Posts with the tag: Cardinals

The Archivist’s Nook: Harlem Globetrotters at CatholicU

“Game of the Week
Men’s Basketball
Harlem Globetrotters at CUA
November 19, 7 p.m.
DuFour Center – Tickets $10”
The Tower, November 16, 2001

Harlem Globetrotters at Catholic University, November 19, 2001.

So exclaimed the student newspaper just days away from the 2001 matchup between the Harlem Globetrotters and the Cardinals men basketball team. But what does this mean? Why were the Globetrotters playing in Brookland? In what may come as one of the more surprising matchups in basketball history, the legendary exhibition team came to the campus 20 years ago this week to challenge the reigning Division III National Champions, the Cardinal men. 

The year 2001 marked the 90th anniversary of the men’s basketball team formally existing on campus. That same year, the team secured its first-ever national championship. While numerous Cardinal teams of all sports had performed well in the past – ranging from football triumphs to boxing achievements – this marked the first team national championship in the University’s history.

While sports were played around campus beginning as early as the 1890s, the first organized basketball games at CatholicU occurred in 1909-10 as a club sport. This was barely twenty years after the sport was first developed in Massachusetts by Dr. James Naismith in 1891. While initially only a club sport played amongst nearby DC universities, with Catholic’s first game being against Gallaudet – it would not be long until the sport achieved official status on campus. During the 1911-12 season, Catholic University would formally organize its first official team.

Original Cardinal lineup, 1911-12 season.

The coach was Fred Rice, a graduate student and CatholicU player with additional experience from his time as a law student at Georgetown, where he played basketball with the Hoyas from 1907-1910, before coming to CatholicU. The team ended their first season under Rice’s management with a 10-7 game record. Rice would go on to coach the Cardinals for the next 19 years, until the 1930 season. 

In the subsequent decades, as the nation and NCAA changed, the team would see itself going to Division I and Division II tournaments in 1944 and 1964, respectively, although they would fail to make the mark for championships both times. By the 1980s, women’s basketball would join the roster of official campus sports. And beginning in the 1981-82 seasons, the Cardinals would enter Division III.

Throughout the late 1990s, the Cardinals would soar high each season, only to fall short at the last moment. But that all changed in the 2000-2001 season. On March 17, 2001, the Cardinals would face off against William Paterson University in Salem, Virginia, fighting for the title of NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Champions. Under the direction of Coach Mike Lonergan, the Cardinals would emerge triumphant with a score of 76-62.

Mere seconds after the unveiling of the championship banner before the Globetrotters game.

Having earned the first team national championship in the University’s history, and finishing the season 28-5, the men’s basketball team was rightly feted! But even as the victory was being  celebrated, a new challenger was emerging. At the time, the Globetrotters would often challenge college teams to exhibition games, particularly championship teams. Catholic University, as defending champions of the 2001 NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Championship was fair game for playing,  although this game would mark the first time that the Globetrotters had played a Division III team. Despite this, Catholic remained undaunted by the competition. The Tower claimed, “Although the Globetrotters will be the toughest game in Cardinal History, CUA basketball has faced tough competition in the past.”

In the leadup to the game, Catholic University unveiled its 2001 championship banner. And the game began! The Tower reports how the “‘Trotters Dazzle DuFour Crowds” with “reverse layups and fancy slam dunks” ending in a hard-fought victory over the Cardinal men. As the evening faded, the Cardinals and Globetrotters shook hands. The final score was 90-46, Globetrotters. 

Post-game teams shot, 2001.

CUA handled their loss gracefully however. “It was great to have a huge crowd out to watch us,” said head coach Mike Lonergan. “I hate losing though, even if we’re playing the Lakers,” he added with a grin. – The Tower, November 30, 2001

Footage of the game and photographs are held in the Athletic records in the University Archives. 

Learn more about the rich history, as well as detailed account of the 2001 championship game, in Chris McManes’s centennial history of CUA men’s basketball – Flight of the Cardinals: A 100-year History of CUA Men’s Basketball

The Archivist’s Nook: All Dressed Up – On Turkeys and Tuxedos

Sorry, Mr. Turkey, but it would a social faux pas to decline the invitation this late.
Sorry, Mr. Turkey, but it would be a social faux pas to decline the invitation this late.

Over the next week, the campus will become rather quiet. Most students and staff will hop on various planes, trains, and automobiles on their way to family and feasts. Many readers may even have their own Thanksgiving traditions from watching football to volunteering at a soup kitchen. But would you spend Turkey Day attending a formal soiree after the big game? If you were a student at Catholic University in the 1920s, and had remained in DC, you may very well have. In fact, if you found yourself on the campus in the 1930s, you may also have witnessed bonfires and parades.

One of the earliest CUA social traditions often centered on Thanksgiving – the Utopian Club Annual Gala. Founded on March 14, 1923, the Utopian Club was one of several men’s social organizations that existed in the early twentieth century at CUA. Among its peers were the Senators Club, the Abbey Club, the Dod Noon Club, and (by 1935) the Cave Dwellers. All these organizations acted as fraternal and alumni societies, organizing formal galas and casual gatherings known as “smokers.”

Students posing at one of the 1930s galas.
Students posing at one of the 1930s galas.

Within its first year of life, the Utopian Club inaugurated a tradition of hosting an elaborate ball for its alumni and active members, as well as invited guests from the campus community. What began as a simple event in 1923, soon became one of the most anticipated social occasions of the academic year. The student press closely followed the announcements of the Utopian Club’s social engagements, waiting for its elected head, the “Supreme Utopian,” to announce the Ball’s date, venue, and ticket availability.

While these soirees technically had no fixed date, they were traditionally held in the ballroom of a local hotel on Thanksgiving evening following a CUA football game. Other events, such as the Abbey Club’s Tea Dance were often held the following Saturday. These activities were originally intended to liven up the moods of students who were unable to spend Thanksgiving back home. These dances, as the December 1, 1926 Tower put it, “officially [close] one of the most brilliant weekends that will be written into the historical archives of the C.U.  Thanksgiving weekend is always anticipated by those ‘left behind’ for the holiday. Days stuffed with sparkling dances, ardent music, a rousing football game, and dazzling girls, everything to make the existence of the stay-at-home a little easier to endure.”

Conga Line at the Homecoming Dance, ca. 1950s
Conga Line at the Homecoming Dance, ca. 1950s

The Senators Club, an alumni organization, soon began to hold its own Thanksgiving gala alongside the Utopian Club in 1928. By the 1930s, the Thanksgiving galas became closely associated with the Homecoming football game, held during the holiday weekend. Thus, the various social events of Thanksgiving weekend became ever more lively affairs as the 1930s wore on, with celebratory bonfires, jitterbug contests, freshmen pajama parades, and votes to determine the “handsomest man” and the man with the “biggest feet.” With the Tower also reporting multiple visits by motorcycle-bound police and impromptu parades through the Brookland neighborhood, the student population often clashed with the administration and alumni community over what forms of Homecoming spirit were acceptable.

Homecoming royalty was first selected in 1949. Pictured: 1967 Homecoming Queen and court.
Homecoming royalty was first selected in 1949. Pictured: 1967 Homecoming Queen and court.

By the 1940s, the Thanksgiving traditions of the previous decades began to fade. The dates of the dances and the Homecoming game itself eventually became movable, though soirees continued for years (and the Homecoming dance never fully vanished). The original founder of the galas, the Utopian Club, continued to thrive well into the 1980s, albeit under a new name. In 1956, in honor of its long-time mentor, Fr. Ignatius Smith, O.P, it adopted the name Sigma Pi Delta. A collection of the organization can be viewed in the Archives.