A beloved superfan of the University of Alabama’s men’s basketball team died from complications of Covid-19, his mother said Saturday.
Luke Ratliff rarely missed a game and was known by the Crimson Tide community as “Fluffopotamus.” He died Friday evening, his mother, Pamela Ratliff, said. A senior at the University of Alabama, Mr. Ratliff was set to graduate in August. He was 23.
“He had a personality that was bigger than this world, never met a stranger,” Ms. Ratliff said on Saturday.
Mr. Ratliff traveled to the men’s N.C.A.A. basketball tournament in Indianapolis to cheer on the Crimson Tide until they lost to U.C.L.A. last weekend. He had recently gone through rapid coronavirus testing multiple times, Ms. Ratliff said, and the tests had come back negative.
“He didn’t have any of the typical symptoms until the cough set in this week,” she said.
Mr. Ratliff was eventually treated for bronchitis and it was later discovered he had contracted Covid-19.
Fans were allowed to fill venues for the tournament up to 25 percent of their normal capacity. In response to Mr. Ratliff’s death, the Marion County Public Health Department said in a statement that it would be investigating to determine “if anyone in Indianapolis may have been exposed to Covid-19 by any Alabama resident who visited Indianapolis in recent days.”
“We continue to encourage residents and visitors to practice the simple and important habits that keep us all safe: wearing a mask, washing hands, and social distancing,” the department said.
There has been an outpouring of tributes from the Crimson Tide community celebrating Mr. Ratliff.
“We will forever remember our #1 fan,” Alabama Men’s Basketball said on Twitter. “We love you.”
Nate Oats, Alabama’s coach, said Mr. Ratliff’s death “doesn’t seem real.”
“Fluff has been our biggest supporter since day one,” Oats said on Twitter. “Put all he had into our program. Loved sharing this ride with him. You’ll be missed dearly my man! Wish we had one more victory cigar and hug together. Roll Tide Forever.”
Mr. Ratliff described his love for college basketball to The Tuscaloosa News earlier this year.
“College basketball is different because it’s literally right in front of you: You can see it, you can touch it, you can go to it 16 home games a year. It’s tangible, that’s what’s endeared me to it,” Mr. Ratliff told the outlet, discussing his preference for the game over football.
On March 31, Mr. Ratliff chronicled the Alabama men’s basketball season on Twitter, posting his own personal highlights from the season.
“I will finish college having attended 44 of the tide’s past 45 conference and postseason games, including 42 in a row,” Mr. Ratliff wrote. “What a freaking ride it’s been.”
Mr. Ratliff is survived by his parents and two brothers.