Longtime fan has many memories of WBU sports

Regular attenders to basketball games at Wayland's Hutcherson Center rarely miss seeing Bruce Rigler in his seat tucked in the upper deck above the concourse on the south side of the gymnasium. Many have probably fancied him the most fanatic of alums.

In truth, the Plainview native has no allegiance to an alma mater. He just loves sports, and he's loved Wayland by extension since he was old enough to attend sporting events.

"I've never set foot in a college classroom," Rigler says with a characteristic bright smile. "I've been too busy all my life."

Born on the family dairy farm where he still lives, Rigler attended Plainview High School and passed on college to help his father in the family business as the youngest of 10 children. He still works, though he stopped doing the heavier chores 15 years ago due to a genetic disorder that causes deterioration of the nervous system.

But that physical limitation hasn't stopped Rigler from working, attending First Presbyterian Church and, most of all, attending the sporting events in Plainview that have become a way of life for decades. Now in his early 80s, Rigler remembers coming to Wayland games as early as age 10 or 12 when work on the dairy allowed for a break, even catching a Jackrabbits football game during the early decades when Wayland fielded a team.

Rigler does have one family tie to Wayland through his brother, Robert, who attended WBU before going into the Army and played basketball for Coach Ernest Craigo in Nunn Gymnasium. He attributes those days of watching his brother's contests to starting his love for Wayland sports.

"I got to coming and knowing people, and knowing more people, and just kept coming," he says. "All those folks in the Hall of Honor I knew personally. I was just a young fella then but I watched them all play."

Over the years, Wayland basketball moved from Nunn to the gym at Plainview High – another familiar stomping ground of Rigler, who hasn't missed many home games since 1934 – and finally to Hutcherson in 1971. He's followed them to each venue, learning to love the coaches and players as if they were his own.

"I get to know 'em all personally and get attached to them," he said. "I enjoyed the sport itself but also visiting with the kids and getting to know them. To me it means more than watching someone I don't know."

There's not much that gets in Rigler's way when it comes to home Wayland games, though a home game at PHS will do it. He also serves on the board of the Region 17 Education Service Center, and occasionally meetings interfere with his hobby. He says he's seen all but two halves of two games of the Plainview Queens Classic – the collegiate women's tourney held over the Thanksgiving weekend from 1976-2004.

While the gym is a second home, Rigler says he's taken in more than WBU basketball over the years, though with not as great loyalty. He's attended volleyball and baseball games and for a while was quite the track and field aficionado.

"I've always had an interest in track and Emmitt Tipton talked me into officiating once," he said. "I did nine meets in one year and followed those teams a lot back in those days when they were here more."

Like an old college professor, Bruce still keeps up with some former athletes and knows them by face if he sees them at homecoming. While many may recognize him from his perch in the stands, they likely know him for a sweet treat he brings to the teams from time to time: homemade peanut brittle.

"I started making brittle years ago, and started giving it away," he said. "I make several batches a week during the seasons and about 100 a year normally. It's relaxation time for me."

So are Wayland games, even when the competition gets heated. To him, the school is a second home, even if he has no diploma to make it official.

"This relationship has meant the world to me. Wayland and the church have been my family life for many years," said Rigler, who was named to the WBU Athletic Hall of Honor in 1995. "I've got more ties than a lot of graduates. They had four years here; I've had more than 40!"