Yes, Virginia. There is a Chaminade.
The year was 1982 and parity had come to college basketball after a 12 year hiatus. The UCLA dynasty that defined the landscape of college hoops in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s had ended. Refreshing new champions and heroes had emerged: NC State and David Thompson, Indiana and Scott May, Marquette and Bo Ellis, Kentucky and Kyle Macy, Michigan State and Magic Johnson, and Louisville and Darrell Griffith.
The NCAA Tournament had steadily expanded from 30 teams in 1975 to 48 in 1980 on its way to 64 by 1985. With this expansion would come the inclusion into the tourney field of many more teams and conferences. The field would include mid-majors and small, unheard of colleges. This meant that major upsets were inevitable. Small schools would have 40 minutes to attempt to pull off the unimaginable. Arkansas Little Rock, James Madison, Cleveland State, South Alabama, George Mason, these names are forever etched in the minds of fans as “Upset U.”
But, this “era of the upset” did not start in the NCAA Tournament. It started on December 23, 1982 at Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu. It was there that the greatest upset in the history of college basketball occurred. It did not involve a mid-major of even an NCAA small college team. Chaminade, an NAIA school of 900 students just seven years into their athletic program’s history, defeated the No. 1 team in the nation.
On Christmas Eve, 1982, people across the country awoke, read the sports headlines and stared in disbelief. Some read the headline, rubbed their eyes and read it again, as if trying to focus it away. It couldn’t be true, but it was.
In 1921, Centre College of Danville, KY defeated Harvard in college football. The tiny school, before unknown to most of the nation, stunned America’s perennial national champion. It was the biggest upset in the history of American sports. At least, until Dec. 23, 1982.
From the Associated Press:
Tiny Chaminade Stuns Mighty Virginia
December 24, 1982
By The Associated Press
Tiny Chaminade of Hawaii fired the shot heard throughout the college basketball world last night, upending No. 1 Virginia in a 77-72 upset that likely will live on in cage lore.
Tony Randolph scored 19 points and Jim Dunham 17 for the Silverswords, No. 4 in the NAIA rankings. Virginia's 7-foot-4 Ralph Sampson, the college basketball player of the year the last two seasons, played the entire game and was held to 12 points.
Randolph, a 6-8 center, went head-to-head with Sampson, an old nemesis from high school days when Randolph was living in Staunton, Va. and Sampson in nearby Harrisonburg, Va. The two collided six times in their prep careers.
It was free throws that beat the Cavaliers, 8-1, as Chaminade, 11-1, converted 21 of 33. Virginia was 14 of 24 from the free throw line.
Chaminade, with only 900 students, now has two consecutive upsets of NCAA Division I teams to its credit. The Silverswords beat crosstown rival Hawaii 56-47 last Friday. Virginia and Hawaii are the only Division I teams Chaminade will face this season.
As far as institutions of higher learning go, Chaminade University is quite young, established as a liberal arts college in 1955 by the Marianist Order of the Catholic Cbuch.
As far as intercollegiate athletic programs go, Chaminade's is younger still, set up just seven years ago. The coed school with only 900 students shares its campus with the much larger and older St Louis High School on a hillside in the community of Kaimuki, a suburban area of Honolulu. The sharing includes the gymnasium and other athletic facilities.
The student body, like its now nationally-recognized basketball team, is divided about half-and-half between local students and those from the mainland. Most of the local students commute to classes while the mainland students stay in dorms.
Three years ago, the academic program was broadened and the school assumed the title of Chaminade University.
In his six years as coach of the Silverswords, Merv Lopes, 51, has achieved an impressive 114-35 record, including a 28-3 record last year and trips to the NAIA District two championships for the past two years.
Lopes, who coached a number of local high school teams before taking on the Silverswords as a part-time effort, played football for San Jose State. His success with the Chaminade basketball team is because he stresses team play, said Chaminade Athletic Director Mike Vasconcellps.
The school's nickname, Silversword, is the name of a cactus-like plant, similar to the century plant, that grows only on the higher slopes of the Haleakala volcano on the island of Maui.
Chaminade 77, Virginia 72: Yes, it really happened
On the 20th Anniversary of the game
Nobody believed the score. Chaminade 77, Virginia 72.
The 800-student NAIA school from Honolulu beat the nation's No. 1-ranked school on Dec. 23, 1982, in the biggest upset in college basketball history.
Virginia had a 7-foot-4 center who was en route to his third straight national player of the year award.
The Cavaliers had been to the Final Four in 1981. In the four games before playing Chaminade, they won by 13 points at Duke, beat Georgetown and sophomore center Patrick Ewing in what was billed as "The Game of the Decade," and then went to Japan for a two-game tournament.
Playing without an ill Ralph Sampson, Virginia beat Houston, featuring center Hakeem Olajuwon, and Utah in Tokyo.
Most of the 3,500 fans in the University of Hawaii's Blaisdell Arena were there to see the No. 1 team and the No. 1 player. They wound up seeing the No. 1 upset.
When the score and story moved on The Associated Press wire around 2 a.m. EST, several newspapers called the New York office to verify the copy.
"Which Virginia did they beat?" one caller asked, thinking it might have been Virginia State, Virginia Union or some other school with a similar name.
The late Tom Mees was nearing the end of a Sports Center on ESPN that night and was given a piece of paper with the news of the upset on it, but he balked at reading it.
"We were dumbfounded," Mees told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin at the time. "Nobody had heard of Chaminade then. I asked them to double-check it.
"Usually I would bolt for the door to go home and get some sleep, but that night I went back upstairs and called someone in Honolulu. If I was going to read something this momentous to the country, I wanted to at least make sure I'd been right."
Chaminade players Richard Haenisch and Mark Rodrigues knew the outcome was right, and they celebrated higher than anyone else, climbing on to the rims after the game in what became instant photo classics.
"In the second half, the crowd sounded like 35,000. You could hear them saying 'Oh my God, they can beat these guys,'" Haenisch said. "They rushed on the court and I sat on the rims. It was a great feeling."
"Nobody knew how to say our name. They thought it rhymed with 'lemonade.' Then you heard people say, 'Yes, Virginia, there is a Chaminade.'"
The 20th anniversary is being celebrated a little early because the schools meet Monday in the opening game of the Maui Invitational, an eight-team tournament that Chaminade, now a member of Division II in the NCAA, hosts every year.
The matchup was created by ESPN, and the tournament has invited some of the significant participants to this year's event.
"That game will be like the Titanic or Iwo Jima," current Virginia coach Pete Gillen said earlier this month at ACC media day. "They'll be reviewing when they beat us 20 years ago."
The review has been going on for two decades and was only heightened by the Silverswords' wins over highly ranked Louisville and Southern Methodist the next two seasons.
Ralph Sampson and Virginia couldn't figure out a way to stop Ernest Pettway or Chaminade in 1982.
Chaminade's Tony Randolph had played against Sampson in high school in Virginia and in pickup games. That helped his confidence despite the eight-inch difference in height. Randolph finished with 19 points, seven more than Sampson.
"That team we had wasn't scared of anybody," Randolph said.
Haenisch admitted there was some fear against a team that had just beaten Houston.
"We knew they just came from beating Phi Slamma Jamma and we were intimidated a little early," he said. "When you start executing your plays, you start believing. We were tied at halftime and went into locker room feeling 'they're not any better than us."'
Then came the game's signature play, and it was one of the smallest players who pulled it off.
"Both teams had a five-, seven-point lead but it was close," Randolph said. "Then Mark Rodrigues came off the bench and found Tim Dunham off a back screen, and he slammed it home with Ralph Sampson in the vicinity. That play was usually the one we used to shut the door on teams. That night, when it happened, we knew right then everything was clicking."
"The alley-oop to Dunham really got us going and let us think we can win this game," said Haenisch, now a broker in Los Angeles. "Dunham said he was 6-1 or 6-2. He was 5-10."
Dunham, who is the pastor of The Greater Faith Missionary Baptist Church in Pittsburg, Calif., didn't get caught up in the height controversy or the hype around the play.
"It was just another play, one we regularly did in games," he said. "A two-handed alley-oop sounds more accurate."
Sampson had been diagnosed with pneumonia after the Georgetown game. He spent most of his time in Tokyo sick in his hotel room. He returned to the court against Chaminade and had 17 rebounds against the Silverswords.
"All our players had played their hearts out in Tokyo," Sampson said. "They relaxed too much when they got to Honolulu. They went to the beach, got a suntan, got healthy. It was a situation where we just weren't ready to play."
Sampson, who works with youngsters through his organization Winner's Circle in Atlanta, isn't thrilled talking about the game.
"My career speaks for itself as far as basketball is concerned," he said. "There are always lapses. People can call it what they want. Now I'll have a chance to work with kids by doing some camps in Hawaii. If a game like that can lead to something like this 20 years later, that's great. It was special for Chaminade and the players and fans. Me? I'll remember the Georgetown game."
No one will ever forget Chaminade-Virginia.
Three months later, Virginia lost to North Carolina State one game shy of another Final Four, and Chaminade lost to South Carolina-Spartanburg in the NAIA tournament.
It's the game on Dec. 23, 1982, that made history.
"I'm trying to golf now, and every once in a while you meet people who ask me what I did, and I make mention of that victory, and it's 'Oh yeah, I remember that,"' Dunham said. "I take the tape out and look at it every once in a while. My kids get a good laugh out of it."
Randolph stayed in Honolulu and he and his wife worked for the state for 13 years as counselors for troubled juveniles.
"You don't want to be known for just one game, but if it's going to be one, that's the one," he said. "It was like I was reborn. Things turned out awesome, I was nicknamed 'Miracle Man.' I'm pleased someone sees me that way."
Sampson Legitimized Chaminade's Upset
Yesterday's star-spangled reunion celebrating one
of the most astonishing upsets in college basketball history-
Chaminade's 77-72 victory over No. 1-ranked Virginia on Dec. 23,
1982- would not have been possible without the guest of honor,
Virginia's 7-foot-4 center Ralph Sampson.
The game against Chaminade, Sampson said, "that's
what life is all about. It's about winning and losing. Hopefully,
you can learn from your losses. That was definitely a learning
experience. But it did lead to the creation of a great tournament,
the best in the country. Twenty years later, I realize, it's all for
the good of basketball."
Where are they now ...?