MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Scales Elementary School classmates and friends Alaynna Edging and Jenna Woods knew there was some educational value to attending the fifth annual MTSU Education Day game for 12 Murfreesboro City Schools.
When asked, Edging said she “learned to have fun. This has been fun and entertaining.” Woods, also 11, “learned that the Blue Raider girls can make a lot of their shots.” Secretly, what they loved was the front-row view — “VIP seats,” as Edging called them.
Many of the 7,100 youngsters answered MTSU MTeach math questions. But in addition to the game, it was a whole lot more fun as they watched fellow students build a snowman, wrapping toilet paper around their teachers; see their classmates shake, jump and more as they participated in “Jingle in the Trunk;” and play other holiday-themed activities on the court.
While Ohio (4-0) emerged a 73-52 winner in front of 11,222 fans, Education Day has become an event — “an all-day recess” as John Pittard Elementary School teacher Carla Calvin put it — that may have far-reaching implications as the first- through eighth-graders spent time on a university campus attending a women’s basketball game.
“Forty or 50 years ago, I saw a game and it wasn’t called Education Day back then, but I developed a passion for the sport and now I am the coach at MTSU,” Rick Insell said. “Maybe somebody sitting in the stands will become the next Pat Summitt (the late hall of fame University of Tennessee coach).”
“Some child, probably sitting in those seats, who’s got a big dream, may become a basketball player, a coach or something affiliated with MTSU,” added Insell, who said he arrived at Murphy Center at 4 a.m. and marveled that city and campus police already were setting up for the 11 a.m. game.
Calvin, who teaches fourth-graders at a school that brought 800 students to the game, said it gives the youngsters the experience of visiting campus and socializing.
“Some of them may live around the corner (from MTSU), but have never entered this building,” Calvin said. “It is a day away from school. They get to learn how to be social with friends.”
Linda Gilbert, Murfreesboro City Schools director and an MTSU alumna with three degrees, praised her teachers, staff, bus drivers and others, “welcoming them with their smiles, providing safety, guiding them to participatory spots, ensuring a healthy environment, encouraging them to have fun … and helping them see opportunities for their future.”
At times, the noise inside Murphy Center was deafening. Especially when an Ohio Bobcat stepped to the free-throw line. Then it became a really loud crowd.
Other schools attending the game included Black Fox, Bradley Academy, Cason Lane, Discovery School, Erma Siegel, Hobgood Elementary, Mitchell-Neilson, Northfield, Overall Creek and Reeves Rogers.