By Ann Gill (M.A., ’76)
The 1968-69 men’s basketball team made it to the NCAA tournament and progressed to the final eight, which is deeper into the tournament than any other CSU team has gone. That special season was part of a wonderful era of Ram basketball under legendary coach Jim Williams.
Boyd Grant (B.S., ’57; M.Ed., ’62) (see related story) and Irv Ferguson (B.S., ’46; M.Ed., ’48) were assistant coaches that year. Four of the senior starters were part of a recruiting class ranked second best in the nation, behind only UCLA, whose recruiting class included Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabbar). The CSU class was known in Fort Collins as the “Fabulous Frosh.” The four senior NCAA starters from that recruiting class were twins Floyd (B.A., ’69; M.Ed., ’76) and Lloyd Kerr (B.A., ’69), Mike Davis (B.S., ’69; CERT, ’69), and Cliff Shegogg. Another outstanding senior, Marty Hess (B.S., ’70), had developed a serious illness and redshirted that year.
The team’s 7-1 start in 1968-69 is tied for best in school history. CSU was not part of a conference from the 1962-63 through 1968-69 seasons, but the Rams received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. They won their first game 52-50 against the University of Dayton and advanced to the next round, where they met Big 8 champion CU. The Rams viewed that matchup as ironic, because in those days CU would not schedule CSU in any sport. The Denver media gave the Rams no chance, but they won 64-56. Next the Rams played Drake to determine who would represent the Midwest region in the final four. Drake won 84-77, despite sophomore Doug Peden coming off the bench to score 19 points. Floyd Kerr was named to the Midwest All-Region Team.
Team members say the keys to their success that year and in the tournament were the bond that developed among players and the love they had for the coaches. After CSU, life took these men in a variety of directions, but most have stayed in touch with each other. Floyd Kerr coached basketball, including at CSU, and served as athletic director at Southern University and Morgan State University. Mike Davis went on to earn advanced degrees in plant pathology and became a researcher at the University of Florida, isolating bacterial pathogens in tropical plants. Lloyd Kerr worked in sales for a medical equipment company in Joliet, Illinois. Bob Caton (B.A., ’71) has coached basketball at several Denver high schools, currently at Mullen. Doug Peden (B.A., ’72) was a high school educator and coach and spent 31 years in Falcon, Colorado. Tom Meeker was a pilot for American Airlines. Marty Hess (B.S., ’70) owned an AllState Insurance business in Denver and continues to play basketball at senior tournaments. Tom Nowicki (B.A., ’72) worked for the sheriff’s department in South Bend, Indiana. The last anyone on the team heard from Cliff Shegogg, he went to California to become an actor after appearing in the 1977 movie filmed at Moby Arena, “One on One.”
According to Coach Grant, the 1968-69 Rams “were as good a team as CSU ever had.” This is the 50th anniversary of their amazing season. The team will be honored in Moby Arena on February 23, when the Rams play Wyoming.