December 4, 2020

The Sporting Insider: ‘Meet SLIAC Basketball’s Biggest Fan’

From Feb. 19, 2002 to Feb. 25, 2013, Scott Kirkpatrick posted 5,062 messages on the Internet forum D3boards.com — an average of more than 1.2 posts per day.

Kirkpatrick has spent a cumulative total of nearly 54 days on the site the past 11 years. He has dedicated a vast majority of that time to writing about the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference men’s and women’s basketball teams.

The Sporting Insider is a biweekly column by Journal copy chief & layout editor Josh Sellmeyer.

“(The D3boards.com forum) is really important to me,” Kirkpatrick said. “I enjoy SLIAC basketball so much. It’s difficult to find anybody else to discuss it with in-depth, so this is my outlet.”

During the 2012-13 season, Kirkpatrick estimated that he attended 80 SLIAC basketball games. He made the 4 1/2-hour trek from his home in Eureka, Mo., to Louisville, Ky., to watch the SLIAC men’s basketball tournament unfold Feb. 22-23.

Though he has attended local college football games every so often, Kirkpatrick admitted he is “pretty much strictly a basketball fan. I suffer during the offseason.”

Kirkpatrick’s love affair with SLIAC hoops started in 2000. That’s when Gene Myers, a close friend of Kirkpatrick’s and a former Maryville University (Mo.) men’s basketball assistant coach, prodded Kirkpatrick to begin attending Maryville games. Maryville was a longtime member of the SLIAC before its move to the Division-II ranks in 2009.

“So many of the games in the SLIAC are competitive, and that’s what’s fun about it,” Kirkpatrick said. “I don’t care who wins. But I want to see a close game — one where both teams are trying hard. The SLIAC always offers that.”

Kirkpatrick played Division-III basketball at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (N.Y.) in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. He worked as a men’s basketball assistant coach at RPI for five years, helping the team qualify for the first-ever D-III national tournament in 1975.

Kirkpatrick then used his M.B.A. to land a job in Holland, Mich. During the 1980s, Kirkpatrick staunchly supported the men’s basketball program at Hope College, a D-III school in Holland with a strong hoops pedigree.

In 1987, Kirkpatrick moved to Eureka as part of a job change. He initially followed the men’s basketball program at D-III Washington University (Mo.) until Myers convinced him to do otherwise. Kirkpatrick became a huge Maryville supporter. But when the institution decided to reclassify, Kirkpatrick, who said he’s “strictly a Division-III fan,” pledged his allegiance to the remaining SLIAC schools.

A couple years after he began attending SLIAC basketball contests, Kirkpatrick came across the D3boards.com website. He said he was one of the first couple hundred people to post on the site. Today, the SLIAC men’s basketball forum on D3boards.com contains nearly 11,000 posts, and it has been viewed approximately 685,000 times. The D3boards.com SLIAC women’s basketball forum has nearly 1,600 posts and more than 150,000 views.

In the D3boards.com community, Kirkpatrick is better known by his username, “hopefan.” The name pays homage to Kirkpatrick’s love for the Hope men’s basketball program. When he attends SLIAC basketball contests, Kirkpatrick always wears his trademark gray Hope College sweatshirt, which draws the attention of spectators at the games.

“I enjoy getting a glance now and then, and on occasion someone coming up to me and saying, ‘Hey, are you hopefan?’ ‘Yup, that’s me. I hope I’m not in trouble,’” Kirkpatrick said, laughing.

Kirkpatrick’s passion for D-III basketball extends beyond attending games and posting on D3boards.com. The self-described “basketball nerd” uses a massive Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to keep track of D-III basketball results.

He also talks to SLIAC coaches in person and on the phone to stay in the know. Kirkpatrick said the coaches appreciate his dedication to the conference and will share information with him, such as injury updates and recruitment tidbits.

Kirkpatrick, who works in finance as a controller at Mallinckrodt, said he’s looking forward to retirement, which will free up more time for him to attend and dissect SLIAC games. Some of his family members and friends don’t completely understand his love for D-III basketball, but Kirkpatrick is OK with that.

“I hate to say it — my wife’s not the biggest fan,” Kirkpatrick said. “She’s very involved in the church. I give her her two or three nights with the church, and she gives me my two or three nights with the games.

“Everybody has what they like to do. To me, getting close to the action like you can in D-III is so much more fun than going over to Columbia or to watch the Billikens and sitting far away — not knowing the kids and not knowing the coach. This is just my thing.”

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