Tradition never graduates. It’s the mantra of Whitworth University Basketball. It’s a positioning statement that could easily be used for several other sports at the University, or for all of Whitworth Athletics actually. The Conference All Sports Banners have found a permanent home in the Fieldhouse. (Just take a peak sometime at what the Swim, Track & Field and Cross Country programs consistently do. They keep it up and a center will have to be opened up just for their hardware.) I don’t remember all of the years anymore. It’s always easy to remember the first and the last. But the in-between does get a little muddy. But I do know this; if broadcasting for winning teams is a broadcasters dream then I’ve been blessed with one of the best dream jobs ever. My first chance to see a Whitworth team was an accident. The former and probably original voice, Chuck DeBruin needed someone to fill in. I can still feel the basketball crowd screaming. It felt like 10, 000 people but it was a standing room only of more like 1,800 I’m guessing. I can still see Nate Dunham and Nate Williams making a mockery of the NAIA world and I still have the audio, (on cassette of course) of Roman Wickers knocking down a huge corner 3. That team simply went on to finish 2nd with an OT loss in the National Championship.
I may have experienced one losing season in the last 12 years, but I certainly don’t remember it. And even in the early days of Whitworth Football struggling – they seemed to have been great times. I know I’m still friends with many of those players. But really how bad could it have been when I think they’ve only had 3 losing football seasons in my 12 years there. But let’s get back to the tradition of Whitworth Basketball. It probably gets lost here in Division I Spokane. The home of the mighty Gonzaga Bulldogs. A program that has, with great pride, credibility and consistency, built a basketball machine that leaves the supposed high majors shaking its head. So it’s ok if you don’t realize that Spokane’s NCAA D-III gem, hidden behind the pines, has simply been as dominate. Hope you like stats because here they come.
The men's team just wrapped up its 4th outright NWC Championship. Something that had not been done since 1930! It’s their 7th in the last 8 years. The Bucs have appeared in the conference championship game ten times and have won eight times: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2003, and 1996. The league did not hold a tournament in 1999, 2004 and 2005. The only season the Bucs did not qualify is 2000. They have won 20 or more games 8 years in a row. They have won 101 of their last 111 games. Since the 2001-02 season, the Pirates are 124-1 in the Whitworth Fieldhouse. Oh and of course they have gone – which means I have gone - to the NCAA Tournament 6 times including the last 5 straight years. Whitworth Men’s Basketball has appeared in 3- Sweet Sixteen’s and last year’s Elite 8. But the best stat of all? Not one winning season is better than any of the players that have suited up for any of those teams. It’s a tradition of remarkable people. And it’s a tradition at Whitworth, That Never Graduates.