By JOHN KEREZY, Eye on Cleveland’s founder
PART ONE IN A SERIES ABOUT THE NCAA Division III men’s national tournament
CUYAHOGA FALLS — “Eye on Cleveland” will be traveling about 200 miles west to Fort Wayne, Indiana, this weekend for the NCAA’s Division III men’s basketball national semi-finals and finals. The teams who’ve earned the right to compete for a national title there are: Elmhurst University, Marietta College, Randolph-Macon College, and Wabash College.
In one respect, this weekend could well play out as a real-life college version of that 1986 basketball movie “Hoosiers.” Very few had expected at the beginning of this season that Wabash would finish first in its North Coast Athletic Conference, win 24 consecutive games, and be among the Final Four. Wabash has the smallest enrollment (about 860 students) compared to Elmhurst (3,400) or Randolph-Macon (about 1,500). Marietta College also has a tiny (enrollment 1,265); however, its basketball team has been improving steadily in recent years and it was a pre-season favorite to win the Ohio Athletic Conference championship.
Just to be clear: There will be no effort to be objective in the next several posts on this blog. I’m a proud Wabash College alumnus. But at the same time, let me be among the first to say CONGRATS and WELL DONE to all four teams, victors of four games in a row in each of their regional tournaments. I’ll be sharing thoughts and observations about Wabash and the Final Four this week, and also doing some reminiscing about Wabash’s last trip to the Final Four back in 1982. On that journey, Wabash won the NCAA Division III championship in a tournament played at Calvin College. It was shown a week later on “tape delay” by a new and budding cable network called ESPN, by the way.
If you wish, you can download and read the chapter of my book “Glory Reborn: Wabash College and its Athletics Teams, 1977-1982” which I wrote about the ’81-’82 basketball team and that championship season. Just click on the link at the bottom to obtain a copy.
There’s only one central theme worth sharing today: “We trust each other. We love each other. There is a feeling that we’re going to keep making the right play for one another,” said Wabash’s senior guard Tyler Watson in the news conference after the victory over Illinois Wesleyan. Watson’s statement epitomizes what has made the Little Giant basketball team so successful this season.
See it yourself:
Here’s is the general plan for this week’s posts:
TUESDAY — I’ll focus a bit back on 1982, with stories and information from (now retired) Coach Mac Petty, team co-captain (and long-time NFL player) Pete Metzelaars, and others about the Wabash weekend in the tournament in 1982. We’ll have quotes and a video to share with you.
WEDNESDAY — Bringing it to the present, I’ll let readers know what parents and family members of the 2021-2022 team think of their sons’ success. This will be a story with photos.
THURSDAY — We’ll weave past and present, combining more about the 1982 team with how Coach Kyle Brumett’s squad is finally getting its due of long-overdue recognition for their phenomenal success. (I’m not a voter, but any objective person would have a difficult time making a case for why NOT Brumett as Division III Coach of the Year and Jack Davidson as Player of the Year. Davidson’s stats: 25.7 PPG, .535 FG% and .488 3-point FG%, .909 FT%, and 5.9 RPG). This too is scheduled to be a story with video as well.
FRIDAY — I’ll be live in Fort Wayne, attending and covering the games and connecting with Wabash alumni from that 1982 National Championship team .
I am volunteering my writing in collaboration with Wabash College’s Communications and Marketing staff, and it’s a joy to also be “in the loop” with one of the very best Sports Information Directors in all college divisions, Brent Harris. Some of my work may be appearing in multiple places, which is just fine.
I am also sharing and retweeting details about the teams and the weekend on my @johnkprof Twitter feed. You’re welcome to follow me there. And allow me to give a shout out to Ryan Whitnable (you can follow him on Twitter at @OACBBallShow), Pat Coleman (@d3hoops) Bob Quillman (@iwuhoopscom) and many others who are avid followers of D3 basketball.
If you are new to Division III, realize that being a student-athlete at one of the hundreds of D3 colleges across the country adds a much greater meaning to the phrase “for the love of the game.” These tens of thousands of young men and women participate in their respective sports with no thoughts of “going pro” someday. Athletic scholarships are prohibited. There are a lot of websites dedicated to Division III sports, but my advice is simple — watch for yourself! You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the high level of excellence you see among the men and women who compete at D3 colleges and universities.
Long shall we sing thy praises, Old Wabash.