ARLINGTON, Texas — Former President Bill Clinton initially took a back seat to his successor during the national anthem at the NCAA championship game, in which Connecticut defeated Kentucky 60-54 Monday night.
But once the game began, Clinton and former President George W. Bush gathered in the same row and sat next to each other in the luxury box belonging to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones at AT&T Stadium. They laughed while their images were being shown on the giant stadium video boards, and drew applause from the crowd during a break in the first half.
Former first lady Laura Bush was also in attendance for the title game between Kentucky and Connecticut. Both former presidents are noted sports fans, and Bush is a regular attendee at Texas sporting events.
Father-son routine steals show
"Big Rob" and his son, Trey, gave fans at AT&T Stadium one shining moment long before the confetti dropped at the national championship game.
Rob Maiden, captain of the Dallas Mavericks dance team, Mavs ManiAACs, and his 15-year-old son performed a dance routine in the mezzanine level that had just about everyone glued to the Jumbotron late in the first half.
Rob Maiden and Trey said they worked on the synchronized dance Sunday night, getting every move memorized and perfected for college basketball's tournament finale. Because of his local fame with the Mavericks, in-house cameras knew exactly where Rob Maiden would be, and they caught most of his entire routine during a timeout with 2:24 to play in the first half. The huge screens inside AT&T stadium panned to other fans, but kept returning to the father-son duo and getting arguably the loudest cheers of the night.
"He gets to see me be a ham all the time," Rob Maiden said of his son. "I thought this was a chance for him to get some shine."
They ended up sharing the spotlight.
Afterward, they had fans stopping by their seats for handshakes, high-fives and photos.
"It was fun," Trey Maiden said.
The NCAA tournament set two attendance records Monday night.
A crowd of 79,238 packed AT&T Stadium — the largest for a college basketball final. The previous mark of 74,326 was set last year at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
It also was the second-largest basketball crowd in NCAA history, trailing only Saturday's semifinals that drew 79,244.
The two-day attendance total of 158,682 also broke the previous mark.
So don't expect the NCAA to move away from huge venues anytime soon.
"We all love the confines of a nice, tight arena. It's a great venue for basketball," NCAA President Mark Emmert said Sunday, adding that the near-term commitment is to play in stadiums. "I know there's some critique about playing in a big venue like this ... or somewhere else. But the reality is you can get 80,000 people in to watch a game and that's pretty exciting.
"There may be people that would like to be in a tighter arena, but not the 60,000 that wouldn't be there."
When Darius Rucker was introduced before performing the national anthem, one group in the crowd yelled "Hootie!"
The award-winning country singer-songwriter did get his start in mainstream music in the mid-1990s as the frontman of the band Hootie & The Blowfish. He released his third country album last year, including the No. 1 hit "Wagon Wheel."
Rucker was backed for his NCAA championship game performance by the Jazz Singers vocal ensemble from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performance and Visual Arts in Dallas.