Having just returned from Branson, Mo., and the NAIA Division II Men’s National Basketball Tournament, I would like to pass on a few observations. My wife, Kay, and I were accompanied by former Eastern Oregon College all-conference basketball player and Northeast Oregon educator Mike Moor and his wife, Linda.
I was intrigued by the host school, College of the Ozark’s mission to serve the needs for a higher education for the students of the Ozark Mountain Region. It is one of six colleges nationally that was formed to serve low-income regions. Ninety percent of the students receive Federal Student Assistance dollars and in turn are required to work 15 hours per week to pay for their tuition.
Also, if a student elects to work 40 hours per week in the summer their room and board is furnished. The students do the maintenance and landscape work, provide security, do laundry and custodial work, operate an on-campus hotel convention center and even maintain a dairy herd.Thirty-two of the best small college basketball teams from places like Palm Beach, Fla.; Bangor, Maine; Sioux Falls, S.D., Oakland, Calif.; the Great Plains region; and Central Midwest, along with four Cascade Conference teams showed their determination, skills and abilities that I would match with any NCAA sub-division basketball association.
I watched 26 of 28 games in a four-day period (missed two games to take my wife to an evening entertainment show) and saw some of the best small college basketball I have ever seen. This led me to reflect on just what was accomplished by our Eastern Oregon University men’s basketball team.
They were as good as any team there and a lot better than most of the competition. If it was not for two untimely and unfortunate judgment calls by the officials they could well have been able to play for the national championship.
But the most noticeable fact was the character, determination, sportsmanship and respect that the entire team of players and coaches demonstrated throughout the tournament. Coach Ryan Looney and his assistants were well prepared and the team executed out the game plan.
Coach Loony in five years has brought our men’s programs to a national respected level. Team members Paul Carollo, Jeremy Templeton and Neil Fryer have been the cornerstone for the past four years and have helped compile a win-loss record of 92-32.
The foundation of the NAIA is the Champions of Character Program. This program emphasizes respect, responsibility, sportsmanship, integrity and servant leadership. I can tell you that our EOU team met each one of these high standards.
It was also very noticeable that all the Cascade Conference teams were united in cheering and supporting their conference teams. OIT had nearly 100 fans rooting for the Mountaineers at each game. It was a great atmosphere for college basketball.
Supporters of Eastern Oregon athletics can be proud of the accomplishments of all the student athletes. The leadership of our staff of incredible coaches has led EOU to national recognition in cross country, track/field and men’s and women’s basketball along with the resurgent volleyball, football, soccer and softball programs.
The Eastern Oregon University Booster Club would like to thank our members, corporate sponsors, families, alumni, faculty and staff and people of our community for their continued support and appreciation for our student-athletes.