Years ago, Carson-Newman was in the Volunteer State Athletic Conference (VSAC), a college athletic conference founded in the 1940s for smaller colleges in Tennessee. Every February, the VSAC Basketball Championship Playoff Tournament was held at Belmont, since Nashville was located in the center of the state, making it more accessible to colleges in West, Middle and East Tennessee. In 1970, the men of Phi Mu Delta hatched an incredible plan—why not dribble a basketball, non-stop in 4- and 5-man shifts, from mid-court at CN’s Holt Fieldhouse to mid-court at Belmont in time for the tourney?
Much to their chagrin, the administration was less than pleased with the idea. Still, the men from ol’ Philo Hall pressed onward. So, at 6:00 PM on the Wednesday night before the tourney, the first group of Philos left Holt Fieldhouse, dribbling toward Music City.
Barry Doran chronicled the event in the February 25, 1970 issue of the Philo Phacts:
Well brothers, they said we couldn’t do it but I guess we showed them. I think we all know every rock, ditch, bridge, and cow (COW!) from here to Nashville. John got so excited when we left the fieldhouse that he ran backwards, forwards, and sideways all the way to New Market. Jerry Truett made real good time considering he made three pit stops on the way. Of course, he was dribbling to Four Way! At our headquarters in the Branner St. Hilton, Mary Etta Jones and I were feeding everybody beans and cornbread. Why beans? Well, you know we were running ahead of schedule.
Some of those more interested seeing students were so concerned about the welfare of the Philos that they provided breakfast for some of the dribblers—scrambled eggs, of course. But Jerry Hamlin and his crew weren’t very hungry, so they passed it up. Frye had a cool time on Rockwood Mountain, dodging tractor trailers and running beside 100-foot cliffs. Goodroe and Alvin picked up picked up the cutest little puppy while Frye was dribbling. They brought him back to campus to help with the watering system for the new shrubs planted on campus last week (that’s our service project for the year).
Tabor, Tuck, Walker and I dribbled through cold and snow flurries while Steve Petty was trying to find route 70 to Sparta (really Steve, you’ve only lived in Nashville all your life).
Things were going so well that we arrived in Nashville at 9 o’clock Friday morning, so the Nashville crew dribbled around the city, including up the escalators at Cain-Sloan, the Third National Bank building and the Life and Casualty building. Spraker and Hyde played basketball at the Parthenon using a statue of Venus as a goal. I always wondered what to do with a statue, besides look at it!
Spraker and Randy arrived at the Belmont gym in time to see themselves on TV. The film starred “Michelangelo Spraker,” and “Pistol Pete” Oaks. Oh well, like they say in the movies…
Although the school wouldn’t help us on our publicity, Dr. Fincher was most anxious to be at the Belmont gym to to help with the ceremony. Actually, he thought he was going to be on TV, because he kept asking me where the cameras were. He looked a little surprised when I told him he missed them by about 10 minutes. He broke a dinner engagement to be there for the press…guess we faked him off!!! Oh well, that’s the way the ball bounces!!! This weekend was tremendous even if the basketball team did lose their shirt!!! Here’s the thought for the week: RECUPERATE!!!
From the desk of Barry Doran
The 36-hour, 230-mile 1970 Philo Dribbling to VSAC Event through the Tennessee rain and cold proved to be a resounding success. Although pooh-poohed (if not actually condemned) by the administration, it garnered quite a bit of publicity, including seven articles (from seven different newspapers) and Nashville television coverage—all praising Phi Mu Delta for our enthusiasm and school spirit. In fact, the event was re-created the following year—in February of 1971—with a similar outcome (both on the Tennessee backroads and on the Belmont basketball court). That event included the (large and talented) Spring 1971 pledge class and a few brief midnight encounters with local small-town law enforcement who were more than a little curious about carloads of crazy Baptist frat boys dribbling through their respective towns in the middle of the night. Who could have known that just knowing and being able to sing time-honored hymns from the Broadman Hymnal in the middle of the night (when encountering deputy sheriffs) could have come in so handy. Besides, back then, there was not an overabundance of bail bondsmen in the small Tennessee towns along old U.S. federal Highway 70.