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   from the issue of October 27, 2005

Coliseum serves lunch hour tradition


When Sam Allgood came to UNL in fall 1993, he was in unfamiliar territory.

ENTRY PASS - Campus Recreation graduate assistant Jenni Keil looks to pass as Rod
 ENTRY PASS - Campus Recreation graduate assistant Jenni Keil looks to pass as Rod "The Rocket" Chambers, assistant director of Campus Recreation, provides defense during a noon pick-up game in the Coliseum on Oct. 21. The lunch hour games between faculty, staff, students and alumni have become a tradition at UNL.

However, before the economics professor had left the University of Georgia, a friend's prediction led him to a long-standing UNL tradition.

"At the University of Georgia, a group of faculty and students played basketball at noon," Allgood said. "A friend claimed that if you went to any college campus, noon hoop was being played."

That claim is more than just an urban myth. Faculty, staff and student basketball over the traditional lunch hour is common at universities nationwide.

At UNL, the game functions as a daily social gathering for some, while others use it as a primary means of physical fitness.

Stanley Jensen, now a retired professor of pathology, continues to participate in the game that takes place at the East Campus Recreation Center. Jensen got his start as a lowly freshman, lacing up for his first game in 1953.

"I got my doctorate and came back to teach here in 1979 and made my debut as a member of the faculty," Jensen said. "The game has never changed. What I always say is it's meant to be intense, but not too serious."

Word of the game often attracts individuals outside of the campus to the Coliseum. Local religious leaders have suited up, as have former state champions.

For more than half a century, Jensen has seen a variety of phenoms showcase their individual skills. And, he has watched some of those gifted athletes being decimated by the crafty team efforts of his fellow faculty members.

Game observers are likely to recall the meticulous approach to defense and fundamentals displayed by Pat Riley-led NBA teams of the 1990s. Ball hogs and statistical driven gym rats need not apply.

That philosophy coupled with a semblance of institutional structure was a breath of fresh air for people like John Hibbing, professor of political science.

"You try to play in the games run by the students and you're going to be dealing with a lot of testosterone and no desire to play defense or pass the ball," Hibbing said. "I didn't play in the faculty game at noon until I had been teaching here for 10 years. It would have been nice to have started sooner before my skills had started deteriorating."

The hardwood floors of the Coliseum still refuse to recognize tenure, and the years of regular play can and do take a toll on the physical constitution of the game's founding fathers.

Peter Maslowski, professor of history, was given an order from his doctor to call it a career after receiving two hip replacements. Maslowski, frequently referred to as "The Commish" of noontime hoops, has served as a stabilizing force for the game since he began playing in 1974.

"Back in the '70s it was a group of six or eight guys playing a half court game," Maslowski said. "By word of mouth it grew and now we might have four full court games going. It's also played year round now, and the games actually start at about 10:30 a.m. even though everyone still refers to it as 'noontime' basketball."

Maslowski says the game's regulars have never consciously recruited anyone to attend, and the same standard has been upheld for deciding how many newcomers are allowed on the court.

"You show up, you're going to play," Maslowski said. "It's a simple policy that works. Through the years we've seen more females and more graduate students become a part of the game."

You can also find a few of UNL's famous faces boxing out an unsuspecting department chair. John Cook, not surprisingly, disappears from the games during volleyball season. Other graduates and former employees revisit the campus just to catch up with former friends and see if they can awaken a jump shot gone dormant for many years.

Students who think they can wander into the game and not focus on the fundamentals of the game are in for a rude awakening. They're likely to be lectured by a familiar face, much like in a classroom setting when they have failed to finish an assignment.

"That one-on-one stuff doesn't fly here," said Tom Wandzilak, of Education and Human Sciences. "The younger guys will get pushed around by the older guys if they don't understand how to play the game," Wandzilak said. "Individual talent still gets schooled."

Schooled on the court, that is.



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