Marquette basketball: Hardwood warriors

On a Friday afternoon 30 years ago this past spring, I officially accepted a fellowship to enroll as a graduate student at the Marquette University College of Journalism. The next day, the Marquette basketball team, the defending NCAA champions, were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by Miami of Ohio.

In a way, I figured I was somehow responsible for that. It would be just my luck to pick a school at the top of the world, and they’d immediately begin their decline. In the two winters I spent at Marquette, the Warriors — as they were known then — were consistently in the Top 20 AP rankings (later expanded to 25). It would be roughly a quarter century before Marquette, led so ably in the 70s by Al McGuire and Hank Raymonds, would return to the NCAA Final Four.

The team is ranked 15th in the AP poll at this early point in the season. It’s good to see my grad school alma mater playing on the national stage again, even if the team bears the lame nickname “Golden Eagles.”

Each year when my wife (a Marquette alumna) and I get a solicitation call from the university, we tell the student on the line that if the school will bring back the “Warriors” name, we’ll double our contribution.

The name won’t change, the university has made clear. The Warriors nickname controversy was under way in my year and a half on campus, and about that time the university — rightly, in my judgment — dropped the “Willie Wampum” caricature of an Indian with a tomahawk. The anti-Warriors faction kept the drum beat up, so to speak, and the school eventually dropped “Warriors.” There were some twists and turns in the story — at one point, the university ridiculously proposed calling the team the “Gold” — but in the end the school settled on Golden Eagles.

That still bugs me. The golden eagle is a fine creature, but it’s at best the No. 2 eagle behind our national sysmbol, the bald eagle. Why not just “Eagles” (although the Boston College allusion would make me twitch)? Or why not a term that by itself doesn’t have any ethnic or national connotations? Like “Warriors.”

Marquette considers the issue decided, and I can live with that. I’m still pulling for the warriors wearing the MU blue and gold. And on a trip back to campus a couple of years ago, I very carefully chose the cap pictured above precisely because it made no reference to any eagle, golden or otherwise.

p.s.: Marquette renamed the College of Journalism, too. Don’t get me started.

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