When Tennessee alums Peg and Tom Haynes moved back to the Volunteer State after Tom retired from the Army in the mid 1970s, getting a seat to a UT men's basketball game was tough. So they decided to give the women's team a look. And they liked what they saw. ¶ "It was no comparison," Peg said Sunday at the St. Pete Times Forum. "And Tom loved (coach) Pat Summitt." ¶ Wanting to help the program, the Hayneses were among a small group that created the Lady Vol Boost-Her Club in 1979. The organization was started to enhance the women's athletic program in general. It started with about 18 members. Today that number has swelled to more than 2,500. The club became such a success that other schools inquired about how it was done so they could have a similar group. ¶ "It has been very satisfying seeing the program grow," Tom Haynes said.
Meet Pin Man
He's a retired driver's education teacher, but most people know him as Pin Man.
Ushers at Thompson-Boling Arena, home of the Vols, gave Larry Acuff the moniker because of all the pins he wore. The first one he got was at the Final Four in Philadelphia in 2000. Eventually, the ushers began shouting at him, "Hey, Pin Man. I've got a pin for you" as he made his way to section 117, where he holds seats one and two. They handed him all sorts of pins; many were poking through the denim vest Acuff wore to Sunday's Final Four games. He said he had 102 of them (we'll take him at his word). The most he has spent on a pin is $25. He also trades for pins, trying to get his hands on unique ones, such as ones distributed only to team members. The most precious of his collection are the photo pins of the five Tennessee players with retired jerseys: Chamique Holdsclaw, Bridgette Gordon, Daedra Charles, Holly Warlick and Tamika Catchings.
Acuff, 61, lives in Strawberry Plains, Tenn., a town with one traffic light. He taught for 30 years. He now travels with his wife all over the country to watch the Vols play. This trip is costing him more than $1,000.
"I know what women feel like who are well endowed," Acuff said of his pin-filled vest. "This thing weighs a lot. It really does."
All for love
Matt Adler took a redeye flight from San Francisco on Saturday to see his girlfriend play in the Final Four.
Most 20-year-old college kids don't have enough money for pizza, much less a last-minute trip across the country to the biggest women's collegiate sports event of the year. That's where his mother, Laura, came in.
She's a huge fan, and she came up with the idea to send her son to see Stanford forward Jillian Harmon. The two have been dating for about a year, since meeting at a WNBA draft party for former Cardinal Brooke Smith.
Matt Adler plays water polo at Santa Clara, where he's a redshirt sophomore. His friends are big Stanford fans, too.
"It was love at first sight," he said. "It's as serious as it can get."
When it rains, it pours
Whether they cheered for Stanford, UConn, LSU or Tennessee, fans had one thing in common Sunday. Umbrellas and ponchos were everywhere at the national semifinal games.
Heavy rain kept the outdoor concourse at the St. Pete Times Forum relatively sparse as many fans rushed inside to find seats and shelter.
•A commemorative Women's Final Four seat cushion was placed on every seat at the Times Forum.
•Want to get a jump on scoring tickets for next year's Final Four? A kiosk at the Times Forum gives you the chance to fill out an online application. The 2009 event will be played at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
•NCAA women's Final Four banners were placed in the rafters of the Times Forum, one for each tournament since it began in 1982. The winner that year was Louisiana Tech. Tennessee won its first title in 1987. Stanford nabbed its first in 1990, UConn in '95. LSU has never won one.