March 6, 1971.
On this day, IUPUI intercollegiate athletics began. Its origin was inauspicious and unplanned, not unlike many aspects of IUPUI's development. However, as has typically been the IUPUI experience, from modest beginnings grew great things.
The 1969 merger of Purdue and Indiana University campuses in the state capital brought together academic units spread all over Indianapolis. Neither IU-Indianapolis nor the Purdue-Indianapolis Extension had intercollegiate athletics programs. Nowhere in the merger was there any thought about sports at IUPUI. Early administrators worked to consolidate disparate campuses as quickly as possible into the near-westside location, and while intercollegiate sports received the attention of the influential Goals and Objectives Committee of 1971, other issues took priority. At first, IUPUI contented itself with a lively intramural sports program under the direction of P. Nicholas ("Nick") Kellum, an instructor in the Normal College (later the IU School of Physical Education).
Meanwhile, in the early 1970s and with the blessing of the president's office in Bloomington, various regional campuses in the IU system around the state began to test the intercollegiate-athletics waters. Several campuses established men's basketball teams and competed with other schools around the state and region. In 1970-1971, the Indiana University-Kokomo men's team compiled a enviable record in games against other IU regionals, Purdue's regional campuses, the Indiana State University-Evansville team, and even the Grissom Air Force base team. IUK announced it would host a four-team IU-regional campus tournament on March 6, 1971, to feature IUK, IUPU-Fort Wayne, IU-Southeast, and IU-South Bend. But IU-South Bend bowed out of the tournament at the last minute.
IUPUI came to the rescue.
In January 1971, Nick Kellum's IUPUI intramural men's basketball tournament had crowned as campus champions a team of students from the Normal College. Thus, when Kellum received a call from the IUK coach asking if he could supply a replacement team for the regional tournament, he turned to the intramural champions and entered them in the Kokomo tourney to replace the IU-South Bend team. Kellum appointed himself coach for the team, with Normal College Professor Dr. Rudolph R. Schreiber listed in the tournament program as "Rep." The program and the IUK student newspaper both identified the team as the Normal College IUPUI team, which had no other team name.
The first matchup that Saturday began at 12:30pm in a high-school gym in Kokomo and pitted IUK against the IUPUI Normal College players. The contest between an IUK "Little Red" team with a 19 wins and 4 losses record and a pick-up squad was lopsided. The hosts quickly outplaying the visitors. The halftime score was 56 to 32; at the final buzzer it was IUK 114, IUPUI 75. According to the (unnamed) writer for the IUK student newspaper, The Student Voice, the Normal College players were "small but husky." The leading IUPUI player was Shelton Oakes, "who muscled his way for twenty points and 11 rebounds... He didn't get much help from anyone else though and that was the story of the game." The IUK coach used his bench extensively, "substituting platoon style, five a side."
After a few hours of rest to lick their wounds, the IUPUI boys played their second game of the day against IUPU-Fort Wayne, the losers of a first-round match-up against IU-Southeast. The 6:30pm tip-off saw IUPUI rally and prevail in overtime over the Mastodons 82-79. The IUK sports reporter termed the result an upset. The IUPUI players thus took home the third-place trophy.
The Normal College players who constituted the IUPUI team were: Mike Carr; Ralph Scott; Craig Marshall; Steve Davis, Shelton Oakes; Joe Lentz; Ron Foley; Joe Stewart; Tom Steele; John Schrock; Jeff Vessely; Dave Younce; Tom Fox, and Chris Lawrie. Jeff Vessely later joined the faculty of the School of Physical Education and Tourism Management and served as a department chair and dean.
This competition escaped the notice of the two student newspapers at IUPUI, Onomatopoeia of the "Downtown Campus" and the 38th Street campus's Component. Partly for this reason, little is known about IUPUI's participation in the IUK tournament and the origins of IUPUI intercollegiate competiton.
From these humble roots the IUPUI athletic program developed. Programs for men and women soon began. IUPUI joined the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), later switching to the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) Division II and still later NCAA Division I. Starting out by fielding an unnamed team, IUPUI players later were known as the Metros, and later still the Jaguars.
We extend many thanks to Meg Galasso, archivist at IU-Kokomo, for sharing records about the 1971 tournament that saw the beginning of Jaguar history. We thereby correct an error stated in our blog post of July 30, 2018, that the IUK tournament occurred in January of 1971. Jaguar history began on March 6, 1971.
To learn more about IUPUI sports history, please contact IUPUI Special Collections and Archives firstname.lastname@example.org.