The longshot UMBC Retrievers, who made history when they toppled mighty Virginia in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, aren’t the only ones bringing newfound attention to their Maryland school.
Zach Seidel, who live-tweeted the game for UMBC Athletics, also scored points with sports fans with his witty posts.
“My boss gave me the green light to give the handle a personality, so I did,” Seidel told CNN.
It all began Friday night when the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, a 16-seed team, shocked the University of Virginia Cavaliers, the No. 1 seed in the tournament’s South region, in the mother of all upsets.
On the men’s side of the tournament, a 16 seed had never beaten a 1 seed (although in 1998, the 16-seed Harvard women’s basketball team upset 1-seed Stanford).
Even more impressive was the fashion in which the Retrievers won. Virginia, the best defensive team in the nation, gave up 74 points and lost by 20.
Seidel, director of multimedia communications and digital for UMBC’s athletic department, was manning the team’s Twitter account during the game.
He had a lot of material to play with.
Among his most-retweeted posts was a clap-back at a UMBC doubter who had used the school’s acronym to spell out “University of Maryland Backup College” during an in-state matchup in December between UMBC and Maryland. UMBC lost that game by 21 points.
Seidel responded: “ahh we remember this game at Maryland in December….hopefully you enjoyed our game from your couch dude!”
A UMBC alumnus, Seidel also called out CBS sports analyst Seth Davis for predicting the Cavs would trample the Retrievers.
Early in the game, Davis tweeted “Virginia. Sharpie.” Later, after UMBC took the lead, Seidel responded: “Hi everyone, in case you didn’t see, Seth Davis tweeted this one minute into the game.”
The UMBC Bookstore weighed in on the fun on their own Twitter account: “It’s ok, we sell whiteout :)”
After being called out by many Twitter users for his prediction, Davis conceded: “I’ve never been so happy to get so much grief. This is amazing.”
Meanwhile, hoops fans hailed Siedel on Twitter for his fiery and quick-witted tweets.
“Friends who I haven’t spoken to in years were texting me saying, ‘I know that’s you!’” he said.
UMBC Athletics’ Twitter following has skyrocketed from 5,000 before the game to more than 93,000.
Siedel is proud of his basketball team’s landmark achievement – and the small role he’s played in bringing more attention to the school.
“We open up a new arena soon and are in the process of moving athletic offices. Any publicity we get, the better to let people know how great a place this campus is,” he said.
UMBC is next scheduled to play Kansas State – a No. 9 seed – Sunday night in Charlotte. They will be underdogs again, and even now few observers expect them to make the tourney’s Final Four. But that’s ok with Seidel.
“No matter what happens UMBC will always have this win,” he said. “Nobody can take this away from us moving forward – win or lose.”