Back in July as we covered The Big 33 game, we told you about a couple of the families who host Ohio players each year leading up to the game. Not only do these families become attached to some of the kids they take in, they become fans of the college teams they head off to play at.
Tara Betz and her family are a great example of how serious they take being a host family. While only being a host for the past few years, they've built long lasting relationships with player, parents and even a few girlfriends in that time.
In 2003 the Betz family welcomed into their home Bill Poland. The Elder High School star was getting ready to become a University of Cincinnati player and the Betz family soon became Bill Poland fans and Cincinnati Bearcats fans. Last season the Betz family traveled to Cincinnati to watch Bill and the Bearcats battle Memphis.
This past season the Betz family hosted another soon to be Bearcat. Steve Gawronski spent the week with the Betz family and soon the Betz and Gawronski family became one for the weekend.
This year a special game was on the Bearcats schedule and one that hit close to the Betz home.
Living in Penn State country and being longtime PSU fans, didn't stop the Betz family or even her sisters family (hosted Terrill Byrd) from putting on their Bearcats clothes and heading off to Happy Valley to watch the players they came close to.
Tara sent this e-mail to Bearcat Insider about their day. I again want to thank the Betz family for being great guest to myself over the past two Big 33 games and for also sending us this to use on the site.
Hope this finds you doing well as I am certain it is a very busy time of year for you. Well the game we have been talking about for three years is now history. Thought you might enjoy the recap of our day yesterday that I sent to Bill and Steve's parents.
Steve Gawronski was our player this past summer and Bill Poland was our player from 2003. My sister and her family hosted Terrill Byrd this past summer.
WOW...what a day! We left the house this morning around 6:15 to begin our trek to Happy Valley for the game. Just as we were nearing the stadium we passed three busses....Barry said those are the busses going to get Cincinnati....sure enough they were.
We got to the stadium and were talking with Doug and Tracie (my sister they hosted Terrill Byrd) and some other friends of ours when we saw the busses rolling in right before 10am. We were close by so Bryce and I along with my niece Sagan ran up to the gate.
We saw Steve getting off the bus. He spotted us and gave us a nice wave and a huge smile. Bryce was excited to say the least. He was the only one we spotted.....not Terrill or Bill. So we went back to our tailgate.
Around 11:00 it was time to make our way into the stadium. Turns out are seats were about three sections over from where the team's locker room was. We waited at the gate for the team to come out. After a few minutes the wide receivers came walking out through. There was Bill Poland, our first UC player. He spotted us and came running over all smiles to say the least and had a big hug for all of us. After a quick hello and a quick word of encouragement from us he was down onto the field for warm-ups.
We waited a little longer. All of a sudden Steve's head popped out of the locker room. Bryce screamed to him, but he did not hear him of course. A few minutes later out came the group Steve was in. He was on the far side so all we could do was yell and cheer for both him and Terrill. They waved back to us and were down the tunnel onto the field.
We made our way to our seats and settled in for the game. Bryce was very bummed after the first PSU score. Then came the field goal and he got a little happier. We watched the game with Barry and I cheering for both teams (being the PSU fans that we are) and Bryce refusing to cheer for PSU....I am a Bearcat fan he kept saying. The people sitting around us kept looking at Bryce thinking what is your problem kid...I'm sure! Needless to say Bryce was not to happy about the outcome.
After the game was over we made our way back to the gate and were there when the guys came back up through to the locker rooms. Course we did not say much. They were all in pretty good spirits despite the loss. They all gave us high fives. After they got showers both Steve and Bill came out and chatted with us. Bryce was in his glory and the score of the game no longer mattered. We were able to spend about 30 mins with them. Doug, Tracie and Sagan also got to spend time with Terrill and catch-up with him. After saying our good byes to Steve, Bill and Terrill (and fighting back the tears) we made our way back to the tailgate. We were there a short time when here came the busses taking the team to the airport. We were about 1/2 block away so we all ran down to the intersection and waved goodbye. Through the tinted windows we were able to spot our three players and get one more wave to them.
Our friends ask us why we do this each year.....this is what it is all about. Attached is a photo I took of Bill, Steve and Bryce right before they boarded the busses. We are already working on tickets for the Pitt - Cincinnati game in Pitt in a few weeks. Maybe we will get to see you there. We are also planning on going to Kent State for their game on November 12 and are looking forward to spending some time with Shawn Donaldson and his family as well. Shawn was our player in 2004.
Take care and I hope everything is going well.