Friday, December 09, 2005

UH's Penders Wants GOTC 40th Anniversary Contest with UCLA; Bruins' Howland Cool to Idea

I am a strong supporter of having Houston and UCLA play in 2008 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Game of the Century. Current UH Coach Tom Penders apparently has the same idea, but according to a Los Angeles Times article (registration required), UCLA Coach Ben Howland doesn't seem to be as enthusiastic about the idea.

Houston Coach Tom Penders would love to schedule a game with UCLA. He'd love to have a "commemoration" of the 1968 Game of the Century, when the Cougars of coach Guy Lewis and Elvin Hayes beat Lew Alcindor's Bruins, 71-69, in front of 52,693 at the Astrodome to end UCLA's 47-game winning streak.

"But I can't get Ben to return my calls," Penders said Tuesday. "Maybe he wrote me a letter. Maybe I should wait by the mailbox. Or maybe not."

This Penders quote gets to the heart of the matter, in my view:

"...With UCLA, we had the Game of the Century in 1968 and there's never been an anniversary or a commemoration. Reliant Stadium [which will host the Final Four in 2011] wants to host the game. It would be a huge money game and it would be great to have it while Coach [John] Wooden could attend. So many people just want to protect their own little nests and have a fool-the-fan mentality."

Raging discussions are taking place at both the UCLA and UH internet forums. Participants on each board tend to be backing up their respective coaches.

As a UCLA alum (Bachelor's, 1984) and post-doctoral researcher at UH (1989-1991), I would love there to be a 40-year revisitation of the GOTC. As one Cougar fan put it in one of the discussion threads, "It's good for basketball and those who respect the roots of the game. That game is widely credited with popularizing College basketball."

One person who sides with Howland asserts that, "That may have been the game of the century for Houston, but it was just one of many, many, memorable or important games in UCLA history." Sadly, I'm afraid that many Bruin fans share this view.

Think of the people who could be involved: Wooden, Lewis, Hayes, Jabbar, and (of course) Dick Enberg doing the play-by-play ("Oh My!").

I would urge those who feel similarly to how I do to contact the UCLA Athletic Department (the page that you'll reach has both a phone number and an electronic form for written comments).

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Rare National Television Game for Today's UH Cougars

Earlier tonight, ESPN2 televised the University of Houston's exciting victory over the visiting Arizona Wildcats. I cannot recall the last time I saw a UH game on national television. Clearly, Cougar Coach Tom Penders appears to have the UH program moving back toward national prominence.

A couple of references to Guy V. Lewis, the longtime Cougar mentor who coached against UCLA in the 1968 Game of the Century, were in evidence. For one thing, the court at Hofheinz Pavilion is named after Lewis. The telecast also showed the Guy V. Lewis banner -- complete with red polka dots like his legendary towel -- that hangs from the rafters in analogous fashion to players' retired uniform numbers.

For now at least, tonight's win over perennial power Arizona would probably be UH's Game of the 21st Century.