For two hours on Monday night, the Buffalo men’s basketball team and Iowa State were rivals.
But outside of those two hours, the two teams have worked together for causes bigger than a basketball game.
In just four days, Iowa State fans have helped raise more than $12,000 for Bulls head coach Nate Oats and his wife, Crystal, who is currently battling double-hit lymphoma. Chris Williams, a publisher of Iowa State fan site CycloneFanatic.com, created the GoFundMe page, which has already met its $10,000 goal to raise funds for the Oats family’s medical expenses.
“I felt like what the fans in Iowa did here for me and my family was just really special,” Oats said after Buffalo’s 84-63 loss to Iowa State in Ames, Iowa on Monday night. “For Cyclone nation to raise over $10,000 to help us for whatever we need help with from just random fans that welcomed us with open arms. They realize it’s just a game and there’s more to life than just a game.”
Oats has quite a few connections to Iowa State.
Iowa State assistant coach T.J. Otzelberger is a longtime friend of Oats, dating back to their Wisconsin-Whitewater days. Oats considers Otzelberger a mentor to his coaching career, saying they’ve been there for each other through the highs and lows of their careers.
Iowa State assistant coach Charlie Henry was Oats’ assistant at Romulus High School during the 2009-10 season, where the team went 21-2 and was ranked as high as No. 22 in the nation. Iowa State graduate assistant Nate Schmidt was a volunteer assistant under Oats from 2011 – 13. Oats even coached former Cyclones Dominique Buckley and Will Clyburn at Romulus.
“I have strong ties to the program,” Oats said. “I know it real well. It was special in that way to come back.”
Oats was surprised to see the overwhelming support from Iowa State’s fan base. In response to the support, Iowa State and Oats worked together to release a YouTube video on Monday afternoon to formally thank the members of “Cyclone nation.”
Back in October, Oats received a phone call from Crystal saying she had been diagnosed with double-hit lymphoma, a rare form of the cancer.
So far, Crystal and the Oats family’s battle has made its way around the national circuit. During both the Duke and Iowa State matchups, ESPN commentators shared Crystal and Oats’ story on national television at points throughout the matchups.
The GoFundMe page is a welcoming sight for the Oats family, to see the heart-warming notes from people they’ve never met.
“It was big. It was nice. My wife was pleasantly surprised,” Oats said. “Leaving all of the messages for her on the GoFundMe page. It’s special for people to do that when you’re going through a trial like this.”
Crystal posted on Facebook Sunday to thank all those who have supported her and the Oats family.
“So many people I have never met have donated money to us and I have been truly awed by everyone’s generosity,” she said in the post.
Iowa State isn’t the first school to offer support to Oats this season. In Buffalo’s matchup against Duke this past Saturday, Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski and his coaching staff donned a “hope” pin for lymphoma awareness in solidarity with Oats and the rest of Buffalo’s coaching staff. Oats and the Buffalo coaching staff are wearing the pins throughout the season.
Crystal’s brother-in-law, Eddie Washetas, created a GoFundMe page more than month ago that has raised more than $11,000 for the Oats family.
“That makes you realize how some people still care in the world,” Oats said.