Aggies have always been famous for the saying, “wait til next year!” as an anthem of enthusiasm for the hopeful never-say-die attitude for their sports teams. Yet, in the press release today, January 9, the NCAA.com has launched voting for the “All-Time March Madness players, teams and moment as part of their “75 Years of March Madness Celebration.” Sadly, there’s not a Texas A&M player on the list of all-time greats, instead being the kids with collective noses pushed against the window of the candy store, looking inside from the outside.
NCAA.com is managed by Turner Sports, and launched the opening of fan voting today, to determine the NCAA All-Time March Madness players, team and moment as part of the 75 years of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship. Fans can help make history by casting their votes on NCAA.com/marchmadness for the top team, moment and players during the voting period, which runs through March 24. The honorees will be announced Final Four Friday, April 5, in Atlanta in conjunction with the 2013 Men’s Final Four.
“This is a unique opportunity for NCAA basketball fans to cast their votes to help decide who gets honored as the best of the best from March Madness history,” said Mark Johnson, vice president, business operations, Turner Sports. “We are excited to have NCAA.com at the center of the 75 Years of March Madness celebration and look forward to reliving the most memorable moments from arguably the best sporting event in the world.”
Another key site, NCAA.com/marchmadness – the official online destination for the 75 Years of March Madness celebration – will provide extensive historical content, stats, commentary, photo galleries and key moments that show the magic in the March NCAA tournaments.
Turner Sports notes that on the NCAA’s March Madness Facebook and Twitter pages, fans can stay updated on the voting status with the hashtag #MM75 and engage in daily trivia. After casting their votes, fans have a chance to enter a sweepstakes to win a 2014 NCAA Final Four package to attend the 2014 Men’s Final Four in North Texas (Arlington). What great memories are associated for every sports fan who grew up watching NCAA play as a kid; some even went on to participate themselves. Who cannot name at least five of their favorite players, named to the NCAA list of all-time greats?
A quick scan of the list includes such favorite college players, standouts who would go on to become household names in the pros and beyond, many became winning coaches as well. Including schools and tourney years, some of the NCAA greats include:
Bill Russell (San Francisco, 1955-1956)
Wilt Chamberlain (Kansas, 1957)
Elgin Baylor (Seattle, 1958)
Oscar Robertson (Cincinnati, 1958-1960)
Jerry West (West Virginia, 1958-1960)
Jerry Lucas (Ohio State, 1960-1962)
Walt Hazzard (UCLA, 1962-1964)
Bill Bradley (Princeton, 1963-1965)
Gail Goodrich (UCLA, 1963-1965)
Elvin Hayes (Houston, 1966-1968)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (UCLA, 1967-1969)
Dan Issel (Kentucky, 1968-1970)
Sidney Wicks (UCLA, 1969-1971)
Bill Walton (UCLA, 1972-1974)
Jamaal Wilkes (UCLA, 1972-1974)
Scott May (Indiana, 1975-1076)
Larry Bird (Indiana State, 1979)
For the past 50 years now, Texas A&M has never been considered what you’d call an NCAA tournament caliber school, at least in terms of publicity or perception on campus. A fast look at the records show that A&M had NCAA Sweet Sixteen tournament appearances in 1969, 1980, and 2007, during the late Coach Shelby Metcalf’s tenure of 26 years. Also, there were six NCAA tournament ‘appearances’ during Metcalf’s time, plus six more afterwards. After Metcalf was fired by (then) Athletic Director John David Crow (check Wikipedia for a humorous story as to ‘why’ the firing), a parade of coaches were brought in, rather than recruited, to try and turn the Aggies’ program around, including John Thornton (interim), and Kermit Davis, Jr. (the hint of recruiting violations) was a one-season coach.
Next, Tony Barone was brought in and stayed seven years, six years with a losing record, and a rather memorable encounter with Texas Tech one year. Melvin Watkins was a true gentleman and great recruiter but couldn’t get “above seventh in the Big 12.” The year 2004 was to be his last.
During Coach Billy Gillispie’s tenure, the Aggies returned to NCAA Tournament play for the first time since 1997 and the dry spell looked to be over. In 2007, the Aggies “received a #3 seed in the 2007 NCAA championship tournament, and reached the Sweet 16.”
And when Gillispie made his life-changing decision to coach at Kentucky, the Aggies were left with a multimillion-dollar expansion of Reed Arena’s basketball program, the beautiful Cox-McFerrin Center, and a big question mark above the heads of all the new basketball fans that A&M had come to find, thanks to Coach Billy’s love of the game and his fiery chastisement of players on the sidelines if they messed up. Somehow the Aggie players didn’t call it “abuse” to be coached hard and tough. Some went on to play in the U.S. and Europe and have an income from the sport.
To be fair, Coach Mark Turgeon didn’t inherit star-caliber players, and it was almost like walking into a losing game for anyone to have to follow Billy Gillispie at the time, because it’s the quintessential Tom and Dick Smothers’ argument, “Mom always liked you best.” Can’t win for losing. And the Aggies struggled.
One person's opinion, but if you want to know the difference between a good coach and a bad one, it’s always going to come down to the hearts as well as the talents of the young men on the court. Player attitude is key, and the Aggies who were recruited by Gillispie just didn’t turn on a dime and grasp the changes with the new coach. Turgeon is a great coach, even if the crowd couldn’t (seemingly) relate to him, and he seems to have found his home at Maryland, where his current record is 13-1 and 1-0 in conference play.
Billy Kennedy is a winner. That is the one thing you can say about the Aggie coach now, whose record everywhere he’s been (Murray State, Southeastern Louisiana, and Centenary as HeadCoach), is that of a turnaround, a program builder, a consensus builder, and someone in whom (then) athletic director Bill Byrne and (then) 12th Man director Miles Marks placed their entire hopes and dreams for NCAA tournament caliber play in, and on.
Tonight’s game against Arkansas is the Aggie debut in the SEC Conference, and while the big football wins and accolades are so fresh on the minds of all Aggie fans, it’s much like walking through a pool of sharks looking for blood on the court of Reed Arena right now. The fans are fairweather and there’s very little patience for building or rebuilding a program from ground zero.
Two freshmen, Alex Caruso and J’Mychal Reese, are the hope for the future. Transfer Fabyon Harris has energy, he’s fast and has great pro moves, and shots. Seniors Elston Turner and Ray Turner have wicked outside shooting, and Khourtney Robertson can outrebound anyone, often. Defense is something everyone is learning, and it’s one of Coach Kennedy’s primary strengths.
Yet, these names are not NCAA Tournament names, now, and for the future, maybe one day they’ll be there. Time will tell. But the Aggie rumbling and grumbling will start if the wins don’t appear. That’s how demanding the crowd is after a Cotton Bowl victory and a Heisman Trophy. Never tell an Aggie they’re not good enough. It just makes them mad. But, Aggies have to work hard, to earn an NCAA appearance, berth, and seeding. They’ll be showing what they’re made of tonight, as they bring a 10-3 record to SEC Conference play.
So, all Aggies should go to ncaa.com and follow the links to the 75th Anniversary of March Madness path and vote for everyone else’s school—this year, at least. The Aggies can look forward to better days ahead and say, as Aggies always do, “just wait ‘til next year.”
Tonight at 8 pm in Reed Arena, the Aggies welcome the University of Arkansas, and debut SEC play, and offer the public a final shot and half-price tickets, in conclusion of the Holiday Hoops pricing present to basketball fans. Be there, bring a friend, and get loud. It really helps the team play their best.