Welcome to ‘Nova Nation Conversations, a summer series that will feature a different VUhoops reader/Villanova fan each week. Interested in being featured? Let us know!
This week we share some Villanova stories from longtime fan (and VUhoops reader), Ramon Usategui! Ramon took some time to share some Villanova stories with us, including his recent trip to San Antonio with his sons to see the Wildcats capture their third national championship!
A ‘Nova Nation Conversation
with Ramon Usategui
I was born in Havana, Cuba on July 7, 1948.
My parents wanted me to attend Universidad de Villanueva, sister school of Villanova founded by Augustinian priests.
Father McCarthy was President at one time in Havana, and when I first showed up as a freshman in the autumn of 1966, I believe Father McCarthy was President of Villanova. The first President of Villanueva was Father Kelly. A leftist Congressmen objected because they said that the law required for a college President in Cuba to have a degree from a Cuban university. To their surprise, Father Kelly produced his diploma from University of Havana, majoring in Spanish. Years later the Communists took over and either jailed or kicked out the Villanueva priests. Some of them came to Miami and established Biscayne College, later named St. Thomas University. Father Kelly stayed there until his retirement, I’m told.
Years after the exile experience, my parents, realizing that Cuba would not be free, encouraged me to attend Villanueva’s sister school on the Main Line. Many years after that, a group of Cuban American CPAs from Miami, including dear friends of our family, were on a tourist trip throughout the Northeast, and passed by Philly to visit the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, etc., and two of them, graduates of Universidad de Villanueva in Havana, had heard that Father McCarthy was at Villanova and decided to take the group there.
As they approached his secretary and asked for him, she asked if they had an appointment. They said no. She noticed their accents and asked “are you gentlemen from Cuba?” When they said yes, she smiled and asked that they wait a few minutes. Father McCarthy came out, hugged them, told his assistant to cancel all meetings that day, and went to lunch and spent the afternoon with the group.
This story is not about basketball...it’s about Villanova and family.
My daughter in law, Mary, recognizing that my sons and I always do things with family, but never just us three, summoned me to her home on the Monday night after we beat Texas Tech in the Elite Eight. She gave me an envelope, which she claimed was from the President of her bank (I do consulting for them). When I opened it, there was a note and an agenda. The note said:
“You turn 70 this year, so your birthday present is coming early. You are going to the Final Four!”
She had reserved a round trip flight from Lauderdale to Houston for Ramon, Alejandro and myself, reserved a room for us at La Cantera Resort and Spa in San Antonio, and got us 3 tickets for all 3 games of the Final Four!
On the Saturday of the first two games, the flight was delayed 4 hours, and a miscommunication almost resulted in being bumped off the flight when I asked for us to be placed on stand by for an earlier flight.
Once in Houston, we got on I-10 and there was a massive accident which had just happened. We were stuck for 2 hours there. In the car behind us, there was a physician from LA with his Jayhawks shirt, so we got into a friendly conversation and took a picture together. Once the jam cleared, we found ourselves 115 miles from S.A., one hour and 20 minutes before tip off!
Alejandro flew in our rented Camry and fortunately no highway patrol saw us.
We miraculously found a parking lot 3 blocks away from Alamodome, sprinted to the stadium (I was gassed, they weren’t) and sat in our seats just as Spellman hit the 3 point shot to put us at 9-2 over Kansas. The people around us were Jayhawks, and we were the ones high giving and pumping fists all night.
After the game, we walked out and I saw Sandra Brunson, who I recognized from a recent Inside Villanova Basketball episode celebrating players’-moms. I said to her “ You are his mom!” She smiled and took a picture with me. I chanted “one more year!” She said she and her husband told Jalen that if he graduated, he could then do whatever he wants.
The rest of the trip, especially sharing it with my two sons, was priceless and unforgettable. I took pictures with Kris Jenkins before he was interviewed by that Michigan fanatic Dana Jacobsen at the CBS Sports site next to the Alamo (Kansas and Michigan fans must have felt a chill when they went by it!).
As my sons and I walked around Riverwalk after lunch on Sunday, Jay Bilas got off of one of the boats and I took a picture with him. Also, here’s a shout out to efgvu1977, whose real name I will not divulge, but he came by our seats Monday night before the game and took a picture with us.
My sons didn’t attend Villanova; they got their bachelors and masters degrees from FIU and Miami, but you won’t find bigger fans of Wildcat basketball than those two!
On Sunday as we walked back to our car from visiting Riverwalk, we ran into a group of about eight guys and one gal with Villanova shirts. After the required Chef cry of “Go Cats” and Bang! salutes, I asked them if they visit the VUHoops site. I was thrilled that they do, though they don’t comment. When I told them my name, they said “ Oh yea, you were active, then you disappeared for a while and now you’re back!”- so we took a picture!
Monday night the folks sitting by us were mostly Kansas and Gonzaga fans, and were very nice to us, as loud as all three of us were, especially when Ragu hit those two threes in the second half!
Villanova gave my dad and me priceless moments shared together through the years; now it’s Ramon III, Alejandro and me (and even Mary, who is a rabid Miami football fan and grad); soon, we’ll be joined by our one year old grandson Ramon IV , who will be a big VU fan regardless of where he goes to school, because he too, is now part of the Villanova family!