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Men’s Basketball: Nostalgic night at Blackham fun despite the loss

Kevin Foote, The Advertiser, March 26, 2015

 

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UL’s Kasey Shepherd (5) puts up a shot against the University of Evansville in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT) Thursday, March 25, 2015, at Blackham Coliseum in Lafayette, La.(Photo: Leslie Westbrook, The Advertiser)

 

The UL women’s basketball team won 65-64 Thursday night at E.K. Long Gym.

For the record, that’s the exact score the men won by way back on March 14, 1985 — over Florida in the first round of the NIT to close down Blackham Coliseum as the home of the Ragin’ Cajun basketball program.

To me anyway, that’s just pretty cool.

Unfortunately, coach Bob Marlin’s men’s team wasn’t able to advance, falling 89-82 to a sharp-shooting Evansville club, much like the 1971 team did 93-74 at Evansville as well.

Yes “cool” was the proper slang back in the mid-1980s. Groovy left us when the Brady Bunch ended in the mid-1970s.

Whichever word you prefer would probably work just fine, though.

Indeed, for all those who experienced Blackham Coliseum in the Beryl Shipley or Jim Hatfield/Bobby Paschal eras and made a nostalgic return to the old barn Thursday night, it was an awful lot of fun.

To be able to shake the hand of Hatfield and see Paschal again in Blackham was just great.

No, not everything was the same. The scoreboards were in the same spots, but they weren’t red, and they didn’t have Guaranty Bank or Burger King on them. The seats in the end zone weren’t green anymore.

And the bleachers on the floor where the red dots — as well as sneaky little high school kids like me — weren’t there.

It was still Blackham, though. There were moments during Thursday’s game when it was easy for your mind to drift back to what it was like. That same old atmosphere was still there.

Is that atmosphere better than the Cajundome? For guys like me, absolutely.

But with that said, can we finally give up on all of that?

Was it really Blackham you liked that much? Would have you gone watch McNeese play Louisiana Tech or Lamar in 1979 just because the game was at Blackham?

It’s time to give it up, folks. The average attendance wouldn’t be any more if they still played all the games in Blackham, no matter what the old-school fans say.

On a novelty postseason night like Thursday, there were only 3,541 fans there.

There were 13 games at the Cajundome this year with announced crowds bigger than that. Even if you don’t totally buy all of those figures as 100 percent accurate, the point doesn’t change.

On a night where Paschal and Hatfield traveled to be at the game and the “old memories” card was clearly played, there still wasn’t half the crowd that great old building held for the Weber State second-round NIT game in 1984.

No one was sitting near the top of the S section where I sat for that great double-overtime victory.

That lingering bitterness should have been gone decades ago, but it’s time to fold up those memories now and move on.

I loved Blackham. I cherished Thursday night’s experience.

Even during Thursday’s second half, I kept wanting Drexal Allen to run out on the court and nail that patented jumper from the top of the key when the Cajuns really needed a bucket.

But it doesn’t work that way. You’ve got to move on. The Cajuns play in the Cajundome these days — at least, when it’s available.

Along with old Saints games, there’s no old sports subject I’d rather discuss than those precious games I attended at Blackham, but it’s way past time to put those feelings in their proper place.

Shawn Long said how much he enjoyed playing there after the game and even commented that he wished they could do it again. Coach Marlin talked about how much they wanted to win to help extend the legacy of playing great basketball there.

But he also commented on how hot the locker room was. There’s just no way to recruit kids there.

So thank you to all involved for giving us Thursday’s special reminder. Just watching the Cajuns play in Blackham again was plenty worth getting choked up over.

I’m sure there are those who take care of the university books who will wonder if it was worth it down the road.

For guys like me, it certainly was.

* * * * * * * * * *

Athletic Network Footnote by Ed Dugas

Click below for the video depicting the Blackham historical highlights and attend the game to view the new highlights in person.

“Tributes to Blackham” 1985 by KLFY and KATC TV (2 sections) posted by Jay Walker, ESPN 1420

Bobby Paschal coached the Cajuns in 1984-85, the team’s last season in Blackham and continued as our coach in 1985-86, his last year at USL and the Cajuns first season playing in the Cajundome.

Click here for the story by Dan McDonald in The Advertiser on Dec. 23, 2005 entitled, "The Red vs. White Game" when McNeese forgot their uniforms and wore the Cajuns’ red ones.

Players and coaches whose teams played at Blackham were recognized at half-time of the game. Coaches recognized included Jim Hatfield, Bobby Paschal, and Ricky Broussard. Players recognized included Alonza Allen, Charlie English, Kevin Figaro, Wayne Julien, Chris Landry, Eddie Mouton, and Clyde Scheufens.

The head coaches of this special group include: J.C. "Dutch" Reinhardt 1930-57, Beryl Shipley 1957-73, Jim Hatfield 1974-78, and Bobby Paschal 1978-86.

Click here for "Spotlight on Former Athlete: Hatfield/Paschal Men’s Basketball Reunion of the 1974-86 Years" – featured by Bruce Brown.

Click here for a 360 degree look at UL’s return to Blackham Coliseum by Leslie Westbrook of the Advertiser.