EDITOR’S NOTE: This letter is courtsey of Chris Doyle, whose father was Jack Doyle, the head coach of USD men’s basketball team from 1973 until 1982. Doyle shares his memories from experiencing the rivarly as a kid.
I recall so many great things about the USD-SDSU games in the 1970s. The days leading up to the game were so exciting, building with anticipation.
Dad would always take a nap in the middle of the afternoon and Mom would expect me to also take a nap. I never slept though, because I didn’t want to miss getting ready, eating and then walking to the game with Dad.
Game apparel would be white painter pants and a red turtle neck, tennis shoes wrapped in bread bags and stuffed into 5-buckle over boots and an army green JCP parka.
Dad wore his suit coats which looked like the material had been stolen from the front seat covers of 1971 Volkswagen, his fuzzy fez hat, leather gloves and a trench coach. His glasses frosted over from the temperature outside.
Arriving at the “New” Armory was amazing, because the student section was already filling up and the crowd was into the JV game. Hanging out in the equipment room, the locker room and the training room led to discussion about the game and predictions of the outcome.
Once the team was ready to take the court, the crowd was standing room only, with the large entrance into the Armory packed to the exterior doors. USD would enter the court to USD’s band playing the fight song. Then would follow SDSU’s entrance, running the exterior outline of the court to the ear-popping sound of ‘booing’, the chant of ‘Hate State” and a pelting of carrots and a handful of dead rabbits. To this day, I can’t recall anything more thrilling about my childhood than seeing those rabbits sliding across the court and the crowd erupting. There was Charlie Coyote running around and inciting more and more excitement.
Then there were the games: Charlie Cutler, Joe Meuting, Rick Nissan, Brian Powers, Charlie Thomas and Kenny Willis. I’m certain you recall many of the other players, all of whom gave their best for the games against SDSU.
There was the night Chris Deans went 14 of 15 from the floor. There was the game when we watched Jeff Nannen striding down the sideline, soaring through the air at the far end of the court and catching Barry Glanzer’s ally-oop and dunking it. There were the missed free throws, the turnovers, the bad calls. There was the 10-foot jump shot to tie it or take the lead. The time outs to plot strategy. The anticipation of how the Coyotes could take control. There was foul trouble, substitutions and the occasional pushing match.
There was the possibility of winning big, the fear that SDSU was taking over the game and the dread of wondering how it would turn out. No matter what there was, the game always had meaning – from start to finish and with each second in-between.
Halftime was seeing members of a fraternity house walking around the floor with a bed-sheet spray painted to encourage people to throw money, collected for MDA or some other charity.
Inevitably a student would throw an empty whiskey bottle into the sheet. There was the Modern Electric half-court shot challenge, provided you had the program with the lucky number stamped on it. The hallways of the Amory were packed, leading to the Coyote Club’s hospitality room and a low hanging ceiling of smoke, draped over us all during a time when it seemed like everyone smoked.
Then there was the ending. One shot, hit or miss, the game won or lost.
If the Coyotes won, it was the best. A party would follow at the house where bedtime was not an issue. People came to the house, happy and full of stories. There was laughter and levity and the flinching of Mother’s face with every cuss that came out of Jim Burt’s mouth. There was Dad’s joy and happiness and there was a peace in our home. There thoughts of what could have happened, if only they hadn’t turned the ball over, if the foul hadn’t been called and if the shot would have fallen.
It’s impossible to experience ‘the high’ if you haven’t known the low. And the USD-SDSU games of the 1970’s provided both extremes for all of us. What an awesome package of memories, melded into one giant sense of gratitude for having grown up in Vermillion and having had my Dad as the coach of the Coyotes.