If you have been to a Georgia Southern men’s basketball game, you know who this guy is. No, he’s not the mascot. No, he’s not the coach. And no, he’s not a player. Some people may say he’s the life of the party. But in his mind, he is just a Yankee.
Husband of Georgia Southern’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program director, Mark Garno grew up in Albany, N.Y. rooting on the New York Knicks. He graduated from the University at Albany, but after taking a job at a Statesboro hospital in 1995, Garno realized how much he loved the city.
“It took a little while to get used to the culture,” Garno said. “But I’d rather be here than in upstate New York.”
Of course, if he was going to love the city of Statesboro, he had to love Georgia Southern as well. Luckily, for him that was not very hard.
“It’s a wonderful university. And the folks that don’t realize that need to wake up and realize that this is a wonderful academic university, and it’s a wonderful sports university,” Garno said.
He has been to every basketball game in Hanner this season. And of course, sitting in the stands wasn’t good enough. Garno and his wife have courtside seats this season and without fail, they are in those seats every time the Eagles take the court. Throughout the game, Garno yells, cheers, heckles and dances.
He will sometimes even run halfway down the court in excitement, only to find out that the referee does not like that. However, that does not stop him from dancing just moments later as students behind him look on – and others join in.
Occasionally, he will get down on his knees and hit the ground with his hands in frustration, and then jump to his feet in enthusiasm. Honestly, it is all a guessing game with Garno. Nevertheless, one thing is certain; there is never a dull moment at a basketball game as long as he is there.
“I’m pretty outgoing and always have been. And if it’s anything I can do to support the kids playing or try to get some more of the fans involved I’m going to do it,” Garno said.
And he truly means that. Garno cares about the students on the court and the ones in the stands.
“What makes Georgia Southern special to me is the students and the athletes we get here,” Garno said. “They’re all just very good kids. So, that’s another reason why I support this school so much.”
Garno especially enjoys watching the seniors play. The leadership he sees from players like Matias, Ferguson, Diamond and Wiedeman is unmatched. These players have done their time and have taken the younger players under their wing and helped show them how things are done.
However, Garno would be remised if he did not mention Jelani Hewitt.
“Hewitt is worth the price of admission. He’s definitely worth the price of the ticket,” Garno said.
He understands that it is not all about athletics though. There is more to Georgia Southern than that. He knows that Georgia Southern is a quality academic university that has students that make the experience fun as well.
“There’s a nice balance between sports and academics here. There are good kids at this university. And because of that, I get a lot of entertainment by rooting for Georgia Southern,” Garno said. “You don’t see this at my alma mater. You don’t see this at the University at Albany, so I’ve been spoiled being a Georgia Southern fan.”
However, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to Mark Garno. When he is not dancing on the sidelines of Hanner Fieldhouse, he is doing a number of different things.
“I’m a full-time house-husband now,” Garno said. “But, I do some teaching in clinical supervision for Pineland Mental Health and Substance Abuse. I also do a therapy group two nights a week at a local men’s halfway house called Arch. So that keeps me pretty busy.”
Not only does Garno care about the athletes and the students at Georgia Southern, he cares about the Statesboro community as well. Garno is a recovering alcoholic who took his last drink of what he called “yellow Coca-Cola” on Nov. 22, 1982. The experiences he has had throughout his life dealing with his alcohol addiction has molded him into a man that wants nothing more than to help others.
He is a certified clinical supervisor and addiction counselor in the state of Georgia. So, not only does he have the life-experience to help others, he also has the book knowledge to help others in the area of beating alcohol addiction.
“It’s an awesome field to get into. Getting into the field of alcohol and drug addiction treatment is really rewarding because alcoholism is a disease that does not have to be fatal,” Garno said. “People do recover and go on and live really great lives. So it’s rewarding to see the successes that your patients have if they truly get and stay clean and sober.”
So next time you see him on the sidelines, remember that he is not just a fan of the Georgia Southern Eagles. Know that Mark Garno is a special part of the Statesboro community that plans to keep on dancing.