CEU team mirrors 1964-65 squad
As the afterglow of coming so close to winning a national championship starts to dim a little on the Price campus of the College of Eastern Utah, one has to think back about what it must have been like 45 years ago when almost the same thing happened to the then newly named college.
The year before, the school had just switched from being Carbon College to CEU and in the 1965 yearbook (The Canto) editor Susan Olsen noted that it seemed odd to call it that and she put quote marks around it the first time she used it in her introduction to that years publication.
"It was odd when the name changed," said Kitty Horsley Ford, who was a freshman student in 1965 and resides in Price. "We kept calling it
Carbon College of Eastern Utah."
It was a time of change in the world. Rock and roll had a British band called The Beatles standing on top of the heap. The Vietnam War was being escalated by a President named Lyndon Johnson. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was still very new with everyone wondering about what the future of that law would do to American society.
And college campus' were still stocked largely with males with short hair and a lot of women in dresses.
It was a far cry from a few years later when a very divided country would see violence and dissention across the land, particularly at those previously quiet bastions of learning.
CEU athletic teams of the day were part of the ICAC (Intermountain Collegiate Athletic Conference) and Carbon College had never faired that well in basketball. Opponents in those days included such college teams as Rangley (now CNCC), Boise (now Boise State), Ricks (now BYU-Idaho), and Mesa (at the time a two year school, now a four year institution in Grand Junction, Colo.).
More familiar names to today's fans were also on the schedule, such as Snow, Dixie, and Western Wyoming. There was no huge Salt Lake Community College at the time. It was still a small school called Salt Lake Trade Tech, located around 400 South in Salt Lake and only had a few hundred students.
The Scenic West Athletic Conference, in which the Golden Eagles participate now, also did not exist.
The basketball team that year was coached by Curt Jensen, a former University of Utah player who had a great career with the Utes in the late 1950s.
During the non-league and regular league season the CEU team went 20-8, and 9-1 within the league.
They beat both North Idaho and Dixie in the Region 1 tournament to get to the nationals in Hutchinson, Kan. by scores of 94-88 and 85-64, respectively (the NJCAA basketball championship has been held in that Kansas city since 1949).
Those that played on the team included Jerry Goodnight, Jim Cox, Mickey Ryan, Vance Colbert, Norm Hayden, Terry Redmond, Doug Rollins, Don Denson, Wilson Watkins, Jerry Hutchens, Randy Moore and Ron Cunningham. Cunningham was a special player, eventually being named second team All-American.
"I knew all the guys on the team because it was such a small school then," said Ford. "And I never missed a game that was played locally."
The team also had three local Carbon men who played - Ellington, Moore and Hutchens.
"That was the most cohesive team I ever played on," said Hutchens who is now a retired school teacher and who lives in Sanpete County. "We had as good a team on the bench as we did on the floor all the time."
Hutchens said that the different team members got along very well and they felt they could beat anyone, particularly after playing one team they defeated.
"Cunningham was our tallest player at 6-6," he said. "We played a team that had two guys that were 6-8 and one that was 6-10" and we had them down by 20 points at the half. They were too slow; they couldn't keep up with us."
Hutchens had some great stories to tell about the various team members. Many had nicknames. Colbert, who went on to a major league pitching career nickname was "Pig" and Cunningham's was "Biggie."
"I don't know where those names came from other than that they must have had them when they came to CEU because they had gone to high school together," Hutchens laughed. "I do know one thing though. Colbert still owes me $15 and if he reads this I want him to remember it too."
Ryan and Rollins were both from Heber. Denson was a forward from Texas and Moore was from Panguitch. "He always reminded us of that too," Hutchens said.
Like the CEU team of this year, some thought they wouldn't go very far in the tournament. But inside they knew different.
"Let me give you an example of even what school officials thought," said Hutchens. "They only got us hotel rooms in Hutchinson for two nights because they expected us to play two games and be out. But we kept winning and there was no place in town to stay so they put us up in this abandoned hotel which was more like a dormitory."
The accommodations were definitely not first class. But the team kept winning.
A party was thrown before the team left Price to go to Hutchinson and when they got there they had to play some much bigger schools in Arkansas State and Murray State. They barely got by Arkansas State, 88-86, and then - in double overtime - the club beat Murray State 65-63.
But then the 17-game winning streak they had held against junior college opponents since a 106-85 loss to Dixie at the end of the first third of the season came to an end as they lost a semifinal heartbreaker to Burlington Junior College (Iowa), 93-87.
In the consolation game the next day, the team defeated Joliet Junior College (Illinois), 106-100 to capture third place in the nation.
"I know that Vincennes (Indiana) beat Burlington (80-76) for the championship but I don't remember if we even stayed to watch that game," Hutchens said.
At home in Price, the community was glued to the news about the games and the players.
"The dean of students, Dean Walton, went with the team and arranged to do a radio broadcast over KOAL radio so we could hear the games," said Ford, reminiscing about the excitement that engulfed the community over the feats of these young men. "I think the whole town was gathered around radios everywhere while the games were going on."
Over the years, Hutchens says he has run into a couple of the players from that team, but he hasn't kept track of what has happened to most of them. He just knows how good a team they were.
"We really should have won it all that year," he said. "We could have easily done it but some mistakes made the difference."
Hutchens pointed out that the guys on that team also played baseball for CEU that spring, and they beat Mesa twice, a big feat because Mesa was a perennial power in baseball at the time.
So as the glow of this year's CEU team fades, another group will come along one day and create that glow once again.
But the memories of a special season, whether it was this year or 45 years ago will always remain.