- (Photo: AP / Jonathan D. Stotts)
As millions of basketball fans head into one of the most anticipated events of the year this weekend - the Final Four - the NCAA plans to remember a major team player who died on Monday.
In memory of Jason Ray, a student from the University of North Carolina and the school's mascot, both Men's and Women's Final Four mascots will wear armbands displaying his name throughout the big events beginning Saturday.
The elastic armbands feature an image of UNC's mascot - Rameses the Ram - and the words "In Memory of Jason Ray; March 26, 2007."
"Mascots are an integral part of the team and the spirit of the games," said Judy Southard, senior associate director of athletics at Louisiana State University and chair of the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Committee, according to NCAA. "As a basketball community mourning this loss, its only appropriate that we remember Jason this way."
Ray was struck by a car on Friday while walking just hours before his team faced Georgetown in East Rutherford, N.J. He died Monday morning of sustained injuries.
The senior was both a high energy mascot and Bible study teacher for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.
Condolences were sent by the NCAA and InterVarsity president Alec Hill to Ray's family, who scheduled a funeral service for Saturday at their church, Concord First Assembly.
"I was saddened to hear of his passing, but I am pleased that we can honor his memory by displaying his name on armbands during the championship," said Gary Walters, director of athletics at Princeton University and chair of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Committee.
Tens of thousands of people will pack the Georgia Dome in Atlanta and Browns Stadium in Cleveland this weekend for the Men's and Women's Final Four.