Photo courtesy Fairmont State; used with permission
In tonight’s national semifinal, the Bellarmine Knights take on the Fairmont State Fighting Falcons, named for a bird that is known for flying at high speed, changing direction rapidly and shooting the 3 with reckless abandon. Here are five things to know about Fairmont State:
1. They have a rich history. Fairmont State dates back to its founding in 1865 as The West Virginia Normal School. Today, it is a public university serving about 4200 friendly students in “The Friendly City,” Fairmont, West Virginia, which is about 20 miles southwest of Morgantown. A “normal,” or model school, by the way, was a term used to describe the school, not its students. Normal schools were colleges that educated teachers according to an established model. Students who wanted to pursue other degrees went to the Abnormal School, down the holler.
2. The Falcons are BU’s second straight mountain-mining opponent. Much like the Orediggers from Colorado School of Mines, the Fighting Falcons hail from a mountainous mining region. But unlike their gold-mining Rocky Mountain brethren and sistren, Fairmont is in a coal-mining region. And they go by a moniker that will have a familiar ring to the Bellarmine community: “The College on the Hill.”
3. “Oh, the humanities!” Among Fairmont State’s notable alumni is journalist Herbert Morrison, without whom we would not have Led Zeppelin. OK, maybe that’s a stretch but Morrison was the WLS radio reporter who became famous as the voice of the Hindenburg disaster, uttering the heartbreaking words, “Oh, the humanity!” The town of Fairmont also gave the world many luminaries, including Olympic gold medalist Mary Lou Retton, Alabama football coach Nick Saban and novelist John Knowles, whose tour de force “A Separate Peace” has been making readers cry since 1959.
4. Hoops excellence. The Fighting Falcons are an outstanding basketball team, bringing a number-one ranking and a top seed to the Final Four. Like the Knights, they are excellent on both offense and defense. The Falcons are third in the nation in scoring offense at 96.2 points per game, and they are also third in steals at 10.3 points per game. They also love to shoot the 3, attempting over 1,000 already on the season. By comparison, the Knights have attempted about 300 fewer.
5. They love their fathers. Fairmont, West Virginia, claims to be the site of the first Father’s Day, a celebration rooted in tragedy (and we’re not talking about Hallmark cards and hideous neckties). In 1907, a methane explosion at the Monongah Mine near Fairmont trapped and killed 362 men in the worst mining accident in US history. The town’s mourning gave birth to an annual ceremony celebrating fathers, which caught on nationally. So next time you buy a pair of socks for dear old dad, tip your hat to the memory of the miners of Monongah and the good people of Fairmont, West Virginia.