The Origins of Snowboarding in Utah

by STEPHEN KONKLER

Snowboarding began in 1965 with the invention of the “Snurfer.” Sherman Poppen, an engineer and father in Michigan, invented the first prototype of a snowboard as a toy for his daughter by attaching two skis together side by side and putting a rope at the very front of the board for control. (TransWorld, Part 1) Not long after, snowboarding took off nationwide, and it wasn’t long before fanatics made it out to Utah for the lightest snow on earth.

Although it’s not mentioned much in Utah’s history books, Utah has been a home to snowboarding, and a dominant destination for the sport since the early 1970s. Alta Ski Area, one of the oldest ski areas in the US, started out as a small mining camp in Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon in the 1920s and 1930s. Alta opened its doors to skiers in 1936, and years later in the 1970s became the first ski area in Utah to allow snowboarders to ride the slopes, with Snowbird Ski Resort close behind. (Scheuerman, “Snowboarding”)

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Dimitrije Milovich rides his Winterstick snowboard. Photo by Alan K. Engen. Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

With a newfound sport on the rise and an open market demanding snowboards, a young man by the name of Dimitrije Milovich found his way to Utah and set out to invent the first snowboard without a rope for the rider to hang onto. (TransWorld, Part 1) With the help of famous surfboard shaper Wayne Stoveken, Milovich invented the first snowboard that used plastic for the base and metal on the edges of the board to help grip the snow. (Winterstick Advertisement) Milovich started out testing his prototypes at Snowbird and at Alta Ski Area. (Although Alta was willing to let Milovich test his newly designed equipment there, the area subsequently closed to snowboarders in 1984. It has yet to reopen to anyone but skiers, despite being on public land.) By 1971, Milovich had a couple of patents for his state of the art “snow surfboards” and had opened a shop to sell his aptly named “Winterstick Swallowtails” in none other than Salt Lake City, Utah. (TransWorld, Part 1)

Although the sport of snowboarding continued to grow, not only in Utah but also across the country, some skiers weren’t very happy to share the slopes with this newfound sport and the culture that followed. After a skier crashed at Stratton Mountain, a resort in Vermont, and sued the ski area, management was forced to create ski-at-your-own-risk laws and ban all non-traditional skiing sports. Snowboarding as well as telemark skiing were both considered too dangerous, and resorts started banning both all across the country. With few snowboarders willing to hike mountains to be able to ride, Milovich had to close the doors of his Winterstick stores in Utah in 1982.

But Milovich wasn’t done with owning a business. He and a man named Dwain Bush opened a windsurfing shop named Milosport. Later, it became a snowboard shop when the sport started to get back into the mainstream in the late 1980s. (Scheuerman, “Snowboarding”) Milosport is now the most popular snowboard shop in Utah, and has led the pack for snowboarding’s revolution in Utah since 1988.

After years of battling resorts for the return of snowboarding, in 1986 Beaver Mountain in Logan, Utah, was the first resort in Utah to open back up to snowboarders. (Halcomb, Part 1) After the sport of snowboarding stayed in the backcountry and off of the resort slopes for years, places like Brighton Resort, Powder Mountain, Sundance Resort, Snowbird, and many others started to see the return of snowboarding on their slopes. Although resorts all over Utah were welcoming back snowboarders, it wasn’t without stipulations. A rider certification card was required to use a snowboard at most resorts, to indicate that the rider could turn and stop without harming any skiers. (Scheuerman, “Re-search”)

Leading the pack in the fight to bring snowboarding back to resorts across the nation was a man named Dennis Nazari. Nazari was born in California and moved to Utah with his parents as a kid. Although Nazari spent most of his childhood in California, he was quick to pick up skiing and eventually snowboarding in Utah. After searching many ski shops in town, Nazari was able to locate and buy a snowboard at a local ski shop in Salt Lake City, which he rode primarily at Alta Ski Area, until they banned snowboards on Christmas Day of 1984. (Sheehan)

After Alta banned snowboarding, Nazari started the Southwest Surf Skiers Association, a program designed to get snowboards back on the slopes of resorts in Utah. (Halcomb, Part 1)

The SSSA was a program dedicated to educating people about the safety measures of snowboarding, and certifying that snowboarders could safely ride down the hill of a resort without injuring anyone else on hill. Nazari would drive up to Logan on the weekends to educate and certify riders. The rider would get an A, AA, or AAA, depending on how good they were at maneuvering their snowboard, with AAA being the best. (Halcomb, Dennis Nazari) After developing the idea of the rider certification card, Nazari brought snowboarding back to resorts all over Utah. (Sheehan)

Although snowboarding was becoming popular again in 1986, Milovich’s doors were still closed, which meant no one had anywhere to buy a snowboard. So in 1987, Dennis Nazari opened up a shop called Salty Peaks to cater strictly to snowboarding and the people interested in the sport. Not only did the shop sell the only snowboard gear available in Salt Lake City, but Nazari also started an official shop snowboarding team, dubbed the “Salty 8,” Utah’s first snowboarders to be sponsored for riding. All this was helping to make Salt Lake City and the rest of Utah a major hub for the culture and the sport itself. (Scheuerman, “Re-search”)

Utah is home to a very large ski and snowboarding community, so much that the license plates even claim the state has the “Greatest snow on earth.” Snowboarding’s culture and industry will continue to grow around the world as well as in Utah, while creating jobs at resorts, shops, local businesses, and elsewhere in Salt Lake City. With an industry booming and more people moving to Utah for the snow all the time, snowboarding will always have a home in Salt Lake City.

Stephen Konkler is a senior at The University of Utah, majoring in communication and minoring in design.

Sources

Erin Halcomb, “Dennis Nazari, an interview by Erin Halcomb,” March 28, 2012, Everette L Cooley Collection, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Erin Halcomb, “Josh Scheuerman, an interview by Erin Halcomb, part 1,” November 8, 2011, Everette L Cooley Collection, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Erin Halcomb, “Josh Scheuerman, an interview by Erin Halcomb, part 2,” December 6, 2011, Everette L Cooley Collection, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Paul J. MacArthur, “Snowboarding, It’s Older Than You Think,” International Skiing Association, December 1, 2016, http://bit.ly/2oVZwMI.

Josh Scheuerman, “Snowboarding in Utah: An Adolescent Sport Grows Up,” Sports Guide, Winter 2009, 10-14. http://bit.ly/2pspLva

Josh Scheuerman, “Re-search and Destroy: A Brief History of Snowboarding’s Roots in Utah,” SLUG Magazine, March 2001, 6-7. http://www.slugmag.com/pdf/147-March-2001.pdf

Sheehan, Gavin. “Salty Peaks.” City Weekly, August 242009. http://bit.ly/2nM5v75

“Snowboard History Timeline, Part 1.” TransWorld Snowboarding, http://bit.ly/2mqe7T7

“Snowboard History Timeline, Part 2.” TransWorld Snowboardinghttp://bit.ly/2mHJeW0

Advertisement for Winterstick, Newsweek, March 1975.

Creating and Building the Pride of Utah Marching Band, 1940s-1960s

by MACKENZIE McDERMOTT

On October 10, 1940, the Utah Chronicle reported the exciting news that the University of Utah band would present its new “costumes” to the student body “with some display of marching” at the upcoming Homecoming game. The article also noted that the new leader, Joseph C. Clive, promised “new and greater activity for the year.” But it wasn’t until 1948, according to Jay L. Slaughter, that the Pride of Utah Marching Band “reorganized.” That meant that the group, which had been established as a military band to perform military drills during halftime at football games, transformed into a 120-piece “marching unit using fast cadence [tempo, or speed of music] and fully uniformed.” (Slaughter, 8) The band stopped running military drills and started putting on shows that would be performed during halftime; they also started working on music to play at other school events. When the band was reorganized, the organization lobbied to expand the program. The band never competed in formal marching competitions, but was constantly being compared, in quality, to other bands across the nation.

The year that the band made the transition, it began to pick up speed with a guest conductor, Ronald D. Gregory. The Salt Lake Telegram reported on July 12, 1948, that he had been hired to lead the band. Gregory, a graduate of Ohio State University, conducted the band in a six-week course. One of his main goals, as reported by the Salt Lake Telegram on July 12, 1948, and the Utah Chronicle on July 14, was to prepare for a football game in Los Angeles that would be held on September 17. Gregory received $5,000 to purchase new instruments and uniforms for the band. The Utah Chronicle shared some of the ways the University of Utah marching band planned to impress the Southern California Trojans with “showy marching formations and such unusual designs as a moving covered wagon with rolling wheels.” Despite the band being bigger than it ever had been, with 120 people, the Sugar House Bulletin reported in August that the band was still looking for and auditioning people to join.

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A band marches in a parade associated with The University of Utah’s homecoming celebration. Courtesy of Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

In 1952, the marching band’s success was still being attributed to Gregory. The Daily Utah Chronicle reported that “much of the credit for a superior band should be given to Ronald Gregory.” According to the article, he was the first in the West to march the band group as fast as 180 beats per minute, and was one of the first to have a themed show for halftime. Marching Utes, members of the marching band in 1952, were also mentioned in the article for forming a block U on the field to create a “brilliant show.” At that time, all 120 members of the band would practice every day for an hour, along with extra rehearsals before games, for one and a half credit hours.

In Slaughter’s The Marching Band, he includes a survey that he based some of his findings on. One of the questions was designed to find out if band directors across the nation preferred men or women for the position of drum major, who are the student leaders of the band. The survey showed that most directors did indeed prefer men to women in this leadership position, although in 1958, the Salt Lake Times advertised for majorette tryouts at the U. The major and majorette auditions in 1958 were open to both men and women, putting the U ahead of many other bands across the nation that required men for the role. Auditions for the position were for university students, as well as high school seniors, who were eligible and willing to try for the position. Drum majors at this time would often twirl batons to infuse the audience with excitement.

After Gregory’s leadership, the Pride of Utah was able to gain high marks all across the nation under the direction of Forrest D. Stoll, who took over in the 1950s. By then, the Ute marching band was being ranked alongside some of the best marching bands in the country. According to a story published in the Chronicle on October 30, 1959, the band was comparable to those at institutions including UCLA and Michigan State University. The campus newspaper acknowledged Stoll’s “fine directorship” and commended his “capable assistant,” Loel Hepworth. “These two men work very hard to maintain the high standards of the Utah band,” noted the reporter. The consistently high standards held by Stoll and Hepworth pushed the band toward greatness. The Chronicle also mentioned the drum major, Lamar Williams, and the baton twirler, Karen Berger, who were strong examples of hard work for the band, as well as the entire university. The band at the time could not have been made possible without the hard work of each of these individuals.

The marching band at the University of Utah owes much of its success to a six-week guest conductor and all of the highly dedicated students who choose to give up their time to play a part in something greater than themselves. Today, the marching band has reached over 150 students under the direction of Dr. Brian Sproul. These students take two hours out of their day, Monday through Friday, and give extra time on days of football games. On game days, the band goes from tailgaters, an event where fans park cars and trailers and often indulge in barbeque before the game; to the Ute walk, where the fight song is played repeatedly as the team enters the stadium; to a performance on the field before the game (pregame); to the actual game and halftime. The University of Utah Pride of Utah Marching Band still performs in home games and across the nation for away games. But the group doesn’t just play at sporting events. The band can also be heard playing in ceremonies at the University of Utah, and welcoming incoming freshmen with the University’s fight song. The band continues to strive for excellence to live up to their name, Pride of Utah.

Mackenzie McDermott is a freshman at the University of Utah, majoring in journalism McDermott has participated in concert bands for seven years in Las Vegas, Nevada. Throughout her time at Cadwallader Middle School and Las Vegas Academy of the Arts, a performing arts high school, she played the flute. She marched for the Pride of Utah Marching Band, and played piccolo, in Fall 2016. She performed in a University of Utah concert ensemble, on flute, in Spring 2017.

Sources

Bob Foreman, “Ute marching band ranks high,” Utah Daily Chronicle, October 30, 1959.

“U. of U. to Conduct Majorette Tryouts,” Salt Lake Times, May 9, 1958.

“The Last March,” Utah Daily Chronicle, December 1, 1952.

“U. Names Band Leader For 6-Week Course,” Salt Lake Telegram, July 12, 1948.

“U band gets guest conductor, $5000,” Utah Chronicle, July 14, 1948.

“Positions Open In Largest Band In U of U History,” Sugar House Bulletin, August 6, 1948.

“Man of the hour! Gregory talk of Uteville after band revamping,” Utah Chronicle, October 7, 1948.

“University Band Elects Chiefs For New Season,” Utah Chronicle, October 10, 1940.

The University of Utah Marching Band: 1965 handbook. Salt Lake City, Utah, 1965.

Slaughter, Jay Leon. The Marching Band. Department of Music, University of Utah, 1950.

 

 

Horse Racing at the Utah State Fair and Pari-Mutuel Betting

by HALIE BERRY

The Utah State Fair has been a cornerstone of Utah history even before Utah became a state in 1896. The original development of the fair was to promote “self-sufficiency” within agricultural production. The first fair, known as the “Deseret Fair,” was held in October 1856 under the supervision of the Deseret Agricultural and Manufacturing Society.

After its opening, the fair received little financial help from the Territorial Legislature and moved to various locations. Nevertheless, it was able to persevere as an annual event and in 1902 the Legislature purchased 65 acres for the purpose of assisting the local community. (Utah State Fair History)

In this pursuit, the fair had become a favored part of the horse racing industry in Utah. Horse races were featured on a new track and a covered grandstand welcomed spectators dressed in their best attire to enjoy the event. By 1909, horse racing in Utah developed similar rules and regulations to that of other organizations around the country and continued to gain increased popularity. Despite the success of the horse racing industry, there was rising opposition against it. Track owners were considered biased in the handling of wagering and during that time bookmakers were hired by the track. Utah had no state agency to oversee and/or regulate bookmaking of the horse races. (Westergren, 7)

By 1913, the belief of “dishonesty” within horse racing clouded the industry and the Salt Lake Herald and the Deseret News wrote lengthy editorials in 1909 and 1913 about the problems horse racing caused and why it should be banned. Westergren summarizes the reasons they offered, including: “The ‘fixing’ of races by dishonest horse owners and jockeys who ‘fleeced the public’ rather than providing, good, honest sport; the loss of spectators’ money in wagering at the track, depriving honest local merchants of sales and profits; the rise in crime that generally accompanied racing meets; and the moral impact of horse race gambling on individuals and families.” By February 17, 1913, Governor William Spry signed an anti-racing law initiated by Charles R. Mabey. The legislature passed the bill after a month-long “acrimonious debate.” (Westergren, 8)

In February 19, 1925, the Salt Lake Telegram reported that Representative Charles Redd had proposed a bill to the Legislature to legalize pari-mutuel betting and horse racing under a new state horse racing commission. Redd believed that horse racing was “the sport of kings” and should be re-established in the Utah industry. The bill proposed that the governor appoint a three-member committee to control the pari-mutuel betting system under new regulations by the commission. The bill gained traction among the legislature, but in March 1925, according to the Salt Lake Telegram, Sen. Herbert S. Auerbach considered the races “to be the most vicious forms of gambling and would bring into the state the worst riffraff of its kind.” This quote came after Auerbach admitted to not being “strait-laced” and dipping his hand in betting on a few races at the track.

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A large crowd ventures to the Utah State Fairpark to watch horse racing in 1907. Shipler Commercial Photographers Collection, Mss C 275, Utah State Historical Society. Reprinted with permission.

Despite some pushback, the House Legislature passed the proposed bill on March 7, 1925, by a vote of 41 to 4 with ten members absent and by March 11, 1925, the Senate passed the bill by a vote of 12 to 5 with three absent. The law was signed by Governor George Dern and became effective on May 12, 1925. For the first time in twelve years, the horse racing industry was revived and the pari-mutuel betting system was now legal. Many who approved the bill believed horse racing was a “clean” and “respectable” sport and that the new law would encourage breeders to produce competitive offspring, bringing in a renewed source of revenue into the state. (Westergren, 8-9)

By April 1925, the fairgrounds needed improvements. Fred Dahnken and William P. Kyne, well-known men in the horse racing industry who conducted successful races in Phoenix and Reno, proposed a deal with the state fair board and were approved for a $60,000 track deal to develop horse racing over the next ten years at the Utah State Fairgrounds. According to the Salt Lake Telegram, this agreement included improvements to the existing grandstand, paddocks, jockey room, horse stalls, and fences.

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Two racers wait outside the fairgrounds in 1908. Shipler Commercial Photographers Collection, Mss C 275, Utah State Historical Society. Reprinted with permission.

As opening day drew nearer, things were in full swing to prepare for the event. The Salt Lake Telegram reported on June 6, 1925, that a new chute would be added to the track, extending the length of the race to run up to a three-quarter-mile. Artisans put final touches on the barns, pari-mutuel booths were set up, and jockeys and exercise boys warmed up horses on the track. On June 8, the Salt Lake Telegram announced the program of the State Fair’s “Inaugural Day” and informed readers that July 2 would kick off the horse racing season with a $1,500 purse.

The Salt Lake Telegram reported on July 1:  “Several carloads of horses, in prime condition, arrived at the track today and yesterday and still more are due this evening which will swell the number of equine nobility to participate in the coming meeting to a full 400 head.” C. B. Irwin, owner of at least 21 thoroughbreds at the races, believed his top horse that he called the “route-goer,” Lizette, would be the one to beat. “He would run her from the car to the track, that’s how good he thinks Lizette is,” observed the newspaper. At last, July 2, one of the most anticipated days of the year, arrived and the Utah State Fair officially opened the races under the new Horse Racing Commission. A large number of people ventured to the track to take in and bet on some of the top thoroughbreds competing.

The new system controlled the odds of the race; no jockey, bookie or horse owner could “fix” the race ahead of time. The minimum wager was $2.00. Bettors could choose from three types of tickets to place on a horse: win, place, or show, similar to other races. According to Westergren, “This ticket system was universally used at all tracks where the pari-mutuel system was functioning. The rules placed no limit on the number of tickets a bettor could buy. He might put down money on every horse in the race if he chose. However, payoff came only if the participant held a ticket for a horse that finished in one of the first three positions.” Tickets purchased from a pari-mutuel betting machine were cashed in to verify receipt of the wager amount. Odds were based on the wagers at the track and the money collected from their bets, rather than fixed, random odds by a bookie. Therefore, bettors wagered against themselves. Once expenses were paid to the state and licensed track owner, the remainder of the pool was divided among those with winning tickets. (Westergren, 12, 10)

The Salt Lake Telegram reported on July 3, 1925, “Women dressed in their fine summer clothes added a touch of color to the scene. The pari-mutuel machines received a good play, a fact which testified by the clicking one constantly heard as wagers were made.” The day was considered an overall success, according to William P. Kyne, the general manager of the State Fair races. On July 3, 1925, the Salt Lake Telegram highlighted, “Running strongly to the front, Lizette never placed the issue to doubt and ran to victory with more than two lengths to spare,” living up to Irwin’s expectations. It was estimated that between 3,500 and 10,000 attended opening day, including Heber J. Grant, the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Governor George H. Dern, Salt Lake City Mayor C. Clarence Nelsen, and several other government officials. (Westergren, 14)

Overall, the races were financially successful as they hoped; from May 12, 1925, through the end of 1926, it was reported that racing brought in an additional $129,646 in total revenue. Business and community support was at an all-time high. But by February 1927, public concern with ethical issues of horse racing and betting affected support for the sport. Just two years after the passage of Representative Redd’s bill, pari-mutuel betting would again be banned by the Utah Legislature after accusations of corruption. (Westergren, 15)

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Horses and buggies race to an exciting finish in 1904. Shipler Commercial Photographers Collection, Utah State Historical Society. Reprinted with permission.

In March 1992, the Davis County Clipper reported that Utah horse breeders had filed a petition to get pari-mutuel betting on the ballot, which would give counties the right to decide whether or not they would approve pari-mutuel wagering at horse races in their jurisdiction. According to the article, “The funds collected in the pari-mutuel wagering will be used to support the public, promote economic growth and reduce taxes.” Even though the bill made it on the ballot, late opposition from the LDS church prevented the bill from passing.

It’s been 90 years since pari-mutuel horse race betting has been legal. However, the positive impact it had on Utah’s economy shows the progressive role it can play today. It’s reported that the Utah State Fairgrounds is in a state of distress. Brian Grimmett of KUER reported on March 27, 2014, that an audit by the Utah State Auditor found the Utah State Fair Corporation is highly subsidized compared to similar state fairs around the country: “The legislature has given the fair more than $6.8 million since 2004. Meanwhile, attendance has decreased almost every year since hitting a peak in 2008.” Many of these concerns are due to the crumbling infrastructure. Legislative auditors are concerned if a plan to update and improve fair park facilities isn’t in place, the State Fair will be destitute in a few years, reported Judy Fahys of KUER.

The horse racing/breeding industry is an established sport in Utah. Allowing pari-mutuel betting or a similar system would be an incentive for members of the community to get involved, support the races and generate a year-round source of income to update and maintain current buildings at the state fairgrounds. Pamela Wood of the Baltimore Sun reported on March 18, 2016, that a new track deal allowed off-track betting at the Maryland State Fair all year. It was projected to generate upward of $500,000 per year in revenue for the Maryland Jockey Club, horsemen, and building upkeep and maintenance. Passing a similar bill here in Utah would allow the state fair to create new sources of revenue while continuing the tradition of the fairgrounds for future generations.

Halie Berry graduated in May 2017 from The University of Utah with a Bachelor of Science degree in mass communication with an emphasis in sports broadcasting.

Sources

“Huge Throng Thrilled as Lizette Wins Feature of Opening Day,” Salt Lake Telegram, July 3, 1925.

Track and Equipment is Ready for Opening Event,” Salt Lake Telegram, July 1, 1925.

Program Announced for the First Five Days’ Racing,” Salt Lake Telegram, June 8, 1925.

“Fair Grounds Race Track to Have ‘Chute Added,’” Salt Lake Telegram, June 6, 1925.

“Fair Grounds Track Deal is Made,” Salt Lake Telegram, April 15, 1925.

Senate Overrides Dern’s Veto of McCarty Election Measure; Utah Horse Racing Bill Passes,” Salt Lake Telegram, March 12, 1925.

“Solon Revives Horse Races in House Measure,” Salt Lake Telegram, February 19, 1925.

Horse Breeders Want Pari-Mutual Vote,” Davis County Clipper, March 31, 1992.

Our History.” Utah State Fair, http://utahstatefair.com/history

Fahys, Judy. “State Fair Park’s Future Remains Uncertain.” KUER, June 19, 2014, http://kuer.org/post/state-fair-parks-future-remains-uncertain#stream/0

Grimmett, Brian. “Utah State Fair Under-Attended and Over-Subsidized.” KUER, March 27, 2014, http://bit.ly/2pm6r2R.

Luhm, Steve. History of Horse Racing in Utah.” The Salt Lake Tribune, May 2, 2006http://bit.ly/2plUp9n.

Westergren, Brian N. “Utah’s Gamble with Pari-Mutuel Betting in the Early Twentieth Century.” Utah Historical Quarterly 57, no. 1 (Winter 1989): 4-23.

Wood, Pamela. “Community, state fair reach deal on off-track betting at the fairgrounds,” Baltimore Sun, March 18, 2016, http://bsun.md/21ALmMz.

 

 

Brigham Young University Athletics “blind-cited” by National Women’s Law Center on 25th anniversary of Title IX

by MICHAEL CHARLES WATERS

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in any education program or activity that receives federal funding.

Twenty-five years after it was enacted, Brigham Young University found itself in trouble with the federal law. The law was signed in 1972 by President Richard Nixon to give equality to women in programs that provide education. The law states:

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” (United States Congress)

The Salt Lake Tribune reported on March 2, 1997, that BYU claimed its athletics program had given varsity status to sports in which female athletes had shown interest and ability to compete. BYU women’s athletic director Elaine Michaelis said BYU had what it needed for quality programs, but that there were some areas that needed improving. She also pointed to progress with upgrading women’s locker rooms, ensuring that practice facilities were equal, and adding a women’s soccer team to increase the number of women’s scholarships. But, in order to afford scholarships for women’s soccer, BYU had to shift money from the men’s sports. One of those sports was men’s wrestling.

The Deseret News reported on March 11, 1997, that BYU wrestling was on the bubble and was close to discontinuation. Head wrestling coach Mark Schultz was having a difficult time recruiting athletes to BYU, because scholarships were scarce due to BYU’s continued efforts to comply with Title IX. Funds were being taken from wrestling and reallocated to other areas, and Schultz was told his position would be adjusted to part-time status. Athletic director Rondo Fehlberg, who was an All-American wrestler at BYU in the early 1970s, had mentioned that his preference was to add sports instead of dropping them. But if it became necessary for gender-equity, he would drop wrestling. Per former U.S. Department of Justice policy advisor Jessica Gavora:

“…No men’s program is exempted, no matter how successful or established… Brigham Young University eliminated its top-10-ranked men’s gymnastics team and its top-25-ranked wrestling team.” (53)

BYU’s head track coach Willard Hirschi also had some troubles with Title IX. Hirschi said in an interview with the Deseret News on March 13, 1997, that the men’s team was only allowed 12 scholarships for 19 events, while the women’s team was awarded 18 scholarships. Part of the reason women had more track scholarships than men is that an imbalance is created by the large number of football players awarded scholarships. The total number of financial awards allocated to other men’s teams is then adjusted accordingly. This didn’t sit well with Hirschi.

TitleIXComplianceCommitteeCharter11-25-13_0

The first page of the charter prepared by the Title IX Compliance Committee at Brigham Young University.

The Deseret News, BYU’s own Daily Universe, and The Salt Lake Tribune reported on June 3 and June 4, 1997, that the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) filed complaints against 25 schools, including BYU, stating that the institutions were not in compliance with Title IX. The complaint alleged that female varsity athletes were not receiving the same benefits by way of scholarships as the men were.

R. J. Snow, vice president for advancement at BYU, said in an interview with the Deseret News on June 3 that the institution was making considerable advancements when it came to women’s collegiate athletics. He also said that the motivation behind the complaints directed at BYU and other institutions, including Utah State University, was mainly for publicity and that the NWLC went to the media first before contacting the listed schools. In a statement to the Deseret News, NWLC co-President Marcia D. Greenberger said female athletes were putting forth a lot of effort, but were getting the short end of the stick when it came to getting scholarships.

The Daily Universe reported on June 4, 1997, that the complaint’s purpose was to have the schools in violation work with the Office of Education for Civil Rights. According to what Michaelis told the Universe, BYU had been doing just that for the past three years. The Universe also reported that the claims requested that women’s teams have equal locker space, the same quality of media guides and the same room and board opportunities as male athletes. After a random audit two years prior to the claims from the NWLC, BYU completed a new women’s locker room that provided more space. But Michaelis said the national scene was changing and BYU needed to look further at improving the women’s program. Otherwise, BYU would lose all federal funding.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported on June 4, 1997, that the BYU student body was made up of 52 percent women, but that women only made up 38 percent of the school’s varsity athletes. They also reported that the women’s varsity teams only received 30 percent of the school’s monetary awards in athletic-related student aid. This was an infraction of Title IX.

On June 7, 1997, The Salt Lake Tribune published another story stating that it was odd to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Title IX by filing complaints against just 25 schools. Indeed, as Fort Worth Star-Telegram journalist Andy Frielander reported, there were 305 Division I schools in the National Collegiate Athletics Association in 1997. The Tribune’s article reiterates the complaint that the 25 schools should offer the same number of scholarships between women and men as well as a standard that the percentage of woman in the student body should equal the percentage of female varsity athletes. The Tribune also quotes Title XIV as it pertains to athletic scholarships:

“To the extent that a recipient awards athletic scholarships or grants-in-aid, it must provide reasonable opportunities for such awards for members of each sex in proportion to the number of students of each sex participating in interscholastic or intercollegiate athletics.” (U.S. Department of Education)

The Tribune added that institutions of higher learning should strive for gender equity in both participation and scholarship awards.

On June 20, 1997, syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman wrote in the Deseret News that Title IX has not equalized opportunities for women in sports.

“In 1972, Title IX was passed in the name of fairness. Why pay the tax dollars so our sons could play but not our daughters? But the playing field is not yet truly level. There is barely a school in the country in which the proportion of women athletes matches the proportion of women students.”

Gordon Monson of The Salt Lake Tribune reported on December 9, 1997, that Michaelis said that Title IX has helped women gain many opportunities in sports. Female athletes were starting to get more of what the men got.

On December 11, 2011, the Daily Universe reported that the playing field for women in sports was leveling out. But there is still a problem for some men’s teams, because football is included in the scholarship count.

“There are 4.5 scholarships given to the men’s tennis program and 8 to the women’s, 9.9 to the men’s swim and dive team compared to the 14 women receive, and 12.6 for the men’s cross country/track and field team, whereas the women’s squad gets 18 at BYU. As a result, the fairness of Title IX continues to be debated among those affected by it.” (Ellett)

This shows that BYU was making progress toward total compliance with Title IX, regardless of lack of scholarships for male athletes not playing football.

On August 8, 2012, The Daily Universe reported that the decision to cut men’s gymnastics and the wrestling team further helped BYU be compliant with Title IX: “That decision has helped BYU to better meet the standards set for Title IX and allow the university to use its resources in the best ways possible.” Janie Penfield, BYU associate athletic director, also said in the article that schools are only checked occasionally to make sure they meet Title IX requirements. If schools show little to no progress, they will be penalized.

A committee charter from 2013 illustrates that BYU continues to push for full compliance with Title IX.

Michael Charles Waters is a junior at The University of Utah majoring in mass communication with an emphasis in journalism. He has worked for Salt Lake Community College, where he had his own sports talk show for school radio and television, and interned with the Utah Jazz in video production. He currently works at The University of Utah filming and creating highlight videos for the teams as well as supply play-by-play analysis and color commentary for some of the teams.

Sources

Joe Baird, “Bridging the Gap; Utah Schools Pleased With Progress on Gender Front; Local Schools Like Their Progress,” The Salt Lake Tribune, March 2, 1997, B1.

Jeff Call, “BYU coach wrestles hard times,” Deseret News, March 11, 1997, D7.

Doug Robinson, “BYU’s Hirschi believes Title IX is hurting track and field,” Deseret News, March 13, 1997, D3.

Jeff Call, “BYU, USU among 25 to be cited,” Deseret News, June 3, 1997, D4.

Dan Egan, “BYU and USU Both Caught Off Guard By Group’s Charge; TITLE IX: Catches BYU, USU Off Guard,” The Salt Lake Tribune, June 4 1997, B1.

Kathryn Sorenson, “BYU under fire for discrimination,” The Daily Universe, June 4, 1997.

“Pay to Play—Equally,” The Salt Lake Tribune, June 7, 1997, A10.

Gordon Monson, “Michaelis Loves ‘Purity of Sport’ (And Winning); Michaelis Leads Cougs To the Final 16,” The Salt Lake Tribune, December 9, 1997, D1.

“Brigham Young University Title IX Compliance Committee Charter,” Brigham Young University Compliance, http://bit.ly/2p9sDMU

Ellett, Carlie McKeon. “At 40, Title IX has leveled playing field at BYU.” The Daily Universe, December 11, 2011. http://bit.ly/2oAlmb6

Frielander, Andy. “UTA meets Title IX standards—University ranks high in recent gender study,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, April 30, 1997, 1.

Gavora, Jessica. Tilting the Playing Field: Schools, Sports, Sex and Title IX. San Francisco, CA: Encounter Books, 2002.

Goodman, Ellen. “Title IX has yet to level the playing field for women.” Deseret News, June 20, 1997, A11.

Houghton, Jared. “Title IX: Helping or hindering college sports?” The Daily Universe, August 8, 2012. http://bit.ly/2otNvQX

United States Department of Labor. “Title IX, Education Amendments of 1972.” http://bit.ly/24uzmTF

Cornell University Law School. Legal Information Institute. 14 CFR 1253.430, Financial Assistance. http://bit.ly/2p9OCnb

Utah Jazz defeated by the Chicago Bulls in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals

by TYSON SHAW

On June 13, 1997, the Chicago Bulls in the Chicago United Center hosted the Utah Jazz for Game 6 of the 1997 NBA finals. The Jazz held the lead over the Bulls for most of the game until the end of the fourth quarter, when Chicago tied the game at 86-86. In the last seconds of the game the Jazz fell apart and Chicago’s Steve Kerr broke the tie with a quick jumper. The last possession for the Jazz would also end with a steal and a bucket for the Bulls. The Chicago Bulls became the 1997 NBA champions, defeating the Utah Jazz 90-86. It was the first time the Jazz had made it to the NBA finals, but it was the fifth NBA championship in seven years won by the Bulls. With this win, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls had lifted their team to dynasty status in the history of the NBA. (Taylor, 30)

The 1998 NBA season featured the Utah Jazz’s best season. The team led the Western Conference Division with a season record of 62-20. The Jazz once again found themselves in the NBA playoffs. They were able to push past tough teams such as the Houston Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs. They ended up sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers 4-0 to win the Western Conference title. (Basketball-Reference.com) The 1998 NBA finals would once again pit the Utah Jazz against the Chicago Bulls for the NBA championship. The Jazz ended up winning the first game in the series. In Game 3, with a loss to Chicago of 96-54, the Utah Jazz had set the record for the least amount of points scored in a finals game. By Game 5 of the Finals, the city of Chicago was planning for another Bulls championship ending at the United Center. But Utah surprised Chicago with a win in Game 5, with the help of 39 points by Karl Malone, to send the series back to Utah for Game 6 of the NBA Finals. (Lewis, 270-274)

An article from the Salt Lake Tribune published June 14, 1998, shows that the Chicago Bulls weren’t happy to have to travel to Utah for Game 6. Before Game 5, Dennis Rodman pledged, “We’re not going back to Utah.” Even Scottie Pippen chimed in after the loss of Game 5, stating, “I know no one wanted to make this trip.” The Chicago Bulls understood that it would be tough to face Jazz fans and players at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City.

One individual who still had hope for the Jazz was a writer for the Deseret News, Doug Robinson. His article, published June 14, 1998, was titled, “8 reasons the Bulls can still be had.” Robinson discussed the injuries the Bulls had encountered, such as the back problems that power forward Dennis Rodman was experiencing. The Bulls were struggling with their game and that included not having players they could pull from the bench. Robinson pointed out that Michael Jordan seemed “a little dreamy and distracted,” and noted that Jordan wasn’t playing up to his legendary status, only shooting 43 percent in the Finals.

Robinson changed his tune the following day, when he wrote about the Bulls’ victory over the Jazz in Game 6. Robinson had to admit that it wasn’t the Chicago Bulls that had beat the Jazz. Rather, “Michael Jordan beat the Jazz.” The Jazz stayed ahead of the Bulls throughout most of the game. Robinson listed the plays Jordan made in the last 41 seconds, including “a rebound, a layup, a steal, a jump shot, a trophy, a hug.” Though the Jazz had the last possession of the game, Jazz guard John Stockton wasn’t able to capitalize on a last-second three-pointer that ended the game with the Bulls defeating the Jazz 87-86. It was another NBA championship for the Chicago Bulls, their sixth world championship and a defining moment in Jordan’s career. Deseret News reporter Robinson truthfully admitted about Jordan, “Was there ever any doubt it would come to this? … He’ll find a way to beat you.”

It was safe to say that after Game 6, Utah Jazz fans were feeling disappointed. The Deseret News reported on June 15, 1998: “Thousands of somber, frowning fans departed” the arena following the loss. But many Jazz fans didn’t want to accept the fact that the season had ended with another loss at the finals to the Bulls. Dick Rosetta, writing for The Salt Lake Tribune, explained that there should have been a Game 7—even though Jordan would still have taken the championship in the end. Rosetta pointed out that bad calls by the officials resulted in the Jazz losing the game. The problem was that Howard Eisley, the guard for the Jazz, had hit a three-pointer as the clock buzzed, but referee Dick Bavetta called the shot as a “no basket.” Bulls Guard Ron Harper hit a buzzer-beater for two points that was counted by the officials. League officials didn’t use instant replay, but TV replays showed that Eisley’s three-pointer was in before the buzzer while Harper’s bucket later in the game did not beat the buzzer. If instant replay for officials had been used in the league then, the Jazz would have been ahead by five more points and most likely would have won Game 6.

As Rosetta observed, Game 7 might have ended with another last-minute shot by Jordan. However, the Jazz would have had home court advantage in Game 7. John Tauer, Corey Guenther, and Christopher Rozek discuss home court advantage in their article published in Journal of Applied Sport Psychology. It addresses the benefit of familiarity basketball players have when shooting baskets at home and the psychological advantage of cheering fans when it comes to winning a game. Yet even with this advantage the Utah Jazz still lost Game 6. If the Jazz would have made it to Game 7, as Rosetta claimed the team deserved, the Jazz would have had the best chance of winning. As the scholars observe in their article, “In the ultimate game of professional basketball series, we observed home teams performing exceptionally well in Game 7s.” (157) But that was immaterial. The loss of Game 6 sealed the end of season. No one felt that loss harder than the Jazz players and staff.

Utah_Jazz___P_271

Forward Karl Malone enjoyed an 18-season career with the Utah Jazz. Used by permission, Utah State Historical Society.

A Deseret News article published on June 16 focused on the disappointment of the players on losing Game 6 and what the future held for the Utah Jazz. Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan pointed out that the defeat hit much harder than the loss of Game 6 in 1997. Regarding contracts and deals, no player knew what the next season would be like. The NBA even faced problems such as a lockout if the owners didn’t make the correct deals on time. Emotions were different for Jazz star Karl Malone. The thought of basketball was not something he wanted to discuss. His focus was on getting healthy and the wrestling match between him and Dennis Rodman that was scheduled for July 1998.

Utah TV viewers were ready to put the finals behind them. Scott D. Pierce reported in the Deseret News that Game 6 was “the most-watched NBA game in history.” Many tuned in to see what might have been Michael Jordan’s last game. NBA fans also would not want to miss the power duo of Karl Malone and John Stockton. Pierce pointed out that it was a time for relief: “No more Jazz Fever.” Utah viewership could forget about basketball for a while. There was always next season to worry about.

Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals will go down as one of the greatest games played in sports. Jazz fans should be proud that the great final match between Utah and Chicago all happened on their home court in the Delta Center. Some fans may always feel—as was written by Kurt Kragthorpe in The Salt Lake Tribune—that if Jordan had stayed in baseball, the Jazz might have been the 1998 NBA champions without having a Game 6 in the Delta Center. To fans of basketball, Jordan’s performance on June 14, 1998, in the Delta Center will always be remembered as one of his greatest performances. To Jazz fans, the 1998 Utah Jazz will always be remembered as a legendary team, despite not winning the NBA Championship.

Tyson Shaw is a junior at The University of Utah. He is majoring in film and media arts and minoring in media studies.

Sources

Scott D Pierce, “Finals are finished-some relief in order for Utah TV viewers,” Deseret News, June 18, 1998.

David Locke, “Always a gambler, Jordan deals Jazz the Finals blow,” Deseret News, June 16, 1998.

Loren Jorgensen, “Jazz feel letdown in the locker room,” Deseret News, June 16, 1998.

Zack Van Eyck, “Crunch time leaves fans feeling crunched,” Deseret News, June 15, 1998.

Doug Robinson, “M.J’s Moment: a Finals finale” Deseret News, June 15, 1998.

Kurt Kragthorpe, “Another Jazz Shot Comes up Just Short; But there’s hardly any disgrace in losing to MJ,” Salt Lake Tribune, June 15, 1998.

Dick Rosetta, “Hit Playback Button to Watch Rerun—MJ Shoots, Bulls Win; Rosetta: We’ve Seen This Stuff All Before,” Salt Lake Tribune, June 15, 1998.

Steve Luhm, “Jazz Back Home; They’er Not Alone; Bulls Would Like to Cut Visit Short,” Salt Lake Tribune, June 14, 1998.

Doug Robinson, “8 reasons the Bulls can still be had,” Deseret News, June 14, 1998.

Phil Taylor, “To the Top. (Cover Story),” Sports Illustrated (June 1997): 30.

Tauer, John M., Corey L. Guenther, and Christopher Rozek. “Is There A Home Choke In Decisive Playoff Basketball Games.” Journal of Applied Sport Psychology 21.2 (2009): 148-162.

Lewis, Michael. To The Brink: Stockton Malone and the Utah Jazz’s Climb to the Edge of Glory. New York, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998.

“1997-98 Utah Jazz Roster and Stats,” Basketball-Reference.com.

 

University of Utah Among the Founders of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC)

by ALEX PAGOAGA

The Western Athletic Conference (WAC) was originally formed in 1962 after three years of discussions among several university officials of what would be the founding schools: Arizona, Arizona State, Brigham Young (BYU), New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. With this new cluster of teams all located in the Mountain Time Zone, the conference was set to establish itself on the national stage. Over the years, the WAC lost schools (Arizona and Arizona State) and gained schools (Colorado State, Texas-El Paso, San Diego State, Hawaii, and Fresno). The WAC was a success for thirty-four years despite having its ups and downs in athletic performance. In the late 1990s, the WAC tried to maintain pace with other conferences’ TV deals and revenue streams throughout the country and ended up losing almost everything.

The falling out of the original WAC started in 1994 after the announcement that the Southwest Conference would be disbanded. An article published in The Salt Lake Tribune on April 20, 1994, stated that the expansion had to happen for the WAC to improve. Otherwise, it would continue in the shadows of the true national power house conferences. The newly disbanded conference provided the perfect opportunity for expansion. But nobody was ready for the size of the expansion that was about to take place. In an attempt to catch up in the television ratings race that was happening throughout the country, the WAC attempted a TV market power grab. The WAC extended invitations to three schools from the newly disbanded conference (Rice, Texas Christian, and Southern Methodist) along with two schools from the Big West (San Jose State and Nevada Las Vegas) and one school from the Missouri Valley Conference (Tulsa). These new teams brought in the Bay Area, Houston, Dallas, and Las Vegas TV markets.

Rice University basketball coach Willis Wilson stated to the Deseret News on April 23, 1994, that being in the WAC would provide a level playing field for his team for the first time because of all the sanctions that the old Southwest Conference had a tendency to accrue from the NCAA. These feelings of excitement to be included into the new WAC was a common theme among the incoming schools after being abandoned by or unhappy in their old conferences. However, the feelings did not extend to the longstanding members.

As pointed out by the Chicago Tribune, the new WAC had 16 teams compared to 12 in the next largest collegiate conference. These 16 teams covered four time zones, 4,000 miles, and nine states. This caused a strain on all of the existing members of the WAC to try to accommodate the sheer time and energy it took to travel to all of the new schools in the conference. With the increased stress of the expanded league school officials started to doubt if this was the best choice. In a May 27, 1998, article published in The Salt Lake Tribune, President Bernie Machen said, “I asked myself: ‘How do we fit into this organization? Is this the best place for the University of Utah to be for the future?’”

WAC

The Western Athletic Conference, formed in 1962, was successful for more than three decades.

With the expansion of the WAC, it was no longer possible to play everyone in a season. To fix this the conference came up with a revolutionary idea to have quadrants that would swap divisions every other year. This caused several long-standing rivalries to be split up. As described by Jeff Call in BYU Magazine, the loss of familiar teams on the schedule was a vocalized cause for unrenewed season tickets. Losing rivalries and tickets caused more tension between the older teams that were no longer playing in rivalry games every year, and the new teams that were geographically far away from the older schools. After two years of awkward quadrants, a revamp of the divisions/conference was a necessity.

According to Patrick Kinahan of The Salt Lake Tribune, athletic directors of the conference voted during the last week of April 1998 to disband the use of quadrants and split the conference into two separate divisions. Their vote passed 13-3 and was scheduled to be passed on to the presidents of each school, who would then vote among themselves the following month. However, the dissatisfaction of the older schools was simply too much. BYU athletic director Rondo Fehlberg told Joe Baird of The Salt Lake Tribune, “The problem was, nobody could come up with a way to say, ‘Here’s how it’s going to get better.’ All we could see were the costs going up and the revenues staying flat.” (“BYU, Utah”)

Spearheaded by the two Utah schools, the presidents of Air Force, BYU, Colorado State, Utah, and Wyoming met at the Denver International Airport two weeks before the scheduled vote of divisions to find a new solution. The answer? Create a new conference again. Eight schools in total decided to split from the WAC. They notified the NCAA of their intention to form what would eventually be known as the Mountain West Conference (MWC) taking effect on June 30, 1999. (Edward) The eight defecting schools were: Air Force, Brigham Young, Colorado State, Nevada Las Vegas, New Mexico, San Diego State, Utah, and Wyoming.

After the abrupt rupture of the WAC many doubted how long the conference could survive. In the aftermath, Darren Wilcox of the Daily Universe said, “The only question remaining is how long the WAC can survive with leftovers. Sure, throw them in the microwave oven, stir them up a bit and they may look appetizing. They may even smell delicious. But they are leftovers just the same.” The leftover teams did lack an athletic prowess that was taken to the new conference. Due to this defect in arguably the most important trait of an athletic conference, many, including Joe Baird of The Salt Lake Tribune, theorized that the new WAC would require expansion and possibly include Utah State on the short list. (“WAC Defection”) Despite local support, Utah State University was not included in the first expansion after the split, citing market size as the cause for dismissal.

After being in the shadows on the national stage, the WAC attempted to expand the league to an unheard-of 16-team league. The loss of rivalry games paired with more difficult logistics to accommodate the size of the league ultimately resulted in concerned and unhappy members. Taking the lead, both BYU and Utah sought to rid themselves of these concerns and decided to create a league of their own, thus removing the league that they had helped create from the state of Utah.

Today, 19 years after their split from the WAC into the MWC, both BYU and Utah find themselves yet again in different conferences. BYU left for an independent football bid and landed in the West Coast Conference for all other sports. Utah accepted an invitation to the Pacific Athletic Conference. The WAC found its way back into Utah by way of an eight-year stint with Utah State from 2005 to 2013. Currently, Utah Valley University is among its full members. The WAC has acted as a steppingstone for three universities in Utah, and while all three have gone on to bigger and better opportunities, the conference still stands as a symbol of opportunity for student athletes across the western United States.

Alex Pagoaga is a senior at The University of Utah, majoring in journalism.

Sources

John McFarland, “SMU, TCU, Rice Ecstatic to be in Expanded WAC,” Deseret News, April 23, 1994.

Dick Rosetta, “Expansion Gamble Will Make WAC Bigger,” The Salt Lake Tribune, April 20, 1994, C1.

Darren Wilcox, “WAC leftovers won’t survive alone,” The Daily Universe, May 27, 1998.

James Edward, “Utes Seceding From WAC,” The Daily Utah Chronicle, May 27, 1998, 9.

Joe Baird, “WAC Defection Might Open a Spot for Utah State,” The Salt Lake Tribune, May 27, 1998, C6.

Joe Baird, “BYU, Utah Make a ‘Bold Move’ – Abandon the WAC,” The Salt Lake Tribune, May 27, 1998, C1.

Patrick Kinahan, “WAC Collapses Under Its Own Weight,” The Salt Lake Tribune, May 27, 1998, A1.

Stephen Nidetz, “8 Schools Defect From WAC to Form League Of Their Own,” The Chicago Tribune, May 27, 1998.

“Another Wacky Move?” The Salt Lake Tribune, May 28, 1998, A10.

Call, Jeff. “The Great Divide: BYU and Seven Others Leave WAC.” Brigham Young Magazine, Fall 1998. http://bit.ly/2qfSYZE

The 1965-66 Runnin’ Utes

by STEPHEN LINDSEY

If Disney’s 2006 major motion picture Glory Road had had the time to tell the whole story, there would’ve been a team in red getting a pretty fair amount of screen time. The NCAA’s 1966 storybook championship game between little-known, mostly Black Texas Western and widely celebrated and all-white Kentucky was preceded by an equally enthralling Final Four, featuring head coach Jack Gardner and his University of Utah varsity squad.

Before the NBA’s 1980’s Bird versus Magic, Celtics versus Lakers golden age, college basketball was king, and in 1965-66, the University of Utah found itself very near the throne. Behind the strong showing of a 23-8 season and a Western Athletic Conference title, the Utes managed to make it all the way to the NCAA semifinal game, losing to Texas Western in a thriller, bookending a season that, though it ended in disappointment, was indeed, as the Daily Herald said in March 1966, “a campaign that won’t soon be forgotten.”

Jack Gardner and Jerry Chambers

To truly understand the magic of that season, one must understand the preceding few years in Utah basketball, and more importantly, that of the coach, James “Jack” Gardner. Recruited to become the Utes’ new coach in 1953, in 18 seasons at the university Gardner would compile a 339-154 overall record good for second all-time in Utes’ coaching history. After varying degrees of success for seven seasons, Gardner helped the Utes climb to the apex of college basketball’s proverbial mountain, getting them to the famed “Final Four” in 1961, behind the strength of All-American and future No. 1 overall NBA draft pick Billy “the Hill” McGill. Though that tournament too would end in another fourth-place finish for the pride of Salt Lake City, the Utes had discovered a key element of success, one that would help them years down the road: recruiting and signing to scholarship Black players, a habit not widely practiced in those days. (Sports-Reference)

Basketball was a burgeoning sport in the 1960s. Riding the waves of the somewhat recently created National Basketball Association (NBA) and the success of college programs like Kentucky and UCLA, the game was especially noteworthy for the number of Black athletes found in its ranks, as compared to other sports. McGill’s recruitment and subsequent acceptance of scholarship to the university, though not the first such incident of a Black man coming to play on “the Hill,” signaled the dawning of a new era for the Utes. Gardner, along with several other coaching counterparts, including Don Haskins, against whom he would coach in the 1966 semifinal, didn’t necessarily pioneer the signing of Black players, but they were some of its larger and more well-known champions. For the University of Utah’s part, Gardner was absolutely instrumental. “Bud” Jack, an employee in the athletic department during Gardner’s tenure and a future athletic director at the school, reminisced on his early days at the University of Utah in an interview with Everett Cooley. He reported that there was some level of worry concerning what was deemed “the black issue.” “We were very concerned,” he said then. “[But] I think Jack Gardner had all this planned very well. And we had very little problem. That’s where you have to give Jack Gardner credit.”

Gardner’s reputation as a man willing to be fair and sign anyone with talent was evident to everyone. In an interview granted to the Los Angeles Times in 1995, retired Black coach and Washington, D.C., resident Bill Butler said he was impressed by the Utes coach, whom he met in 1968 at a practice for an all-Black all-star game he had organized and invited Gardner to attend. After watching the practice, Gardner was noticeably impressed with the quality of play on the court, and went to work offering scholarships to a few of those present. “Those kids had D averages,” Butler was quoted as saying in the Times article. “They couldn’t have gone to Utah right away, so Jack Gardner arranged for them to attend junior colleges before they went on to play at Utah.” With a whole demographic of players available to him that many other coaches had never considered, Gardner and the Utes went to work on winning.

The seasons immediately following 1961 proved more difficult than to be expected, and the Utes were a middling team. The arrival of Jerry Chambers to the University of Utah in 1964, however, proved a steppingstone to the grand achievements that awaited in 1966. Chambers, a 6-foot-4 athletic guard, terrorized defenses during his time at the “U.” No season of his would prove more special than 1965-66.

“Smooth-shooting and lanky,” as he was described by the June 16, 1966, edition of the Daily Herald, the college transfer from Trinidad, Colorado, was voted Western Athletic Conference (WAC) player of the year after averaging around 28.8 points a game. According to the February 4, 1966, edition of the Daily Herald, “the guy, percentage wise, is the finest shooter in Ute history.”

The Start of Something Special

Utah’s schedule that season was fantastic, even by today’s standards: the Utes would play most games in their home gym, the Einar Nielsen Fieldhouse, seemingly avoiding road trips to better their record. The few road trips they did make, however, would find them playing in some of the more prestigious gyms in the world, against some of the more prestigious teams. Not including the NCAA tournament, the Utes would play away games against Arizona, Arizona State in conference, as well as against Cincinnati, North Carolina, North Carolina State, and Miami (Florida) on their lone East Coast road trip. Though the Utes would only manage one victory in that four-game stretch, against NC State, their play dazzled local newspapers. Of their sole victory, the New Years’ day 1966 edition of the Ogden Standard Examiner would report, “The fast-breaking Utes, amazingly quick for their size and their height, dominated State as few teams ever do.” Chambers would manage 30 points, key to postseason recognition and accolades, as national press got to see the Utes star.

RunninUtesImage

The cover of the 1965-66 Runnin’ Utes men’s basketball team guide. Pictured are George Fisher (top) and guard Jerry Chambers. Courtesy of Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

As the regular season wound down and the Utes were crowned WAC champions over the likes of nemesis Brigham Young University, the “Redskins,” as they were frequently called in those days, had astounded even the local pundits. A March 21, 1966, edition of the Provo Daily Herald reported, “In gaining the title, the surprising Utes [had] lifted themselves from last place to first place in a year.” Their status as WAC champions would afford them an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament, where they would face off with the “underrated” Pacific University Tigers.

The Utes, though, had been dealt a blow in the conference clincher. Starting forward George Fisher, one of the team’s best players, was lost to a broken femur against New Mexico. There was doubt surrounding the Utes, who, despite having already been guaranteed the conference title, had lost to BYU in their regular season finale. The lone bright spot, according to the March 9, 1966, Daily Herald, was Chambers, who had torched the Cougars for 48 points. Luckily for the Utes, his hot play would continue, and he rang up 40 points against the Pacific University Tigers, spurring his team to a nine-point, 83-74 victory in round 1 of the tournament. Chambers’ good play continued, and after a 70-64 win over Oregon State University, the Utes were headed to the Final Four. Battling injuries (Lyndon Mackay, another Ute starter, hurt his knee in the OSU game), a lack of national respect, and constant fatigue due to lack of reserves, the Utes had made it to the big time. “This is a hungry basketball team and they’ve suddenly developed a lot of pride in themselves,” Gardner told local papers. “They think they can get the job done.” (Smilanich)

The Final Four

“The rag-tag Redskins,” observed the March 15, 1966, edition of the Standard Examiner, would “find themselves in the familiar role of underdog against tough and talented Texas Western, and that’s just the way the Utes like it.”

The Utes and Miners, though separated by what many considered a talent gap, shared a unique history, one begun by their coaches. In the fall of 1965, and less than six months away from a fateful matchup in the NCAA semifinals, Gardner and Texas Western head coach Don Haskins shared a weekend of basketball discussion and philosophy when the Miners football team traveled to Salt Lake to face the Utes. Haskins made the trip, and during his three-day stay with Gardner, picked his brain. “Jack was very nice to me. He couldn’t have been nicer,” Haskins told Deseret News sports editor Lee Benson in 1993. “I’d always been so impressed with him growing up. Back then, we weren’t in the same league. Utah was in the WAC and we were independent. Anyway, I came up to meet him and learn something about the fast break. He took me to dinner the night before the football game and we talked for hours. The next morning I went to (basketball) practice. Jack took me in his office, he showed me all kinds of break films, he showed me his drills.” As Benson so cheekily wrote in his 1993 article about the story: “Basketball historians know where this is going.”

Fate had now guided the two teams back together, and armed with a heavy scouting report on the Utes and their tactics, Texas Western managed to squeak out a victory over the underdog Utes. Chambers opened the game with a 24-point first half, and the Utes were in it as they headed to the locker. The second half would prove more difficult, though. Chambers cooled down, the officiating tightened, and the Utes just couldn’t stay with the bigger, stronger Miners. The team lost 85-78. A total of 47 fouls were called, none of them more critical, according to Gardner, than the technical foul called on him by official Lenny Wirtz late in the first half, something he would lament in his post-game press conference. “The little guy, Lenny Wirtz, has rabbit ears and big ones,” Gardner told the Daily Press after the game. “The technical foul he called … I didn’t get off the bench … I didn’t swear. I don’t swear. He has big ears to call a tech on me for saying you missed that one.” Said Haskins, “I can’t believe they would call the game that tight.”

Nonetheless, the Utes had lost. The team would get a chance at consolation glory facing off with Duke in the third-place game, but still couldn’t manage a victory. Chambers was yet again fantastic, scoring 32 points, but it wasn’t enough, as the Utes lost 79-77. Still, the senior collegian had established what was then the all-time tournament scoring mark, posting 143 points in four games, good enough for a 35.8 average and the Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award. (“Utes Return”) In addition, the Daily Herald reported on March 29, 1966, that Chambers had been recognized by Texas Western as the best player they had faced all season, even after the Miners’ win over Kentucky.

Filled with accolades and boasting a tremendous individual repertoire, Chambers would go on to the NBA. The Utes, meanwhile, had performed admirably. Said the March 21, 1966, Daily Herald, “The Utes returned home with the satisfaction of a job well done since no one expected the running Redskins to get as far as they did.” Unfortunately, they would never again, at least during Gardner’s tenure, make it to the top of the mountain.

The Squad’s Legacy

Gardner would remain at the University for five more seasons before retiring, none of them as successful as that of 1965-66. Though his 1967-68 squad would attain an AP ranking of 5 during the season, even it couldn’t match the success of the previous team. (Sports-Reference) Chambers’s 1965-66 campaign was dubbed by local press as the best shooting exhibit in Utes history to that point. The March 10, 1966, Daily Herald reported that Chambers had broken at least five standing WAC records, including leading the league in scoring, rebounding, and field goal percentage. Though not officially listed by the Associated Press, he was also considered by many outlets an All-American, and invited to several All-Star games before being drafted No. 7 overall by the Lakers in the 1966 NBA Draft. The Utes had surprised many, but not themselves.

For Haskins’s part, he would name Gardner one of the best he’d ever coached against. “I still put Jack Gardner in the top five coaches all-time,” he would tell Benson in 1993 (Gardner was scheduled to be inducted into the WAC’s Hall of Fame days later). “He deserves everything they’re giving him.” Gardner remains the only coach to ever lead a WAC school to a final four. (Benson) He died in 2000 at the age of 90.

Strangely enough, the 1966 Utes were largely forgotten, until just recently. Fifty-one years after their historic run, they were honored at the halftime of Utah’s March 4,  2017, game against Stanford (the Utes won 67-59). Honorees included assistant coaches, among them Jerry Pimm and Morris Buckwalter, and players such as Chambers, Mackay, Fisher, and others. (Facer)

Nearly half a century later, the 1965-66 Runnin’ Utes legacy still stands, enduring through the ages. A few of the members of that famed squad have died, yet those who remain continue to impress all, especially those employed in continuing the fine tradition of Utah basketball. “Pretty neat,” Utah Head Coach Larry Krystkowiak said of the honored squad in his post-game remarks. “We got a good dose of all those parts of some Utah basketball tradition.” (Facer)

Stephen Lindsey is a junior at The University of Utah. He is majoring in journalism.

Sources 

Steve Smilanich, “Jerry Chambers Named WAC Athlete of the Year,” The Provo Daily Herald, June 16, 1966, 11.

“Chambers Gains Another Honor,” The Provo Daily Herald, March 29, 1966, 9.

“Utes Return from NCAA Test,” The Provo Daily Herald, March 21, 1966, 6.

Tommy Seward, “Texas Western Conquers Utah, 85-78, Despite 38 by Chambers,” Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia), March 19, 1966, 15.

Steve Smilanich, “Utes, Miners vie in semis,” The Ogden Standard-Examiner, March 15, 1966, 9.

“Utes Advance in Western Cage Tourney,” The Ogden Standard-Examiner, March 12, 1966, 4.

“Chambers Breaks 5 WAC Records,” The Provo Daily Herald, March 10, 1966, 8.

“Redskins’ Hope Lies with Gangly Center,” The Ogden Standard-Examiner, March 9, 1966, 13.

“Utes, Cougars Poise for Big Cage Tilt,” The Provo Daily Herald, February 4, 1966, 6.

“Running Utes Upset North Carolina State,” The Ogden Standard-Examiner, January 1, 1966, 4.

Sports-Reference. “1965-66 Utah Roster and Stats,” http://bit.ly/2oA1TYn.

Benson, Lee. “Haskins Learned Well from Gardner.” Deseret News, March 14, 1993, http://bit.ly/2ooVih9.

Fulwood III, Sam. “Blacks Find Support in Sports but Not as Scholars.” Los Angeles Times, July 25, 1995, http://lat.ms/2opabQD.

Jack, James R. (Bud). Interview by Everett L. Cooley, August 13, 1984. Everett L. Cooley Oral History Project. J. Willard Marriott Library Manuscripts Division. The University of Utah. https://collections.lib.utah.edu/details?id=822251

Facer, Dirk. “Utah notes: 1966 Final Four team honored at halftime,” Deseret News, March 4, 2017, http://bit.ly/2o79cCQ.

A Quest for Speed: Athol Graham and His Home-Built Racer

by JOSIAH JOHNSON

Every late summer, as winter and spring runoff evaporates from the salt beds of the Great Salt Lake Desert, a site is revealed. (Hogue, 38) A site with great history, both of peril and excitement. A place so flat you can see the curvature of the earth with the naked eye. (Hogue, 32) And a place where highest speeds are most attainable.

The vast and desolate Bonneville Salt Flats are located on the western edge of Utah’s Great Salt Lake Basin. According to the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees it, the area occupies 30,000 acres; that is 12 miles long, five miles wide and over 46 square miles in total. The Salt Flats are primarily made up of leftover minerals from what was once ancient Lake Bonneville. (Bonneville Salt Flats Brochure)

In his Utah History Encyclopedia entry, Kevin Hallaran credits Jedediah Smith as being “the first white man to cross the salt flats.” He did so in 1827 on the way back from an expedition to California. In 1833, fellow trapper Joseph Reddeford Walker explored and mapped the Great Salt Lake area, naming the salt flats after his employer, Benjamin Bonneville. Hallaran also notes that the early history of the Bonneville Salt Flats even includes the demise of the 1846 Donner-Reed Party who, after getting stuck in the mud on the Flats, later perished in the Sierra-Nevada mountains.

Perhaps a more well-known association, however, is that of its racing history. The Bonneville Salt Flats were first promoted as a racing venue by William Randolph Hearst with little success, until, in 1925, Ab Jenkins raced a train across the Flats in his Studebaker and won. (Hallaran) In a piece for Landscape Journal, Martin Hogue explains that as automobile racing grew in popularity (and speeds), Bonneville became a racing mecca for its various racing qualities. In the 1920s, cars started to be designed with the land speed record in mind, and between the years 1935 and 1970, the land speed record was broken at Bonneville no less than 18 times. (Hogue, 32-33)

On August 24, 1939, The New York Times reported that British racer John Cobb had set a new land speed record at 368.85 mph. Cobb would return to Bonneville multiple times, and in 1947 he raised the record to 394 mph. That record would stand for over a decade and, as can be seen through many Salt Lake Tribune articles, was on the minds of all participants leading up to the 1960 racing season.

One of those racers with his eye fixed on the land speed record was 35-year-old Salt Lake City “garageman” Athol Graham. According to a Salt Lake Tribune article published November 28, 1959, Graham had been planning his land speed record attempt for 12 years. His home-built racer was made from an old B29 belly tank and powered by a 12-cyllinder Allison aircraft engine capable of 3000 horsepower. After a horrible first attempt in 1958, Graham rebuilt the car completely. (Hawley, 25) In early 1959, it reached 280 mph before experiencing mechanical problems. For his attempts in November of the same year, Graham requested no spectators.

GrahamsCityofSaltLake

Athol Graham’s home-built racer, the “City of Salt Lake,” on the Bonneville Salt Flats of western Utah. Used by permission, Utah State Historical Society.

Athol Graham’s quest for speed and obsession over the record had roots that ran deep. As a boy, his interest in racing was piqued after watching British racers on the Flats, according to a Salt Lake Tribune article published August 1, 1960. “I’d get goose pimples reading about them and I always imagined myself out there driving one of those beautiful cars across the salt,” Graham once said. (Hawley, 24)

On November 30, 1959, Tom Korologos of the Salt Lake Tribune reported that Graham’s “City of Salt Lake” missed the speed mark despite averaging 307 mph over two runs. Mechanical trials were once again a factor. In a statement for the paper, Graham said, “I’ve still got confidence that I can break the record but it looks as though we’re finished for this year.”

Dates for the 1960 season were announced in the Salt Lake Tribune on January 16, 1960. Graham was originally scheduled for the second block of attempts from August first through the fourth, and, after his run a few months before, Graham was listed as the fastest driver behind Mikey Thompson. In July 1960, the Tribune reported that fellow Salt Laker Marv Jenkins had surrendered his time slot, meaning that Graham and his rear-wheel-racer would have the first shot at the record in 1960.

In his book, Speed Duel, author Samuel Hawley highlights the giant expectations for the summer of 1960. High-profile racers, namely Thompson and Donald Campbell, would be returning to the Flats, and newcomer Nathan Ostich would be racing a jet-propelled car for the first time. (23) Bill Dredge of The New York Times referred to Athol Graham as the “Cinderella boy of the salt beds” and said of him, “He has no other pretentions than an ability to ramble down the salt bed faster than anyone believed he could.”

Graham was the obvious underdog. His home-built racer cost $2,500 but would be competing against Campbell’s Bluebird, a car with a $3 million price tag and support of 69 British companies, according to Marion Dunn, a sports writer for The Salt Lake Tribune. (July 10, 1960)

Buzz in local newspapers was especially focused around Graham, and numerous Salt Lake Tribune articles were published leading up to his record attempt in 1960. In addition to owning Canyon Motors, a Salt Lake City garage, Graham was a devout Mormon who served a mission to New Zealand. He also enlisted in the United States Army motor pool where he used his mechanic skills in WW II. (Hawley, 24) After returning from the war, he married his wife, Zeldine, and began building his racer. (“Whodunnit”)

As the first day of August approached, salt ripples on the Flats became a concern. Dave Mead, another sports writer for The Salt Lake Tribune, reported on July 27, 1960, that the “flats are not good enough for racing” and that “heat has severely buckled the course.” Just a day before, Graham had unveiled his newly improved racer with new Firestone tires and wheels (the source of previous failure), a stiffened body and frame, a rebuilt tail section and locked differential. According to Mead, Graham had three truckloads of spare parts with him, just in case.

It was becoming uncertain if the course would be fit to use, but “Graham himself ended that doubt,” reported the Tribune on July 28, 1960. After crews did their best to scrape and repair the two miles of ripples leading up to the measured mile-long course, Graham walked the stretch and said he would race.

The night before what he referred to as Graham’s “four-day date with destiny on the Bonneville Salt Flats,” Marion Dunn interviewed the Salt Lake City racer at his motel room in Wendover. “I feel that we’ll get the record,” Graham said, “but I certainly wish that all the people would say a prayer or two for me.” (“Graham Slates Record Assault”)

Graham planned to make his first pass at 9 a.m. on Monday, August 1, 1960, and told Dunn he would pack up and head home if his two-run average set a new record. (“Graham Plans Fast Halt”) According to the Tribune’s report on August 2, weather was once again a factor as gusty winds of 22 mph postponed the morning start.

Before the attempt, Graham told race spectators not to be alarmed if his bright red City of Salt Lake went into an early skid. (“300 mph Crash”) If Graham succeeded in reaching the coveted speed mark of 400 mph, he would be the first American to hold the land speed record since Ray Keech achieved it 32 years before, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. (August 1, 1960)

In the book Speed Duel, Samuel Hawley wrote of a final interaction that Graham had with his wife before setting off down the course in pursuit of his speed dream. Hawley described it as a private moment where the couple kissed and Athol said, “See you at the other end.” (Hawley, 30) It was later reported by The Salt Lake Tribune that Zeldine planned to make a run of her own for a 300-mph mark if the car ran well. (“300 mph Crash”)

Graham climbed into the cockpit of his race car around 11 a.m., got the engine running and, with a little help from his young assistant, Otto Anzjon, was closed in by the canopy. Soon, Graham was off, cruising across the salt, picking up speed as he went. (Hawley, 30) He made it nearly to the halfway mark before the measured mile before disaster struck. (“300 mph Crash”) An excerpt from the August 2 edition of The Salt Lake Tribune described the scene saying that “within seconds, his handmade racer skidded and flipped end-over-end at 300 miles an hour.” The New York Times reported that the accident took place at 11:02 a.m.

Borge Anderson, a photographer for the Tribune, and Marion Dunn were among the first to arrive at the scene of the crash, 600 yards from where spectators stood. (“Eyewitness Tells of Crash”) In his eyewitness account for The Salt Lake Tribune that ran on August 2, Dunn described the series of events beginning with seeing objects flying off the car. The City of Salt Lake then slid sideways, went airborne, landed on its top, bounced, landed on its top once more and slid to a stop, pinning Graham inside. When he arrived at the scene, Dunn believed Graham to be dead already.

Graham was removed from the mangled car and flown to a Salt Lake City area hospital. Just one hour after the crash, around 12:20 p.m. on August 1, 1960, Athol Graham died of extensive head, neck and chest injuries, according to the front-page story printed in The Salt Lake Tribune the following day. The local racer was survived by his 29-year-old wife and their four children. (“300 mph Crash”)

According to The Salt Lake Tribune, Athol Graham was the first driver to be killed on the Bonneville Salt Flats in a land speed record attempt. There is speculation, of course, but officials did not believe that the winds or the course had anything to do with the crash. (“300 mph Crash”) In the same Tribune article, Joe Petrall, an official observer representing the U.S. Auto Club, was quoted as saying, “It looked as if Graham was accelerating very fast and the rear wheels were beginning to spin forward throwing the car sideways before it flipped end over end.” Many sources, including an article for Motorsports Magazine recounting the tragedy, claim there was no safety harness in the home-built race car.

Athol Graham’s fellow racers were disheartened by the event, and Mickey Thompson was himself one of the 25 men who helped remove Graham from the crashed vehicle. Dr. Nathan Ostich was quoted in The Salt Lake Tribune as saying he was “deeply shocked” by the fatal accident but would still race. (“Race Season to Continue”) In one of the many Salt Lake Tribune articles published on August 2, it was reported that W. R. Shadoff would take over Graham’s racing dates. (“New Record Try”)

Many tragic ironies came to light following Graham’s death. According to Hawley in Speed Duel, August 2, 1960, would have been Athol and Zeldine’s tenth wedding anniversary. Hawley also noted that, on his comparatively minuscule racing budget, Graham couldn’t afford the $150 to have a doctor on site at the record attempt that morning.

In his article for Motorsports Magazine fittingly titled “Ghosts in the machine,” Peter Holthusen briefly discussed the fate of Graham’s racer, the City of Salt Lake. The year after the fatal crash and death of Graham, Otto Anzjon convinced Zeldine to let him rebuild and race Graham’s car. The 17-year-old mechanic got the car up to 254 mph before a tire blowout led to a crash during another record attempt. On October 12, 1963, Zeldine’s second husband, Harry Muhlbach, ran the rebuilt racer once more, only to result in yet another crash. After countless mechanical problems, rebuilds and three crashes, sponsors STP and Firestone withdrew all support of the project.

Graham’s City of Salt Lake would be rebuilt one last time, this time by Athol’s only son, Butch. In July 2010, KSL News reported on the unveiling of the 27-year-long restoration project. The car was put on display at Orthopedic Specialty Hospital in Murray for the 50th anniversary of Athol Graham’s fateful day. More than 100 people came to see it, according to the article by Alex Cabrero. (“Man Restores Race Car”)

Though the crash and death of Athol Graham in 1960 stained the site with tragedy, the legacy and spectacle of the Bonneville Salt Flats carries on as a world-famous site for racing. Many “speed freaks” have forgotten, or perhaps never even heard of Salt Lake City “garageman” Athol Graham, but his story speaks to the real consequences of speed-related sports and activities.

Despite the dangers, racers from around the world continue to push themselves to the fastest speeds, and some do so on the salt in westernmost Utah. Speed Week is still an annual event at the Bonneville Salt Flats, attracting racers and racing fans alike. As much as the geography itself, legendary racers like Athol Graham, John Cobb, Mickey Thompson and others have done their part to make the Bonneville Salt Flats a premier, world-renowned racing destination. As a result, men and women are still inspired to embark on their own quests for speed.

Josiah Johnson, a student of strategic communication at The University of Utah, graduated with his Bachelor of Science in May 2017. His interest in automotive culture has been increasingly inspired by his younger brother, Jeremiah, to whom this article is dedicated. Josiah has a passion for art, design and creative communication, and he hopes to travel the world observing it.

Sources

Alex Cabrero, “Man Restores Race Car in Father’s Honor,” KSL News Online, July 31, 2010, http://bit.ly/2oSKU4r

“Driver Killed in Bid for 400 M.P.H. on Salt Flats,” The New York Times, August 2, 1960, 36.

“New Record Try Looms Today,” The Salt Lake Tribune, August 2, 1960, 17.

“Race Season to Continue,” The Salt Lake Tribune, August 2, 1960, 17.

Marion Dunn, “Whodunnit,” The Salt Lake Tribune, August 2, 1960, 15.

“300 MPH Crash Kills S.L. Racer,” The Salt Lake Tribune, August 2, 1960, 1, 5.

Marion Dunn, “Eyewitness Tells of Crash,” The Salt Lake Tribune, August 2, 1960, 1.

Marion Dunn, “Graham Slates Record Assault,” The Salt Lake Tribune, August 1, 1960, 24.

Marion Dunn, “Graham Sets First Dash Across Flats,” The Salt Lake Tribune, July 31, 1960, D5.

Marion Dunn, “Graham Plans Fast Halt When, If, Record Falls,” The Salt Lake Tribune, July 29, 1960, D5.

“Graham Seeks Land Mark Monday,” The Salt Lake Tribune, July 28, 1960, 26.

Dave Mead, “Salt Ripples May Halt Graham Run,” The Salt Lake Tribune, July 27, 1960, 19.

Marion Dunn, “Drivers Set for Speed Shots,” The Salt Lake Tribune, July 10, 1960, B9.

Bill Dredge, “1960 Goal for Salt Flat Races,” The New York Times, April 17, 1960, A14.

“Race Dates Set for Flats in ’60,” The Salt Lake Tribune, January 16, 1960, 19.

Tom Korologos, “Auto Speed Mark Eludes Salt Laker,” The Salt Lake Tribune, November 30, 1959, 35.

“Salt Laker Maps Assault on Auto Speed Record,” The Salt Lake Tribune, November 28, 1959, 21.

Associated Press, “Cobb’s Red Lion Roars to World Land Speed Record on Utah Flats,” The New York Times, August 24, 1939, 30.

U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Bonneville Salt Flats Brochure, https://on.doi.gov/2p11Hix

Hawley, Samuel. Speed Duel: The Inside Story of the Land Speed Record in the Sixties. Buffalo, New York: Firefly Books, 2010.

Hogue, Martin. “A Site Constructed: The Bonneville Salt Flats and the Land Speed Record, 1935-1970.” Landscape Journal 24, no. 1 (March 2005): 32-49.

Holthusen, Peter. “Ghosts in the machine,” Motorsports Magazine, April 2002: 68-72.

Hallaran, Kevin B. “Bonneville Salt Flats,” Utah History to Go, http://bit.ly/2lEMktJ

Lagoon, the Roller Coaster, and the Kilee King Investigation, 1989

by JOHANNA M. MELIK

In the late 1800s, Utah’s beloved amusement park, today known as Lagoon, was located in a different area along the shores of the Great Salt Lake, along with other “recreational resorts.” Not only was Lagoon’s location different back in the day, but its name was too. The resort was called “Lake Park,” and was open to the public on July 15, 1886. “It was one of the most attractive watering places in the West.” (127 Years) However, in 1893, the Great Salt Lake began to recede, leaving this once wonderful paradise surrounded by “a sticky, blue mud that was miserable to swimmers and guests.” (127 Years) This nasty inconvenience, among other reasons, basically forced Lake Park to switch locations and relocate to its current address in Farmington in 1896. The new home of this park was situated on the banks of a nine-acre lagoon, two and one-half miles inland from its original location, providing the park with its new name: Lagoon. (127 Years)

Department of Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah.

The thrill ride, Shoot-the-Chutes, was popular in 1896. Special Collections Department, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah.

The same year of its relocation, Lagoon presented its first thrill ride, Shoot-the-Chutes, which is similar to today’s Log Flume ride. Later, in 1921, one of the most well known rides of this amusement park was finally introduced and “the roar of the Roller Coaster began.” (127 Years) “Almost 90 years old,” Arave writes, “the Lagoon Roller Coaster remains one of the most popular attractions at the park and is one of only a few wooden coasters between Denver and the West Coast.”

According to Lagoon’s press kit, a fire in 1953 destroyed the front of this coaster. It was rebuilt the following year, and sections of the Roller Coaster have been rebuilt each year since then. In that same press kit, Lagoon ensured the ride was, and would be, safe for the community. “The tracks are walked and thoroughly checked over each day before being put into use for the public.” (127 Years) As true as this may be, there have still been a few accidents, even fatal incidents, which occurred on this very ride. However, it seems that in all of those situations, Lagoon was not at fault. Arave writes that those deaths were caused by the “patron’s own negligence or recklessness.” In fact, the odds of being killed on one of these rides are about two chances in 43 million. (Arave) Rep. Blaze Wharton, D-Salt Lake, “compliments Lagoon’s safety record and doesn’t think, given information about the recent accident, that inspections could have prevented the deaths.” (Deseret News, June 25)

In the specific case of Kilee King, a 13-year-old girl of Bountiful who died on the infamous wooden Roller Coaster in 1989, investigation proved that no criminal negligence was involved. (Rosebrock, June 14) According to a June 29 story in the Deseret News, the Farmington police detective who investigated the incident found that the death of this teenage girl was a “fluke combination of her physique, actions and the laws of physics.” (Rosebrock, June 29) King was a slim, 5 feet 3 inches tall girl who only weighed 71 pounds. “In effect, it was a quirk of physics, combined with what the girl did and her height and weight,” said Detective Sgt. Jeff Jacobson after investigation of the incident. (Rosebrock, June 29)

Deseret News reporter Joel Campbell wrote on June 11 that Kilee King died at the park after falling from the front seat of the ride’s carts. “Witnesses said that the girl stood up from beneath a locked retraining bar, lost her balance and fell to a grassy area beneath the coaster.” According to that same article, the coaster had just gone over the curve of its second hill when she lost contact with the cart. The girl pushed herself up against the safety bar as the cart was at the peak of the hill, raised her arms above her head and lifted up off her seat as the cart took its ordinary “downward plunge.” The momentum from her forward and upward motion caused her to slip from under the bar, falling 35 feet to the ground. (Deseret News, July 29) The South Davis Fire Department officials said the girl was pronounced dead before any emergency medical personnel had arrived. (Deseret News, June 11)

The victim was the daughter of J. Wayne and Susan King. After the terrible incident, Susan filed a lawsuit against the amusement park, charging it with negligence. (Deseret News, July 29) According to Deseret News reports on July 29, 1989, Mrs. King stated that the design and operation of the park’s roller coaster was dangerous and that the lack of sufficient safety restraints is what had allowed her daughter to be thrown from the ride. Lagoon officials choose to not disclose much information about the lawsuits filed against the park, but according to Detective Jacobson’s findings, this was not the case. (Deseret News, July 29) According to Deseret News reporter Don Rosebrock, King had a season pass to Lagoon and had ridden the roller coaster multiple times prior to the deadly accident.

Department of Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah.

A postcard view of Lagoon. Special Collections Department, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah.

Being a part of the LDS church, King’s passing was a topic of discussion during one of her church’s meetings. “We discussed the fact that her spirit had left her body, that she was still living…. We explained she will continue to live and they [young people whom she was friends with] should not be fearful and they would see her again,” stated Bishop Sherman Fuller, in an article written by Deseret News on June 12. “There was an air of peace.” Friends and neighbors remembered King as “vivacious, energetic and a natural leader.” She was thought of as someone whom everybody liked. (Deseret News, June 12) She was the type of person who did not care about what others had, “maybe they weren’t as popular or energetic. She tried to bring those people forward. She tried to involve them,” said Fuller in the article. (Deseret News, June 12) One of her “lifetime” friends, Katie Gardiner, was one of the people whom she “went out of her way to make feel accepted by a group of friends.” (Deseret News, June 12) Another one of King’s friends, Jeremy Christoffersen, said, “Next year in eighth grade I will think about her a lot and that she is gone. We spend a lot of time together. I used to go to Lagoon a lot with her. We went to a restaurant as a presidency. She was always laughing and smiling…. I still don’t understand what happened on the roller coaster.” (Deseret News, June 12)

The park itself remained opened after this accident, but the ride was shut down for inspection. (Rosebrock, June 14) However, “two studies, using research by doctors, scientists, astronauts and engineers, say amusement park rides are very safe.” (Deseret News, Jan. 21) J. Clark Robinson, a worker at Lagoon for 27 years who was president of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, said that the studies “have brought to light scientific proof that our rides are safe.” (Deseret News, Jan. 21)

People should not worry about accidents when visiting Lagoon, because cases such as Kilee King’s are very uncommon. Over the 127 years that Lagoon has been running and available to the public, there have been 16 deaths overall, including incidents not involving any of the rides themselves (such as heart attacks). Nearly half of those were caused by “the patron’s own negligence or recklessness.” (Arave) So it is, however, important to know how to keep yourself safe when riding these rides, in order to avoid a tragic accident. There are just some things that cannot be controlled by a safety restraint.

Johanna M. Melik is a junior at The University of Utah, majoring in mass communication.

Sources

Joel Campbell, “OFFICIALS PROBING DEATH OF GIRL, 13, WHO FELL FROM ROLLER COASTER,” Deseret News, June 11, 1989.

Joel Campbell, “KILEE WAS HAPPY AND CARING GIRL FRIENDS RECALL,” Deseret News, June 12, 1989.

Don Rosebrock and Joel Campbell, “BOUNTIFUL GIRL’S DEATH NOT THE 1st ON LAGOON’S WOODEN ROLLER COASTER,” Deseret News, June 13, 1989.

Don Rosebrock, “TEEN’S DEATH ON ROLLER COASTER AT LAGOON IS RULED ACCIDENTAL,” Deseret News, June 14, 1989.

Joel Campbell and Ray Eldard, “LEGISLATOR WANTS INSPECTIONS OF CARNIVAL, PARK RIDES,” Deseret News, June 25, 1989.

Don Rosebrock, “ROLLER COASTER DEATH CALLED A FLUKE A QUIRK OF PHYSICS, TEEN’S PHYSIQUE AND HER ACTIONS, DETECTIVE SAYS,” Deseret News, June 29, 1989.

“BOUNTIFUL MOTHER FILES LAWSUIT IN DEATH OF DAUGHTER AT LAGOON,” Deseret News, July 29, 1989.

Lynn Arave, “Lagoon questions data on injuries,” Deseret News, August 15, 2000.

Lee Davidson,“2 studies declare roller coaster safe,” Deseret News, January 21, 2003.

Arave, Lynn. “It’s About Fun: A History of Lagoon Amusement/Theme Park.” The Mystery Of Utah.

127 Years of Family Fun!” Lagoon Corp. Media Resources.

 

Utah’s First Pro Sports Champ: The 1970-71 Utah Stars

by TALON CHAPPELL

On a cool night in Salt Lake City, Utah, Bill Howard, broadcaster for the Utah Stars, called what would be the last game of the 1970-71 ABA season. The Stars met up with the Kentucky Colonels in a win or go home matchup to determine the champion of the American Basketball Association. With 21 seconds remaining, Mike Butler made a driving layup to put the Stars ahead 129 to 118. The dull roar in downtown Salt Lake City turned into a frenzied cry of excitement as 13,000 fans arose from their seats in the Salt Palace arena. The noise grew louder with every passing second ticking off the clock. Kentucky’s Cincy Powell hit a 3-point shot with two seconds remaining to make the score 131-121 in favor of the Stars. It wasn’t much consolation as Stars center Zelmo Beaty raised his arms in triumph and excitement of the inbound play to come. Beaty received the ball and bedlam ensued as a mob of ecstatic Stars fans rushed the court to show appreciation for the team they had quickly come to love. In their first year in Salt Lake City, the Utah Stars had won the ABA championship. (“We’re No. 1”)

In the days following the historic ABA finals victory, the Stars received local media attention that rivaled most NBA franchises. When team owner Bill Daniels relocated the Stars from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City in June 1970, he claimed that the Utah Stars would become “the Green Bay Packers of professional basketball.” (Roblez) Some owners and media members were skeptical and believed the team would never be able to gain the fan support and media exposure needed in order to survive in the ever-shaky ABA. But Utah sports fans proved the critics wrong and became one of the most passionate and supportive fan bases in the entire league.

At a time when the ABA was fighting for fan support and television viewership with the more established NBA, Utah Stars fans exceeded expectations by continually filling the gem of Salt Lake City, the Salt Palace. An article in the May 28 edition of the Davis County Clipper recalled the ABA attendance record set during the Stars’ inaugural season in Salt Lake City. In the 42 regular season home games in the 1970-71 season, the Salt Palace welcomed in 262,342 fans, averaging just over 6,000 fans per game. In its first year, the franchise had broken the ABA attendance record set by the Carolina Cougars the previous season with 254,163 fans. Attendance grew as the regular season ended and the playoffs began. In the final seven playoff games played at the Salt Palace (three against the Indiana Pacers and four against the Kentucky Colonels), the Stars averaged 12,923 fans per game, 700 more people than the Salt Palace could seat.

Advertisement published in The Salt Lake Tribune.

Advertisement published in The Salt Lake Tribune. Image courtesy of the newspaper.

When the Stars were not playing at home, media outlets like the Salt Lake Tribune kept diehard fans (especially those in more rural areas of Utah) in the know during the 1971 playoff run. When the Stars defeated the Indiana Pacers in game seven of the Western Division Finals in Indianapolis, they returned home to the warmest welcome any team from Utah had ever seen. Salt Lake Tribune reporter Steve Rudman recalled the scene at the Salt Lake International Airport on April 29, 1971, as 3,000 raucous Stars fans welcomed home the newly crowned ABA Western Division Champions: “The arrival at the airport, with its attendant pomp and ceremony, was the culmination of a very hectic 24 hours, a time in which the Stars defeated Indiana, 108-101, partied half the night in celebration and then made the long trip back from Indianapolis after a couple of boring hours in Chicago. But it was all worth it for the Stars.” The celebration continued as more fans lined the streets of Salt Lake City to await the motorcade bringing the Stars back home to the Salt Palace.

A few days later, the Stars began their ABA championship series against the Kentucky Colonels of the Eastern division. On May 9, Rudman and the Salt Lake Tribune had to break the news to the Stars faithful that the team had dropped its second straight game to the Kentucky Colonels in Louisville after winning the first two games of the best-of-seven series in Salt Lake City. “The home court advantage may be some consolation,” he wrote, “but the Utah Stars really did want a split here. Instead they dropped both games and now it would appear Kentucky has the momentum going.”

Ten days after Stars fans were thrown into a pool of uncertainty after the game four loss to the Colonels, the Stars returned home for the final game of the best-of-seven series and defeated the Colonels 131-121 en route to the ABA Championship. While Stars fans jumped, yelled, hooted and hollered, local reporters were busy at work writing stories that had never been covered before in the state of Utah, the story of a professional sports championship.

In his article on May 21, 1971, Dan Pattison of the Deseret News proclaimed the win as the “Miracle on West Temple Street.” Pattison also gave Stars fans an inside look at the glory and pride felt by Stars players. Stars forward “Wondrous” Willie Wise said he wanted to wear his Utah Stars uniform “forever,” and center Zelmo “Big Z” Beaty proclaimed his appreciation to his teammates and the fans all over Utah. “I feel like I’m on top of the world,” he told Pattison. “It took eight years of playing for me to do something like this. I’ve played with some great guys before, but not like these guys. We just couldn’t let the fans down. It was a pleasure to play in Utah this season.”

Numerous sports reporters for the Salt Lake Tribune offered their congratulations to the team and had plenty to say about the historic win for the Stars and for the state of Utah. John Mooney, the renowned sports editor, wrote a short but sincere thank you to the Stars on the front page of the May 19, 1971, Salt Lake Tribune sports section. In the short letter, Mooney applauded the graciousness and humility of Stars coach Bill Sharman as well as team owner Bill Daniels and team president Vince Boryla, who would constantly thank media writers for their attention to the team and for their help in building a loyal fan base. “Every game when you walked by and said ‘Good luck,’ someone would say, ‘Whether we win or lose, thank you for everything you’ve done to help us this far,’” Mooney wrote. In the world of sports, where members of the media can often be blamed for added pressure on athletes or the demise of front office staff, the Stars showed true class by embracing their local sports writers as their partners in the business of success. Near the end of his letter, Mooney wrote, “The Stars won magnificently, but graciously. They had words of thanks for everyone, especially the fans who adopted a wandering ball club and took it to their hearts. The whole organization was major league, all the way.”

Also on the front page of the May 19, 1971, Salt Lake Tribune sports section was a stirring fan piece by reporter Dick Rosetta. All of Utah jumped on the Stars bandwagon, in the best sense of the word. Fans came from the red-rock cliffs of St. George and Kanab, from the arches and canyon lands of Moab and Price, from the farm country of Fillmore and Vernal and from the college towns of Ogden and Logan. People talked about the opportunity the Stars had to put Salt Lake City in a national spotlight. Stars fan Ron Henriksen told Rosetta over the noise inside the arena that night, “What difference does it make what time of year it is? Can you imagine what this has done for Utah over the nation? Man, anyone who could argue against basketball must be nuts.” That night fans didn’t even care about the crammed seating, lack of seating, uncomfortable heat or deafening noise, they were just glad to be there. Stars fan Dennis Dall proclaimed to Rosetta, “Ah, the sound doesn’t matter, the Stars do their own talking. They are the greatest thing that’s ever happened to this state.” That night, the Salt Palace was a portrait of pent-up people, ready to prove that Utah, yes, even Utah, could house a champion.

Over the next three seasons the strong Stars roster continued to dominate ABA competition, finishing all three years atop the Western Division standings. The Stars also made history by signing the first professional basketball player straight out of high school, a young and extremely talented Moses Malone, who went on to become an NBA champion, hall of famer and NBA top-50 all-time player. (Moses Malone Biography) But despite their talent, the Stars were unable to re-create the playoff magic that captivated Utahns in the Spring of 1971. The 1974-75 season was a disappointing one for the Stars and their fans, finishing with a record of 38-46, good enough for fourth in the Western Division standings. Monetary troubles began to plague new team owner James A. Collier in 1974, forcing him to sell the team to the Johnson brothers, Snellen and Lyle, before the 1975 season. The duo proved to be unfit to manage the small earnings of an ABA franchise and just like that, the Utah Stars disbanded after playing just 16 games in the 1975 ABA season. (Roblez)

Despite the disappointing end to the franchise, the Utah Stars were a catalyst for what is now a thriving sports culture in the state of Utah. Without the Stars, the notion of moving the NBA’s New Orleans Jazz to Salt Lake City would never have been considered. Other professional teams have come and gone: the Arena Football League’s Utah Blaze, the American Professional Soccer League’s Salt Lake Sting and even the WNBA’s Utah Starzz (a fitting homage to the state’s basketball heritage). None came close to having the same impact that the Utah Stars had on Salt Lake City.

Stars radio broadcaster Bill Howard once said, “The Stars boosters include the young, the elderly, the professional man, the blue collar worker, the household; all of whom dig the action and the emotion of professional basketball.” (“We’re No. 1”) Not only did this wide array of fans appreciate the Stars, but also the growing population of Utah’s sports reporters. The team was not only a professional opportunity for its players, but for those who covered them as well. The Stars gave news reporters in Salt Lake City the unique opportunity to cover a nationally recognized entity that Utah had had only a few times before. Anyone who wants to cover professional sports in a small market city need only look at the relationship between the Stars and their various news writers to truly understand the impact the team left on its followers.

Today, the most influential reminder of the Stars is former player Ron Boone, who remained a Salt Lake City resident even after his playing career with the Stars and the NBA’s Utah Jazz. Boone described the Stars 1971 ABA championship as “the greatest accomplishment” of his career and claims that Salt Lake City was where he spent his “best years” as a player. (Biga) Boone remains a fixture of the Utah Jazz broadcasting team, where he has been color commentating on television and radio since 1991. He is, perhaps, the greatest icon left from a team and an era that truly, in the mind of Utahns, has earned its heavenly place among the stars.

Talon Chappell is a senior at the University of Utah. He is majoring in mass communication with an emphasis in journalism.

Sources

“Stars Make It Big,” Davis County Clipper, May 28, 1971.

Dan Pattison, “Stars Gave Utah a Night to Remember,” Deseret News, May 19, 1971.

John Mooney, “Nice Guys Do Win Pennants And Stars Can Prove It,” The Salt Lake Tribune, May 19, 1971, 1.

Dick Rosetta, “Th’ Stars’ Fans Know No Calender,” The Salt Lake Tribune, May 19, 1971, 1.

Steve Rudman, “Colonels Clip Stars in Overtime, Even Series,” The Salt Lake Tribune, May 9, 1971, 1.

Steve Rudman, “Stars Return to Wild Cheers,” The Salt Lake Tribune, April 30, 1971, 1.

1970-71 Utah Stars Roster and Stats,” Basketball-Reference.com.

ESPN, “Moses Malone Biography,” espn.go.com.

KSL Sports, “We’re No. 1: Highlights of the 1970-71 Season,” YouTube.

Leo Bigas, “Ron Boone, Still an Iron man After All These Years,” Leo Adam Biga’s Blog.

Matt Roblez, “Remember the ABA: Utah Stars,” Remember the ABA.com.