Former news and sports reporter (1983-85) and Sports Editor (1985-86)

JCU men’s hoops was THE place to be in the 80s.

We alumni have greatly enjoyed the tremendous, unparalleled success the Blue Streak men’s basketball team has provided under Coach Mike Moran.  The OAC championships and trips to the NCAA playoffs, including the third place finish in NCAA Division III in 2004, have all been watched with pride by JCU alumni.

What today’s current students and those faculty, staff, and administrators who were not at JCU in the mid 80s may not know is that the men’s Blue Streak basketball program was one of the greatest shows around under Coach Tim Baab.    When I arrived on campus as a freshman from Chicago in the fall of 1983, I signed up to write for the The Carroll News.  After covering the very successful soccer team (there was only a men’s soccer team back then) coached by Tim Baab, I was selected to cover the men’s basketball team.   I quickly learned what a choice beat I had earned.   The men’s team had just come off its first NCAA Division III playoff appearance and was the defending champ of the Presidents’ Athletic Conference (JCU’s conference prior to rejoining the OAC in 1989).  What was even better is that Coach Baab was also the men’s head basketball coach.

As good as the men’s basketball team was (they lost the PAC crown in the regular season finale to Hiram College), the most amazing part was the entertainment and total spectacle of JCU home games.   On Tuesday and Saturday evenings, Carroll Gym (it was not yet christened the DeCarlo Varsity Center) was packed and was the place to be.  All 2,448 seats (all bleachers, no Eisele Room, no grand staircase to the main floor) were typically full, mostly by students, faculty and staff.   Music boomed from an on-court DJ before the game.  Warm ups were a choreographed show unto themselves.  Synchronized ball tricks, rolling floor passes, RayBans on the players, and slick layup and dribbling drills put the visiting teams on edge from the start.   Students came with newspaper sections to “read” during the opposing team introductions (long before that was commonly seen), chants from start to finish and other theatrics (one Saturday half time show had a full live rendition of Michael Jackson’s Thriller video – all done by students) were the norm every home game.   Visiting media dubbed games at JCU akin to those at NCAA Division I powerhouses Kentucky, Duke, and Georgetown.   Even the game announcer was premier – the late Howie Chizek, then the stadium announcer for Cavs home games – announced every game his Cavs schedule allowed.  The Cavs themselves even held a preseason game against the Atlanta Hawks in October 1983 at Carroll Gym.

One of the best things about JCU is that it does not stand pat – it is always improving.   Today’s teams are a testament to that.  But for those of us fortunate enough to be at JCU in the mid-80s, watching Coach Baab, his players, and the crowds work their magic every home game; made for some of the best fun and memories of JCU.   Go Streaks!