Thursday, February 03, 2005

Basketball in Huge Domed Stadiums

In trying to fulfill this site's goal of providing a compendium of interesting materials on the Houston-UCLA Game of the Century, I've been doing a lot of searching on the web.

I just found a Lexington (KY) Herald Leader article -- written in conjunction with the Dec. 13, 2003 Kentucky-Michigan State game that drew a college-basketball record 78,129 fans to Detroit's Ford Field -- in which John Wooden provided his perspective on playing basketball in a domed stadium.

The Herald Leader article featuring the Wooden interview is available here. Wooden is quite negative about the idea of playing basketball in such vast venues. Some may attribute this bitterness to the fact UCLA lost the game to Houston in 1968, a notion Wooden denies. Given Wooden's traditionalism, there's nothing surprising about his views on playing in domes. Here are some illustrative sections from the Herald Leader article:

"I didn't want to play there because I thought it'd make a farce of the game I love," Wooden said this week. "My A.D. (athletic director) was for it. He said there would be tremendous coverage. It'd be good for basketball."

[Note: The UCLA athletic director was J.D. Morgan.]

To Wooden's horror, the court was set up far from the crowd at the second base area of the Astrodome's baseball field.

"No place to play," he said. "Before the game, I facetiously told the players that if they had to go to the bathroom, do it now because the court is a quarter-mile from the locker room."

The Herald Leader article had at least one factual error, in describing the UH-UCLA game as a "Monday night telecast." A perpetual calendar clearly shows January 20, 1968 to have been a Saturday.

Another note: At the bottom of the article on the Kentucky-Michigan State game, there's a chart listing the top ten college basketball games in attendance. The 52,693 attendance figure for the Houston-UCLA game no longer ranks even in the top ten.