Season Ticket Holders Profile: Neal Thacker
UNCGSpartans.com writer Rob Daniels will profile UNCG men's basketball season ticket holders each week leading up to the May 1 deadline to get a "Say Yes to Wes" bobblehead with a $50 deposit per ticket for 2012-13 season tickets. This week's feature is on Neal Thacker.
In his three decades of UNCG fandom, Neal Thacker has sweatshirts and memories and videos. More than anything, he has perspectives. A great variety of them.
Whether working behind a camera or seated among the general spectators, Thacker has probably seen more UNCG basketball games than almost anybody in or around campus, and he's not about to stop. If anything, he's trying to pump up the volume -- in his job and in his status as a season ticket holder.
"I would like to be back at center court in section 109," he said as he wondered about the 2012-13 season. "It seems to be a more active group with the students than where most of the faculty and staff are seated."
By day, the 34-year university employee is coordinator of classroom technical support. He has outfitted more than 300 classrooms with cutting-edge learning tools in audio and video, and he brings those interests with him when he heads to the Greensboro Coliseum.
"I am constantly checking the scoreboard," he admitted.
Thacker's involvement with the athletics program goes back to the Division III era, when he began serving as videographer for the men's and women's basketball teams. The work was nominally part of his campus job, and it served as a fun connection with the Spartans.
As Thacker well knows from his various installation projects around campus, times have changed. Video technology is an important part of modern college sports, and that explains why recording games became an in-house function of UNCG athletics as the Spartans moved to and advanced within NCAA Division I competition.
"Lots of stock footage," he said. "I remember shooting the women's teams as far back as the days when they were playing where the humanities building is now standing."
So Thacker evolved from game-related employee to fan, a relatively low-stress function. Some of the time, at least.
The diversity of Thacker's vision also stems from his longevity. He has no trouble remembering when the university's athletics program was regional rather than national in scope. Things changed in the 1990s, of course. After pulling off what was at that time the fastest transition from Division III to Division I in NCAA history, UNCG positioned itself to host major events and got the chance with the Division I women's soccer championships in 1997 and 1998.
"That was very exciting," he said. "We did the overflow for the hospitality and media tents. We set up multiple TVs so that people could sit around and watch if they didn't want to stand in the ice."
That's the sort of experience that Thacker wanted to enjoy again when men's basketball moved its home games from the intimacy of Fleming Gym to the amenities of the coliseum.
"I did like the camaraderie in the smaller court, but I like the big-time atmosphere at the coliseum and the caliber of teams they're playing in addition to the Southern Conference," he said.
And you'll probably be able to spot him without too much trouble.
"I do tend to yell more when I'm sitting with the students," he said.
Don't forget, place your $50 per seat deposit by May 1 and receive a limited edition "Say Yes to Wes" bobblehead. Deposits can be placed by visiting OurGreensboroOurCoach.com or by contacting the Athletics Ticket Office at 336-334-3250.
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