It has been a difficult year for Nate and Crystal Oats. It also been a fantastic year.
Sometimes it’s a bit of both at the same time.
Nate Oats, in his first year as a head coach, has led the Buffalo men’s basketball team to its second straight NCAA Tournament appearance, overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds and a consistent status as the underdog. He’s been doing it all while supporting his wife Crystal as well. And Crystal has been doing it all while staging her own personal battle as well; against lymphoma.
The pair have found a way to depend on each other over the past few months and, somehow, they’ve made their way to the national stage. Read on to learn more about Cyrstal, the Oats family and how they’ve inspired an entire college.
1. Nate Announced Crystal’s Diagnosis on Facebook
Following a difficult preseason for the Bulls, which included the transfer of several players from last year’s squad and the expulsion of forward Justin Moss, the reigning MAC Player of the Year from the school, things got even worse for the Oats family.
Crystal had been diagnosed with cancer in October. Or, more specifically, she had been diagnosed with a rare form of the disease called double hit lymphoma. The news came just weeks before Nate was slated to make his debut as Buffalo’s brand-new head coach.
Nate officially announced the news via a Facebook post, it partly read:
Crystal is the strongest woman I know. She’s been there with me every step of the way on my adult journey through life. This Dec. 20 we will have been married 18 years, and I can honestly say I know she’s exactly what I’ve needed for a wife. She’s everything to me and we will fight this battle together. This type of lymphoma is an aggressive type and requires an extremely strong regimen of chemotherapy over the next 5-6 months. Life just got real for us in a way I never could have imagined.
Crystal immediately began an aggressive chemotherapy treatment regiment, but refused to let the disease take over her life. In fact, she started traveling with the team.
2. Crystal Encouraged Her Husband To Keep Coaching
After making his wife’s diagnosis public, Nate immediately considered taking a leave of absence from the team. She would not allow it.
Instead, Crystal became an extension of the team. She started traveling with the squad when possible and the Oats family was frequently spotted on the road with the Bulls over the course of the season. She told the Detroit News:
I definitely didn’t want him not to coach because I enjoy it as much as he does. So it would’ve been just a downer for me. I got to go to games. I got to travel a little bit, which made me feel like I was just a normal person, not somebody who had cancer. So this has helped me immensely, too.
The Oats family also stepped up to the metaphorical plate, helping Crystal when Nate was on the road with the team or unable to return to Buffalo for stretches at a time. Still, her favorite moments where sitting in the stands and, most recently, cutting down the net at the MAC Championship game.
Crystal was the last person to climb the ladder after the Bulls defeated Akron. They chanted her name as well.
3. The Buffalo Community Started a GoFund Me Campaign in Crystal’s Name
Although the Buffalo community wasn’t quite used to Nate Oats; head coach in October, they were familiar with Oats, and his family, after several seasons spent as an assistant with the Bulls.
So, when Nate announced that Crystal was battling a rare form of cancer, that same community rallied around her.
A GoFund Me campaign was quickly set up in Crystal’s name and, as of March 16, the page had raised over $13,000. The original goal was $12,500.
4. Nate & Crystal Are Parents to Three Daughters
While Nate’s career on the sidelines was a major focus throughout Crystal’s cancer battle, the long-time pair were, first, concerned for their three young daughters; Lexie, Jocie and Brielle.
The trio have become regulars with the Buffalo squad this season, also joining their parents on the road and Nate has made a point to be home as frequently as possible. In fact, during a 10-day road trip earlier this year, the head coach left the team for two days between games to be with his family. He described his daughters’ reaction to Crystal’s diagnosis, telling FOX Sports:
They all handle it a lot differently because they’re at different stages of what they’re able to understand. They all know that mommy has cancer, but the 11-year-old obviously understands it a lot more than the other ones. So she, initially, knew there was a chance mom might die, and she understood that and that was tough on her.
All three daughters will also be in the stands for the NCAA Tournament as well.
5. Crystal’s Latest PET Scans Show Her Tumors Are Gone
No matter what happens in the NCAA Tournament, it will be difficult for the Oats family to be too disappointed in the outcome. After all, this season has been about so much more than just basketball and Crystal’s recent medical news has been the best moment, on or off the court, in the last few weeks.
According to FOX Sports
, Crystal’s latest PET scans have shown that her tumors are gone and she is expected to undergo a bone marrow transplant in April, a preventative measure to keep the cancer from returning in the future.
She’s also been able to travel to games; something that was unthinkable even just a few months ago.
Crystal, and the Oats’ daughters, were in the stands when the Bulls clinched a MAC championship earlier this month and she’ll be in the stands for the NCAA Tournament as well. As far as the Bulls are concerned, that’s already a win.