PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Saturday will be an emotional day for the Carnegie Mellon football team.

Not only is it homecoming, but it will be the first time in 27 years that the team’s biggest supporter won’t be on hand to watch.

Longtime Tartans Head Football Coach Rich Lackner’s wife, Cindy, has been by his side for every game for almost three decades.

“She was team mom,” he said. “If we won, she would go home and bake about 10 dozen cookies and bring those cookies in on Tuesday for the team.”

Her support for the team was unwavering, even through breast cancer.

“She actually had her first go around with cancer nine years ago,” Lackner said.

But they thought they had it beat.

Lackner’s wife was cancer free for five-and-a-half years.

“It wasn’t long after that, that a tumor showed up on her sternum,” Lackner said. “It’s pretty devastating at that point.”

It was after that discovery that she fought a tough battle with cancer, until the very end.

“You could tell she physically wasn’t feeling well,” CMU running back Jake Nardone said. “But her spirit was so alive and that’s what was special.”

She passed away in August – just weeks before the football season was about to begin.

Lackner, feeling lost without his wife, and the team, feeling lost without their “mother,” decided to do something.

The team decided to have a Cindy Lackner memorial football game. Not only will they honor Lackner’s memory, but hope to raise money for breast cancer research.

“These kids are just incredible young men,” Lackner said. “And I just love them to death.”

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