Wednesday’s news regarding senior center Matt Kavanaugh came as a surprise to some.
It isn’t every day that the starting center of the University of Dayton men’s basketball team is suspended from school and will miss his senior season. Some may be wondering though about where this incident belongs in the history of UD men’s basketball.
Now, for most of you out there, it’s going to come as a bit of a shock that the men’s basketball program isn’t as squeaky clean as you believe. But, it isn’t Penn State football either.
Throughout the program’s history, there have been a few instances of incoming recruits not being academically eligible to play their freshman season, mostly during the era of former coach Oliver Purnell.
But something of this magnitude hasn’t happened since the 1960s, when Dayton was put on a two-year probation by the NCAA and lost arguably the greatest player ever to play for UD in Roger Brown.
Brown, from New York City, was one of the top high school recruits, along with basketball immortal Connie Hawkins, who played in the ABA and NBA as well as for the Harlem Globetrotters.
Both would only play one season of college ball, and not because they decided to turn pro.
Brown’s freshman season of 1961-1962 saw the Flyers finally win the National Invitational Tournament – the best postseason tournament in those days – after five runner-up finishes in the 1950s. Former players say the only time they saw coach Tom Blackburn smile was when he walked onto the floor in Madison Square Garden to accept the championship trophy.
Blackburn wasn’t smiling for long as the NCAA came knocking on the door of the reigning national champs.
It turns out Brown and Hawkins were known to associate with Jack Molinas, who was involved with point shaving in college basketball. His illegal activities nearly crippled the college game forever.
Brown and Hawkins were never accused or suspected of participating in point shaving.
The investigation also found that UD had provided transportation for Brown to go back home to appear in court for a traffic charge, according to the front page story of the Nov. 2, 1962 edition of the Flyer News. These violations by the university resulted in a two-year probation with Dayton being ineligible for postseason play.
At the time, UD students were shocked.
One student wanted to know how the NCAA could “expect Dayton to play big-time basketball when other big schools” were doing the same thing. Another student was flabbergasted saying, “Isn’t that horrible! Isn’t it the most depressing thing you’ve ever heard?”
To these students, it was the end.
It seems history might have repeated itself.
UD Vice President and Director of Athletics Tim Wabler was at a similar loss for words at Wednesday’s press conference when asked how rare this situation really is.
“400 student athletes a year participate at the University of Dayton,” Wabler said. “I’ve been here for close to 20 years, this is the first time I’ve been through something like this.”
For many Flyers, this is the first time something this scarring has happened. But maybe down the road sometime in the future, things will once again get back to normal.