B1G Basketball Historical Perspective – Tuning-In to PBS

I recently authored a FanPost describing the man who brought college basketball to College Park, Lefty Driesell. After some reflection (i.e.; an email or two to a real-life historian and OTE 'writer' MNWildcat) I thought I would add some additional personal insight to what being a Maryland basketball fan in the mid-80s meant.

It meant rooting for a team who could go out on a given night and knock off any team in the country; and then turn around and lose to any team in the country. It meant standing and singing the Amen Chorus after each and every victory. It meant saying 'nice things' from the student section in Cole Field House to Dean Smith (the original Coach Rat Face), Jim Valvano, and some ex-Bobby Knight assistant in Durham with a last name nobody could spell. It meant seeing the likes of Dan Bonner and Billy Packer outside of the Stamp Student Union (FYI – Dan Bonner is a legit 6'6") and booing Dick Vitale as he walked to the announcer's court-side seats. And it meant turning into PBS.

No this wasn't to watch Nova, Masterpiece Theatre, or some obscure British sitcom. It was to watch college basketball: specifically B1G college basketball. Back in the 1980s Virginia Public Broadcasting station channel 56 decided to run some rather inexpensive programs – college basketball. To a Maryland basketball junkie such as moi living in the dorms, this was quite the thing. An electrical engineering major could do their signal theory homework watching basketball games live from Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Assembly Hall (both of 'em), and other B1G arenas. One could gulp down a beverage or three seeing Jud Heathcoate, Lou Henson and his BAD toupee, some Maryland PhD alum in Iowa City employing a run-and-gun full-court style, and his protege in Columbus likewise employing the same fast-paced full-court style (some guy named Williams, I think his first name was Gary).

It was on channel 56 that I saw David Robinson's final game at Navy, where he dropped 50 on Bill Frieder's Michigan team; only to come up short 97-82. (Michigan's 'reward' for knocking off The Admiral's Navy team was playing North Carolina in Charlotte in the round-of-32 – a game that was close up until the opening tipoff). I also saw Illinois lose an 'unlosable' NCAA Tournament round-of-64 game to Austin Peay; which had additional consequences for the aforementioned Dick Vitale.

Most of all, watching these games got me further hooked on both a sport and a conference that I'm a fan of some 30-plus years later. In an era where one had to buy The Sporting News to get insider information on their favorite (college basketball) teams and hopefully catch the game of the week on NBC (listening to the late, great Al McGuire calling the game), these games on PBS were must-see TV before that was a thing...

Over the next few months I'll be writing ('writing') a series of articles providing a historical perspective for each of the remaining 13 B1G basketball teams. The first few articles are listed below:

  • Maryland - The Birth of the TMBAs

  • Illinois – Dick Vitale's Headstand

  • Rutgers – Jimmy V

  • Iowa – Dr. Tom

  • Michigan – A Michigan Man

Please feel free in this article's comments, or in subsequent articles' comments, to share your recollections of B1G basketball.

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