By Michael Harvey
The Gardner-Webb Men’s Basketball team made history during the 2018-2019 as they became the first men’s team from Gardner-Webb to make March Madness and compete in the NCAA Tournament. In a new documentary titled “Dancin’ Bulldogs”, the 2018-2019 season of the Gardner-Webb University men’s basketball team is documented from the preseason to the conference tournament to their spot in the Big Dance. Gardner-Webb alumni’s Christian Jessup, Eli Hardin, and Brendan Boylan, along with current student Thomas Manning, bring you a new documentary with never-before-seen footage and exclusive interviews.
In Christian Jessup’s directorial debut, we celebrate the Gardner-Webb University Men’s Basketball team’s magical season and their journey to the NCAA Tournament. “The Dancin’ Bulldogs: A 16 Seed’s Journey to the NCAA Tournament” debuted on Oct. 16, 2020, on YouTube. The documentary follows the team’s and coaching staff’s entire journey, from the upsets wins against NCAA powerhouses to the heartbreaking losses handed out by Big South opponents. The season ultimately culminated in the celebration of the Big South championship and a tournament appearance that ultimately had the No. 16 seed Runnin’ Bulldogs lose to No. 1 seed Virginia.
As of Thursday, October 22, the video has garnered over 2,300 views, a perfect like-dislike ratio with no (zero) dislikes and experienced raving reviews right out of the gate.
Dr. Patricia Sparti, Professor of Music at Gardner-Webb, wrote in a YouTube comment about how impressed she was with the documentary. “I cried most of the way through it. The documentary was incredible, and so amazing! The music was so uplifting and captured every moment perfectly in the music score and the directing!” Sparti wrote. “Congratulations to our school, coaches, the team, everyone who made this possible, and to Christian Jessup and his team, for capturing this amazing accomplishment. The interviews were great, and I am so proud of everyone, and our guys, who gave God great Glory through it all!”
Gardner-Webb Senior, Patrick Wiggins, felt the documentary was an exciting and much-needed look into the magic that was that season. “As a student, that NCAA Tournament berth was the most exciting thing I’ve experienced at Gardner-Webb. For the span of two or three weeks our school’s morale was at an all-time high and it made me proud to call Gardner-Webb my school. Jessup’s documentary accumulates all the moments from that season and serves them up on a platter that helps me to relive that exciting feeling again.” Wiggins said. “I was lucky enough to attend the NCAA Tournament game in Columbia, S.C. with some friends, and it was an experience I will never forget. I’m glad that we have something such as Jessup’s documentary to look back on that event and remember that I was there.”
Gardner-Webb alum and known movie critic Zane Gray expressed his thoughts on the production as he was among the first to watch the film prior to its release. “Thanks to my friend Christian, I was lucky enough to watch it a week prior to its YouTube release and bias aside, I thought it was very well made.” Gray said.
While at Gardner-Webb, Gray was known as “The Movie Guy” and if you were looking for any kind of movie knowledge or a critic’s point-of-view, odds are that Zane Gray was your guy. When asked about his thoughts on Jessup’s documentary, he said, “I loved it! It was a touching tribute to that spectacular team. The Dancin’ Bulldogs documentary is something that deeply touched me beyond ways I couldn’t have imagined. As a GWU graduate, this movie moved me, made me miss my last year as a student and made me happy to be part of the great GWU community.”
Even GWU men’s basketball coach Tim Craft chimed in, following the documentary’s release. “There is Nothing quite like experiencing March Madness, especially when it’s with a team and staff you love. This film captured the excitement that we all felt during those moments! Thanks again to the entire Dancin’ Bulldogs crew,” Craft said.
If you haven’t checked out the Dancin’ Bulldogs: A 16 Seed’s Journey to the NCAA Tournament, then I recommend doing so. It is available to watch on YouTube and you can keep up with all the crew’s updates on Facebook.