Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Utah Classic

The Utah Classic is something we started back in 1968. We'd invite three teams from across the country to play a two-round tournament. It was just another chance to lure some big-name teams to town and treat our fans to a good old fashioned hoops tourney. We managed to bring in some respectable schools and always hoped we'd be playing the headliner for the title.

The most memorable was in 1969. We hosted San Francisco, Bradley and Michigan State; the Dons were our first-round opponent. We were sluggish but played well enough to win.  At one point early in the first half, I had to sit Mike Newlin down for a while to make him refocus.

The win put us against Ralph Simpson and the Spartans for the tournament championship. It was a back-and-forth affair for most of the first half.  But then we really put it together. We ended the half on a 19-0 run and cruised in the second half for a big win. How about that?! Simpson ended the game with 32 points, though it wasn't enough to counter our solid shooting.  I remember we cleared the bench that game.

(It so happens we hosted the Michigan Wolverines two nights later. It wasn't part of the Utah Classic -- just another non-conference game. Rudy Tomjanovich and Mike Newlin played out of their minds. Rudy T. finished with 42 pts/11 rebs; but we were the victors behind Newlin's 32 pt/17 reb performance).

The Utah Classic was discontinued after the 1988-89 season so Utah could go play in other preseason events across the country. But Utah has started hosting tournaments again, albeit in a round-robin format. This year it's the Global Sports Hoops Showcase. Past tournament champions include:

Global Sports Hoops Showcase
Season Tournament Champion Host School
2010-11 Samford Auburn
2011-12 Oregon Oregon
2012-13 Wyoming Wyoming

So there you have it. Let's go win us a trophy!


  1. You appear to have been around for as long as me. Your commentary on origins of Utah Classic bring back memories. Couple of corrections. Ralph Sampson played for Virginia (in early 80s; beat Dannie Ainge and Y in regional final in 1981) and did not appear in 1969 Utah Classic. Rudy Tomjanovich played for Michigan State and it was probably he who scored 32 points in that game. I sat in the stands for the games but I don't recall how many he scored but it was a lot and I still recall how impressive he was.

  2. The Ghost of Jack GardnerNovember 27, 2013 at 5:57 PM

    It was a long time ago and my memory is a bit hazy sometimes. However, Rudy T. was certainly a Wolverine; and the Spartans were led that season by Ralph SIMPSON (not to be confused with Ralph SAMPSON).