Mar 8 / Rob

It Has Been A Long Damn Time Since JMU Made the Tournament

ODU and VCU did all CAA fans proud the other night. They played a hell of a game and proved to a national tv audience that the CAA is a league to be taken seriously. And while all of this #3Bids4CAA excitement has been fun, I’m ready for JMU to return to the NCAA tournament. It has been a long time since the Dukes went dancing. A really, really long time.

JMU last played in the NCAA Tournament 17 years ago. They lost 64-62 in the first round to Florida and haven’t been back since. The game took place on March 17, 1994. It was a different world back then. The top story in the papers that morning was that Tonya Harding plead guilty to avoid jail time for her role in the attack on Nancy Kerrigan. Bryant Gumbel was the host of the Today show and didn’t even know what the internet was. I didn’t either, but I was a freshman at JMU and my roommate had a computer with a modem so we could dial-in to the VAX. I can’t remember being able to do anything other than try to register for classes once we logged in though. And that always took so long, that I bailed and just used the phone. It was a landline. You see, I was one of of only 10,825 undergraduates at JMU and I’m fairly certain not a single one of us had a cell phone. I think a couple rich kids had car phones though.

I must admit that I don’t remember exactly what I did that day. Campus was seriously buzzing for the game, especially after the way Kent Culuko got the Dukes into the tournament. It was a heck of a shot he made. It probably helped that he was wearing Reebok Pumps. Maybe I went and played ball or worked out. In Godwin Hall of course, because UREC didn’t exist. Before the game, I’m sure I ate at D-Hall or Dukes for dinner though, because there were no other options. Unless you count the steakhouse, but that was for special occasions. And I know I didn’t check my email, but I almost definitely ducked into the post office in Warren Hall to see if I had any letters in my mailbox. Maybe while I was in the building, I picked up a blue-book from the bookstore for an upcoming exam.

I wasn’t yet 21, but I know that a lot of people who were probably pregamed by drinking dime drafts at JM’s. Others probably went to Gus’s (not Dave’s) for $1.85 pitchers. And I’m sure a lot of folks partied after the game on Greek Row and got their fill of beer from kegs that cost $27 at Mike’s Chevron. Maybe some people didn’t watch the game and instead tuned into Seinfeld, the number one show on television. Others might have watched In Living Color instead. Being a college campus there was music playing everywhere. Unfortunately it might have been The Sign by Ace of Base because it was the #1 song in the country that week. And there is a good chance it was being played on tape. But for those not interested in the game, or tv, or music, the movies were an option. And quite an option it was with smash hits like Naked Gun 331/3 opening in theaters that week.

I didn’t do any of those things though. I just watched the game. In Hillside Hall. On a 19 inch color tv. I remember paying attention to half-time so that I could find out who won the day’s earlier games. There wasn’t any other way to find out, since wouldn’t launch for another year. I don’t recall many details about the game other than Clayton Ritter played like a beast and Andrew DeClercq got away with a kicked ball near the end. Even though JMU lost, it was still a great tournament. And how could it not be, guys like Dean Smith, Denny Crum, Bob Knight, John Thompson, and JMU’s Lefty Driessel coaching. And in addition to great coaches, there were some outstanding players like Grant Hill, Jason Kidd, and Glen Robinson playing in their final college games (ed. note – I’m sorry if this puts to rest the urban legend than Robinson ever played in the convo. He didn’t. JMU defeated Purdue at home the next season though after he left.) I wonder if Denzel Bowles remembers that game. Probably not. He was only 5 years old.


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  1. Mike Heffner / Mar 8 2011

    Sigh. Breeze Photo Editor from 1992-1995.

    You all are taking me back to the best 21st birthday present ever.
    March 7, 1994.

    I can still remember pulling the trigger on Culuko’s three as it left his hand – and seeing it was out of focus once I ran the film.. 🙁

    That’s my silly mullet self in the brown shirt postgame rushing the court trying to make pictures…

    It’s a travesty the Dukes have made the NCAA’s once in nearly 30 years.

  2. BK / Mar 9 2011

    You poor babies. At least JMU has BEEN to the tournament. 17 years is nothing.

  3. Jason / Mar 9 2011

    Rob – thanks for all those great detailed memories for those like me who were at JMU roughly the same time (94-98). I was a senior in HS when the Dukes lost to UF but I do recall the game since at that point I had applied to JMU and gotten in under “early decision” as they put it back then (I don’t know if JMU even does that any more). PC Dukes, Seinfeld, Greek Row, JMs, Godwin Hall (I seriously sprained my foot playing ball there my soph year). All great memories but yet the one that is missing is yes, another NCAA Tourney appearance by our beloved Men’s Dukes. I feel at least a little optimistic after this year and hopefully even with the loss of Bowles, next year brings another potential run at the CAA season title and tourney. Until then we just keep rooting for the Lady Dukes and hope they don’t get another dreaded 8/9 match up.

  4. Rob / Mar 9 2011

    Thanks for including that pic Mike. I couldn’t find any pics from the game online.

    Jason, I’m glad you enjoyed it. It brought back some fun memories when I was writing it. I think the JMU will make it back to the big dance in the next few years. I hope so at least.

  5. John / Mar 11 2011

    Good stuff Rob. My Junior year at JMU and I remember that game well…I really thought we were going to win. I played high school ball with the point guard for Florida which made the loss even more painful. I think Florida made it to the Final Four that year right? If only we had gotten by them… 🙂

  6. Bruce Bauer / Mar 16 2011

    Good article Rob on JMU making the tournament 17 years ago. Very nostalgic and good memories from back in the day… Keep up the good work.

  7. Steve J. / Mar 11 2013

    We were fortunate while I was at JMU…having played in March Madness 3 years in a row (1981, 1982, 1983) and getting a 1st round win each year over the likes of Georgetown, Ohio State, and West VA….before losing out 2 of the 3 years to a UNC team led by James Worthy, Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, Brad Daugherty, Matt Doherty, etc. I remember going to our game against UNC in the Greensboro coliseum, smuggling in toilet paper, and launching it onto the court upon our first score as was JMU tradition at the time….only to see JMU cheerleader Sally Nay get run over by a UNC player while trying to retrieve the rolls of TP. We lost that game, but what great times it was!

  8. Andy B. / Mar 12 2013

    “my roommate had a computer with a modem so we could dial-in to the VAX. I can’t remember being able to do anything other than try to register for classes once we logged in though. And that always took so long, that I bailed and just used the phone.”

    Hilarious. I was a Junior in 1994 and this brings back a lot of memories. I ruined my back hauling hundreds of kegs back from that Chevron- where you could also get a pack of Marlboro Lights for about $1.50!.

  9. Dukie95 / Mar 13 2013

    Don’t forget that you could check CNN’s Headline News (yes, they used to have news, like MTV used to have music) for scores at 20 and 50 minutes after the hour.

    I was in Paris studying abroad. I had to wait for the international version of USA Today or the News Herald to print the scores, and shelled out 6 francs for each paper, hoping the scores were there. I always got sports results 48-72 hours late.

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