Former Student-Athlete Spotlight: Down Memory Lane with the 1953 Basketball Champions
Nov. 14, 2013
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- This year, the IU Varsity Club sat down with five members of the 1953 Men’s Basketball national championship team to talk about their Indiana experiences and what it means to be a part of the winning, Hoosier tradition.
Q: What was it like to be a student-athlete 60 years ago?
Jim Schooley: For me, it was almost too busy. I majored in chemistry and always fancied that I was a pretty smart guy and a good basketball player too. When I got to IU, I realized that there were other guys who were also good at both. I ran into a lot of people that were better at basketball than me; all I had going for me was determination. On top of practice and studying, I was also chapter president of my fraternity, Beta Theta Pi. I was also in the ROTC program as well as the Little 500 committee that started the Little 500 bike race. Being a student-athlete was such a great experience for me. I busted my tail to do it, but even with my busy schedule, I still earned freshmen scholastic honors. I ended up making a schedule, similar to an excel spreadsheet, where I was determined to have two study hours for every contact hour that was recommended. Come to think of it, I also had to work in the kitchen at my fraternity house to pay room and board bills and that took some time. I found out if I scheduled everything and stuck to the schedule, I had plenty of time for 8 hours of sleep, and recreation if I wanted it.
VC: As a former student-athlete, what has kept you connected to IU Athletics and to support the IU Varsity Club?
Charlie Kraak: What really drew me to Indiana University was coach Branch McCracken and his wife, Mary Jo. They were wonderful people and acted as my parents while I was away from home. That was the main selling point for me. IU has done a great job of keeping those wonderful people, like the McCracken’s, within the University. It makes it easy to give back and support student-athlete scholarships when you know that the money is supporting outstanding and hardworking kids who are surrounded by excellent people.
Q: Having been a student-athlete and having won a national championship for Indiana, what does it mean to you to be a part of the rich tradition that is Indiana basketball?
Dick White: It means a lot. It certainly opened doors for us and people treated us greatly. We had all kinds of folks who hosted parties for us after we won the championship. Those things were just absolutely outstanding. You couldn’t imagine how much respect you got after winning that championship. That respect has lasted all my life. I had three guys call me from the west coast when we had our picture taken at our reunion last year. The guys called me and said, “Hey! I saw you on TV with your old 1953 team!” It’s an honor to be able to have played for the Hoosiers and to be a part of Indiana’s winning tradition.
Phil Byers: It means a lot. It’s special. When we have our reunions, we came back and the athletic department recognized us. That type of stuff keeps you emotionally tied. I was so impressed when we came back this year. The reunion you guys had for us was really special. Everybody did a great job. We felt connected to the Athletic Director, Fred Glass, and Coach Crean even invited us all into the locker room for the post-game meeting. I was emotionally moved by the whole experience. It was just really special. That whole experience was first class. When you have that kind of experience, it brings you closer to the University.
Q: What are your favorite memories of the national championship season as a whole?
Dick White: I can remember just about every game. I can remember the first tough test that we had was a home game against Illinois. We ended up winning in double overtime and that’s just a memory that you don’t forget. And as we went over to Illinois to play them to wrap up the home-and-home series, we beat them handily there. But on our home court during the beginning of the season it was a really tough game. This fact always stood out to me about our NCAA championship, we lost three games that year by a total point deficit of four. Those are the things you remember and you also remember a lot of funny things. We played tricks and pranks on everybody and we had a ball doing it. I think we’re all a close-knit group. We liked each other and that goes a long way for a good team.
Q: Can you tell us what it was like seeing everyone on the ‘53 team at the reunion at Cook Hall in November 2012?
Ron Fifer: Well, it’s always nice to see them. We have gotten together on a few occasions for other events, so I’ve seen them on and off over the years. It’s amazing how you pick up right where you left off. You still know them and you still have fond memories of each other. It’s a nice feeling to know that you are a part of something that has lasted this long. It has been 60 years since we’ve won the NCAA Championship together and therefore has become harder and harder for us, as a group, to stay in touch. We really rely on the Varsity Club to keep us up to date with each other’s whereabouts and arranging our next get-togethers.
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