remember sitting in Dick Ristine's
office in Kane House a couple of days before my graduation from Wabash in
May of 1987. Dick was the Director of Development and was suddenly looking
for a sports information director to replace Brian O'Keefe '86, who had
taken a promising position with Phillips Petroleum. To Dick, I was a perfect
fit--a Wabash man who had spent three years of college working in the sports
department of the Crawfordsville radio stations, WCVL and WLFQ. For me,
however, the fit wasn't so perfect. But given the certainty of my pending
wedding date, I thought I'd take the job to polish my writing skills for
a year or so, then run off to anchor the evening news at ABC.
Josh Kendrick '97 cuts down the nets|
after the Little Giants' ICAC
Championship game victory.
This spring, I celebrated my tenth year working for Wabash
as its sports information director; it was also my last. Beginning this
summer, I will leave the sidelines and press boxes to head up Wabash's public
affairs staff. While I'm excited about the possibilities of my new position,
I will long remember with great pride and passion the ten years I spent
chasing Wabash athletic teams around the midwest, pen in pocket and camera
dangling from my shoulder; qualities that earned me the nickname "Scoop"
from Rich Calacci '91 and Mike Crnkovich '93 during a basketball trip to
The 1996-97 school year was a great one to end on, and
was filled with athletic achievements that far surpassed my expectations.
Wabash finished first or second in the Indiana Collegiate Athletic Conference
in eight of ten sports, and finished one-half point behind DePauw in the
closest all-sports race in conference history. We captured conference titles
in cross country, basketball, and swimming, and finished second in football,
soccer, wrestling, track, and baseball. In particular, I'll remember the
basketball and baseball seasons most fondly. With due respect to the talented
student-athletes in our other eight varsity sports, the efforts of the basketball
and baseball teams surprised the conference coaches, as well as those of
us close to the programs.
In basketball, Wabash was picked to finish sixth in the
seven-team ICAC. Coach Mac Petty's team tied for the regular season title,
won the conference tournament championship, posted a 24-5 record, and advanced
to the second round of the NCAA playoffs. In baseball, Scott Boone's Little
Giants, picked fifth in the pre-season, finished second in the ICAC and
set an all-time Wabash record with 25 wins--the most in any sport in the
College's history. Both teams not only battered the record books, but also
gave me plenty to write about.
Writing about Wabash student-athletes has provided me with
more opportunities than I ever could have imagined ten years ago on that
warm afternoon in Dick Ristine's office. The years have flown by as quickly
as the athletic seasons themselves, and while so many of the seasons have
become unclear blurs in my memory, the people--Wabash athletes and coaches--stand
out distinctly. So in what might just be my last "Speaking of Sports"
column, I thought I'd share a few of my own personal highlights from the
last decade I've spent as Wabash's number one sports fan.
- John Panozzo '89 set a Wabash College record by hitting
.471 as Wabash's starting shortstop my first year on the job, 1988, the
same year Wabash went 21-13 and played the first college game at the Kansas
City Royals' spring training facility, Boardwalk and Baseball.
- In the winter of 1988, I got to see not one, but two
Little Giant basketball players go over 1,000 career points. Chris Whitfield
'88 (1,473 points) and Steve Cox '88 (1,114 points) scored profusely for
a team that hammered a heavily favored DePauw team by 19 points in the
- I was also privileged to cheer on two of the finest players
ever to score goals for Wabash's soccer team, James Freeman '89 and Michael
Clump '97. Not only do they rank first and third respectively on Wabash's
all-time scoring charts, both were brilliant students and league most valuable
- Tom Puschak '89 was also an excellent science student
at Wabash, and he's the only individual national champion I've ever seen
compete. He set Wabash and ICAC track and field records in the hammer throw,
and was the 1989 national champion in that event.
- Wabash's top two all-time winningest wrestlers competed
during my run as SID. Heavyweight Chris Ervin '91 posted a career record
of 119-33-2, while during the same four-year period, middleweight Jason
Albaugh '91 posted a 104-15-4 mark.
- In my first four Monon Bell football games, Wabash produced
an 0-4 record. At first I thought it was me; that is until rookie tailback
David Kogan '95 rushed for 136 yards and the game-winning touchdown in
a 23-18 Wabash victory in 1991, a win that brought Wabash its first of
three ICAC football crowns in the last decade.
- I thought I had written a pretty good citation for the
Athletic Hall of Fame induction of Chris Passodelis '55 back in 1993. I
only wish the entire Wabash family could have heard his acceptance speech.
His moving account of his arrival at Wabash on a train from Western Pennsylvania
made every person in the room weep with pride and admiration.
- In 1993, Sports Illustrated paid Wabash a couple
of visits and ran a seven-page story on the Monon Bell rivalry. As sports
information director, I thought I had reached my peak when I opened my
issue and saw Sean Lyons '95 and Andy Dorrel '94 hoisting the Monon Bell
away from Blackstock Stadium. I changed my mind a year later, and surpassed
my 1993 feelings when ESPN2 televised the Bell game live from Little Giant
Stadium. George Lino '96 ran all over the Tigers as the biggest "Little"
Giant ever. My long-time broadcasting hero, Tom Mees, called the game for
ESPN2, but died tragically when rescuing his daughter from drowning in
the family's swimming pool a little over a year later.
- The 1995 Wabash cross country team featured the "Three
Amigos" in Roger Busch '96, Scott Gall '96, and Jeremy Wright '96,
all of whom were two-time All-Americans. Together they won four straight
ICAC cross country championships and placed among the top 11 teams in Division
III all four years. In 1995, I trekked to LaCrosse, Wisconsin to witness
Wabash's third place national finish, a mark that would land Coach Rob
Johnson National Coach of the Year honors.
- And the swimmers. I'd be remiss if I didn't salute Coach
Gail Pebworth's 1991 and 1993 swimming teams that placed eighth at the
National Championships behind multiple All-American performances. Twenty
school records have been set during the last decade alone as Wabash swimmers
and divers continue to redefine excellence.
I've left off this list hundreds of Wabash men who have
competed for the love of sport and for the gratification of competition.
Some have become All-Americans and others simply strived to achieve a lifetime
best performance. All contributed to the success of Wabash College, and
in turn motivated me to reach deeper than I thought I could to produce my
very best each time out. Thanks, gentlemen, for allowing me to walk your
sidelines, sit your benches, and be a part of your athletic accomplishments.