Fans send Tiger football team off in style

Bowl game sendoff

By Diane Gasper-O'Brien
University Relations and Marketing
HAYS, Kan. -- Fans and supporters of all ages gathered outside Lewis Field Stadium Thursday morning to send the Fort Hays State University football team off to Excelsior Springs, Mo., for the Mineral Water Bowl.

Fort Hays State, 8-3, will make its first post-season appearance since 1995. The Tigers will meet the University of Minnesota-Duluth at noon Saturday. Game and ticket information can be found online at

At an early-morning practice today, FHSU President Mirta M. Martin addressed the Tigers, telling them they are winners, no matter what the outcome of Saturday's game.

Later, two large buses sat just outside the stadium as fans milled about, talking to players on the stadium lawn and enjoying the warm, late-morning sun.

One particular group of fans was emphatic about wishing the Tigers well.

Two dozen children from the Hays Area Children's Center held large signs they made and jumped up and down with excitement after different waves of Tigers came through the line.

Charlene Nichols, assistant director of the FHSU Alumni Association, is board president for the children's center and asked if the HACC children would want to be involved with the send-off.

The children's center is adjacent to Lewis Field, and "sometimes we can see them on the field practicing," said Evelina Moore, HACC's preschool program director.

Each of the children, ages 3 to 5, made small posters Wednesday, and they gave them to FHSU Head Coach Chris Brown Thursday to take along on the bus.

Some of the posters had hearts on them, some were pictures of players, and others had a youngster's version of a football field.

Right about 11 a.m., the Tigers came out the front doors of the stadium and were greeted by fans lining both sides of the sidewalk as they made their way to the buses.

"People are really excited about what's going on," Brown said. "It was great to see all the support, to have the little kids there, too. They always make everything really exciting."

Older, long-time fans are just as excited about the Tigers' chances of making history. A win for Fort Hays State Saturday would give the 2015 Tigers the most victories in a single season in program history.

Dr. Ed Stehno, a retired FHSU professor and a staunch Tiger supporter, stood near the end of the line and greeted the players and coaches as they walked by.

"Good luck to you," he said with a big smile on his face. "See ya Saturday."

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