Where is Marquette?
April 5, 2003
So I’m playing Texas Hold ‘Em the other night at Harvey’s in Stateline. The guy sitting next to me is yapping my ear off because, like most poker players, people will do anything to draw someone’s attention away from their hand.
The NCAA Tournament was the topic of conversation. I’m holding the best hand. This guy next to me, who seems to always either open the betting or raise, pries enough to find out I graduated from Marquette University.
Then he starts talking about how Marquette looked good in its win over Kentucky and how junior guard Dwyane Wade is amazing and how he can lead them to a national championship. I can’t even remember what my cards are anymore because I like this guy so much. Think about it, some bald man in his 40s in need of dental insurance showing an interest in my school. What are the odds?
Before Kevin, the dealer, throws out the last card on the board, my buddy raises $6 and Kevin asks “Where is Marquette?” I’m so excited I fold. ‘Milwaukee, Wisconsin,’ I say with pride.
Kevin throws out the final card, my buddy wins with Ace high and 20 seconds ago I folded a King-high straight.
Anybody with an idea of higher education has probably heard of Marquette. But outside of the Midwest, most people don’t even know where its located. The first game of the Final Four in New Orleans begins today at 3:07 p.m. and I want you to know as much as possible about Marquette before it beats Kansas University. I also want you to know as much as possible about Marquette before it beats Syracuse University in Monday’s national championship game.
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Marquette University is a Jesuit school that was founded in 1881 by Father Jacques Marquette, a French explorer who made settled on the western shore of Lake Michigan. It’s an 80 acre urban campus near downtown Milwaukee. It has 7,500 undergraduate students and an overall student population of 11,000. Tuition and fees is $19,400 per year and room and board is $6,700 per year. (Thank goodness for that athletic scholarship). The most famous building on campus is the St. Joan of Arc Chapel, believed to be the oldest medieval structure in the Western Hemisphere still dedicated to its original purpose. Before arriving on Marquette’s central mall, stone by stone the pieces were brought over from France in the early 1900s.
Some Marquette famous sports-related alumni are Sports Illustrated columnist Steve Rushin and current Utah men’s basketball coach Rick Majerus, who graduated from Marquette in 1970. In 1968, the overweight Kentucky Fried Chicken lovin’ Majerus made the basketball team as a walk on. Actor/comedian Chris Farley, who died from a drug overdose several years ago, thought he was an alum. In the beginning of the comedy ‘Tommy Boy’, Farley can be seen wearing a light blue jacket with gold letters on it saying ‘Marquette Rugby.’ But he never graduated from the school. However, he did visit campus bars regularly and is notorious for a particular bar room spectacle that can’t be printed in a family newspaper.
In May of 1994, Marquette changed its mascot from the ‘Warriors’ to the ‘Golden Eagles.’ Native Americans felt Warriors was insensitive. But if you ever attend a game at the Bradley Center, which doubles as the home of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, fans still chant ‘Let’s go Warriors.’
Despite alarming the entire nation by making the Final Four with wins over Pittsburgh and Kentucky last weekend, the Golden Eagles/Warriors have a rich basketball history. Legendary coach Al McGuire, who died two years ago at the age of 72, beat North Carolina to win the 1977 national title and lost to North Carolina State in the ’74 title game. From 1964-77, McGuire went 295-80 and won 81 consecutive home games from 1967-’73, the fifth longest streak in NCAA history. He has a career winning percentage of .739 percent, which ranks him among the 20 winningest coaches of all-time. From 1972-80, the Warriors were ranked in the top 25 for 139 consecutive weeks. Most of those weeks, they were in the top 10.
But when McGuire left, Marquette basketball dropped off. Kevin O’Neil brought brought the team back to respectability in the 90s by making several NCAA Tournaments. You might even remember O’Neil from the award winning documentary ‘Hoop Dreams.’ Dwayne Gates, the better of the two Chicago prep players the movie was based on, went to Marquette. After O’Neil, Mike Deane took over. Fortunately he was replaced by current coach Tom Crean before the 1999-2000 season.
Before arriving in Milwaukee, Crean was Tom Izzo’s top assistant at Michigan State. When the Spartans went to three straight Final Fours between 1999-2001, including a national title in 2000, Crean was responsible for recruiting every player on those teams. Known as a ‘recruiting fool’, Crean once brought a potential MSU recruit into the basketball office and sat him down. It took a few seconds but the kid finally noticed an assembled, specially made 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle of him in a Spartans’ uniform on the coffee table.
With Dean’s awful talent, though, Crean could do no better than 15-14 in his first two seasons. Last year, the Golden Eagles went 26-6 but were upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by 12th-seeded Tulsa and finished the season ranked No. 12. Going into today’s game against the Jayhawks, Marquette is 27-5 and has been ranked every week this season.
The next successful men’s sport at Marquette is the soccer team, which I was a member of. My coach couldn’t wait to see me go. The year before I got there, we were ranked in the top 10, won Conference USA and went to the NCAA Tournament. The year after I left, we were ranked in the top 10 and won Conference USA. In between those two seasons, we won nothing. Pure coincidence? I’d like to think so.
Just like it was pure coincidence when my poker buddy won another hand by telling a 20-something UC-Davis graduate that his father went to Davis, too. My buddy won with a pair of 4s. The kid folded two pair.
Jeremy Evans is a Nevada Appeal sports writer who graduated from Marquette University with a BA in Journalism in May of 2000.