GREATEST MOMENTS | First national title in 1975 put Grand Canyon on the map


Grand-Canyon-greatest-1There are a lot of great moments in Grand Canyon University’s sports history, including NAIA national championships in baseball (four) and basketball (three) along with an NCAA Division II men’s soccer title.

Tim Salmon, the American League’s 1992 Rookie of the Year who played 14 seasons in the major leagues, set GCU career records with 51 home runs, 225 runs and 192 RBIs from 1987-89.

The 1958-59 men’s basketball team went 20-0, still the only unbeaten team in GCU history. The Antelopes averaged 82.4 points per game and outscored opponents by nearly 19 points per game.

In 1978, GCU won an NAIA quarterfinal basketball game against Central State (Ohio) in five overtimes, a tournament record that still stands. The Antelopes went on to win the national championship, beating Kearney State (Neb.), 79-75.

In 1988, Rodney Johns hit a 19-foot jumper with 3.0 seconds remaining to cap a career-high 41 points and give 11th-seeded GCU an 88-86 overtime victory against Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) in the national championship.

But there’s only one first, and for GCU that came in 1975. The ‘Lopes capped a 30-3 season with a 65-54 victory against Midwestern State in the NAIA Division I championship game.

It was GCU’s first national championship and the sports moment judged the greatest in school history. It also helped put GCU on the map.

“We won that championship, and everything changed,” David Everett said in 2012.

Led by Everett and first-team All-American Bayard Forest, the ‘Lopes closed the season with 12 consecutive wins. They beat Willamette (Ore.) 83-60, Illinois Wesleyan 66-63, Wisconsin-Parkside 70-54 and Alcorn State 88-68 to reach the NAIA championship game.

Both players were drafted by NBA teams. Forrest was the backup to Alvan Adams with the Phoenix Suns in 1978 and 1979 — including the 1979 Western Conference Finals, when the Suns lost to the Seattle SuperSonics in seven games.

Today, GCU is the only for-profit institution in NCAA Division I and competes in the WAC. Dan Majerle, former star with the Phoenix Suns, coaches the men’s basketball team. They finished 27-7 this season and reached the CIT quarterfinals.

Having completed the three-year transition process from Division II to Division I, GCU will be eligible for the NCAA Tournament next year.

“We’ve got to let people know about this school,” said Everett, who returned to GCU in 2012 as a doctoral candidate. “We need to let it be known that this is a good place for higher learning. I’m proud of my school.”

 GCU Hall of Fame

On the cover: Grand Canyon’s 1974-75 NAIA Division I basketball champions. (Courtesy GCU Athletics)

Coastal Carolina (update) and Florida International 
Fordham and Furman
Gardner-Webb and George Mason 
George Washington and Grand Canyon
Green Bay and Harvard

Mike Bambach

Mike Bambach is senior web producer for ASN.