|It's time to show true colors|
By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist
AUSTIN, Texas -- For the past week, I embedded myself on the campuses of the Final Four schools, taking in every bit of college life except for student debt.
I wore the school colors and toasted the success of every university. I drank at the campus institutions and ate in the dorm dining halls. I sat in on classes. I visited fraternities and sororities. I pulled multiple all-nighters, going 48 hours during one stretch without going to bed. I read the student newspapers. I listened to war debates among student activists. I cheered intramural champions.
I stood in the snow with Syracuse fans who camped out overnight for tickets. I discussed the finer points of the Rock Chalk chant with the Jayhawk mascot. I prayed for peace with the Jesuits at Marquette. I worked out with the ROTC unit at Texas.
And my itinerary still is incomplete. There is a peace rally at UT before Saturday's games that is still on my schedule.
Now, however, comes the most difficult task of all next to filling out my expense report: Deciding for whom to root.
At each stop students asked me who I thought would win, and I never hesitated in my answer. Whichever school I was at, that was the school I said would win. And the odd thing is, I was telling the truth. Whatever school I was at, that was who I wanted to win.
Enjoying my first toga party late into the night at Marquette, I was certain I would root for the Golden Eagles. Then I savored The Varsity's delicious pizza on a cold snowy night in Syracuse and pondered whether I should wear Orange. Then I had a drink at the 84-year-old bar where Phog Allen used to take the Kansas basketball team and I was ready to join in the Rock Chalk chant. And then I talked basketball with the intramural champs at Texas and my fingers began curling into a "Hook 'em Horns" sign.
Best campus: Kansas. A curving, tree-lines main drive, classic stone buildings, the stirring Campanile war memorial -- who knew Kansas could be so beautiful?
Best campus hangout: The Varsity restaurant at Syracuse. Just a block off campus, filled with tradition and history -- and great pizza slices for just $1. Runner-up: Real Chili at Marquette. Spring for the cheese topping, it's only 56 cents extra.
Best student intramural center: Texas in a landslide. Forget university campuses, it might be the best fitness center anywhere.
Most impressive building: Hall of Languages at Syracuse. The school's signature building is on the National Register of Historic Places, and deservedly so.
Best student newspaper: Not too surprisingly, it's at the school with a great communications school: The Daily Orange at Syracuse, which is completely independent of the school and is celebrating its 100th anniversary.
Best memorabilia store: Texas Co-Op. If you can't find it here, you don't want it. And you don't need it.
Best place to watch a game: The Annex, Marquette. It has all the requisites -- plenty of room, school memorabilia, a large-screen TV, reasonable prices -- plus it has a TV at every booth and a bowling alley. Sheesh, with all that, who needs to watch the game?
Most disturbing sight: The Red McCombs School of Business on the UT campus. McCombs, a slick car salesman who made it big enough to buy the Vikings, donated $50 million to the school -- the largest donation in the university's history -- for the honor of having his name put on the building. Runner-up: Budig Hall on the KU campus, named after the former Kansas chancellor and do-nothing American League president.
Best fans: What, you think I'm going to even come within 10 feet of touching this one?
So who am I rooting for?
Why Marquette? The school's 1977 championship remains one of college basketball's finest moments. They've been waiting a long, long time for a return to glory. They're an underdog. And I'm a sucker for small Catholic schools.
So I'll be wearing my Marquette T-shirt and cap today. But good luck to all four schools -- I've truly enjoyed visiting them all and wish I could have stayed longer at each
And if I'm not supporting your team this weekend, don't worry, my opinion is worthless on this matter. Remember, I began this tour of Final Four campuses by buying a ticket to Lexington, Ky.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.