The voice of USF Athletics, Jim Louk, will routinely put down his radio headset and pick up the pen to share his perspective on the history of USF Athletics.
Louk has been broadcasting games for 27 years and is the resident historian in the Athletics Department hallways ... This week he remembers the trip to Idaho for the NCAA Tournament
Way Out West for the NCAA Tournament
The Bulls' second visit to the NCAA Tournament was a little different than the first. USF rolled in to Louisville for the Metro Tournament in March 1992 full of confidence after completing a 19-8 regular season. But the Birmingham magic of two years earlier wasn’t repeated as Southern Miss upset the Bulls in double overtime in the first round. Suddenly, we had to hope 19 wins would overcome a first round conference tournament exit in the eyes of the NCAA Tournament committee.
The worrying was for nothing. A few days later the Bulls got their first ever at large berth to the tournament, as an 11 seed. We’d face the Georgetown Hoyas, but that was only half the story. We were going to the regional in Boise.
Without doing the research (which always seems like a lot of work and often confuses a good story with annoying accurate facts) I’m guessing that when the Bulls played the Hoyas in Boise in 1992, it probably marked the only appearance of a Bulls team in any sport in the state of Idaho. When the travel itinerary includes a segment by stage coach, you know you’re in for a journey.
We took commercial flights out - Tampa to Chicago to Salt Lake City to Boise - leaving early in the day and arriving after sundown in the Mountain Time Zone. Thankfully a charter flight was set for the return trip.
Boise turned out to be quite a place; possibly the cleanest and most pleasant city I’ve ever visited. It was a beautiful spring. During down time half the travel party would drive a few miles south of town to golf, while the other half would drive a few miles north of town to ski. Can’t beat that.
Every first and second round regional brings a lot of great personalities together, but this one was really special. The field included LSU with Coach Dale Brown and some young center with a funny first name….Shaquille I think it was, Indiana with Bob Knight, Georgetown with John Thompson and Alonzo Mourning. Bill Walton was among the TV broadcasters.
When people talk about the magnitude of the NCAA Tournament they often cite revenue numbers and TV ratings. I always think about those people listed above who all travelled to Boise, Idaho. Why? Because the NCAA said that’s where the games would be. Now that’s power.
Florida State was there too, and of course so were your Bulls. We belonged. It was our third postseason trip in a row, and second NCAA Tournament appearance in three years. It was a veteran team, the core of which had been together for four years.
Boise State hosted the games in a nice on campus arena named The Pavilion. It was right near the famous blue turf football field, long before Boise State’s football program became prominent. I remember a Boise State official saying how they periodically had to remove dead birds from the field. They saw the blue, figured it was water, and dove in. Services for Beaky and a brief remembrance will begin at 4 p.m.
My great Boise adventure involved renting an old station wagon with four other staff members and driving around the state to see the sights. In a very rural area we came across a small rock slide; not enough to close the road but enough that any intelligent people would have turned around and retreated back to where they started from. Of course we elected to drive through it.
Because We Are Men.
Shortly afterward, a back tire went flat and five USF Athletics administrators got out of the rented car (an old Chevy wagon) to take out the spare. We looked in the trunk. We looked under the carpet in the trunk. We looked under the car. Finally, we came to a conclusion. There was no spare. So we found a phone (it’s 1992…no cell phones), and called a garage. Soon a young man in a tow truck arrived and politely listened to our problems. Then wordlessly he went to a side compartment we hadn’t seen in the trunk, popped the lid, removed the spare, and changed the tire. We tipped him $5 for changing the tire and all the other money we had to never tell anyone.
Thankfully history has never recorded the conversation back at the gas station:
“What was the call?”
“Five east coast idiots that couldn’t change a flat tire.”
“Really? Couldn’t get the flat off the car?”
“Couldn’t get the spare on the car?”
“Then what was the problem?”
“They couldn’t even FIND the spare! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”
I don’t know about the other four guys but I’ve never been back to Idaho, and that’s as good a reason why as any.
The game? We fought really hard, just like we did against Arizona two years earlier, but came up short 75-60. It was bittersweet. A great senior class, one that had taken the program to heights never seen before, was finishing their careers on a court a very long way from home. They’d won 58 times in the past three seasons, and we were all so proud of what they had accomplished.
It’s been a long time since that last NCAA Tournament game, but Stan Heath, his players and his coaches are working hard to get us back, and I know they’ll get us there. I don’t do the basketball radio broadcasts anymore, but when we get back in the tournament, I’m going to take the trip.
And this time when I rent my car, I’ll make sure to ask exactly where the spare tire is.