds of screaming fans greeted them, growing louder as the team stepped off the bus. The team made their way through the phalanx of well-wishers, high-fiving fans.
A clutch of kids chanted for the team’s coach, Tony Bennett: “To-ny! To-ny!” They flashed grins as the team came into sight.
In a short interview, Bennett said the crowds drove home how much the victory meant to Charlottesville.
“Everybody wants to be part of something bigger than themselves,” Bennett said, adding that the team’s exciting playoff run appears to have brought the community together. “That makes sports a really positive thing, in light of everything the community has been through.”
Before the sun even rose, printing shops in Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina were churning out T-shirts reflecting the school’s new history. By the time the owners of Mincer’s, which has been selling U-Va. apparel for more than seven decades, turned the keys on the front door, a line of fans eager to claim a piece of history snaked down the block. The lines continued all day, through the store and sometimes out the door.
Mark Mincer, who owns the store and is a U-Va. graduate, slept just three hours. The victory brought jubilation but also anxiety as the store’s website braced for orders.
“We had hundreds of orders within 10 minutes,” said Mincer, who had already capped off a historic week of sales. His staff had worked without breaks. “You can never have enough staff to win the national championships.”