Friday, December 1, 2023

Saluki Sports

SalukisBy Fred Huff


It was a weekend to remember and for several different reasons if you are any kind of a Saluki sports fan.

Obviously the most noteworthy event, at least the best known, was SIU’s win over Missouri State.  Just like the Salukis’ earlier-in-the-week win over Evansville, it balanced out the season’s record against the Bears and gave coach Barry Hinson’s outfit just a little bit of a chance to avoid last place in the Missouri Valley Conference’s regular-season standings.

However, the weekend was busy as SIU’s athletics department hosted the annual Hall of Fame activities as well as the football program’s awards banquet.

Even though the basketball win was a key as SIU improved its records to 11-15 overall and 4-11 in the Valley, it was the Hall of Fame’s events that we’ll probably remember longer.

If you were at the game, we need not remind you of the impressive reception fans gave the six new H/F members when they were introduced at halftime.  If you missed the game, believe me, it was superb and you didn’t have to be one of the six honorees on the floor to have chills go up-and-down your back when they were introduced.  SIU’s fans were great and perhaps were in a celebrating mood as a result of the Salukis’ first-half performance and 31-22 lead over the visiting Bears that came into the game with a 6-8 league record.

However, the happening we’re most likely to remember from the weekend was seeing and visiting with the Sprengelmeyer brothers, Bob and Roy, who were tennis standouts at SIU in the early 1960s and who were inducted into the Saluki Hall of Fame 11 years ago.

The Sprengelmeyers showed up unannounced, and as far as we know didn’t talk to anyone until we mentioned to athletics director Mario Moccia that they were in attendance, and without fanfare.  It’s no one’s fault.  If you don’t mention to anyone that you’re coming, don’t expect a welcoming committee fronted by a brass band.  That, however, is just how the Sprengelmeyers operate.

So what’s the big deal?  They were driving from Florida to Iowa and “just thought we’d drop in”.   And, no, they didn’t stay for the game as Bob said, “we’d better get back on the road as it’s a long haul from Carbondale to Dubuque.”

One of several reasons why we’ll never forget the Sprengelmeyers is a negative happening in their sophomore season, 1961.

SIU was on its way to sweeping the 10 championships offered in the Interstate Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.  The Salukis had already won titles in football, cross-country, basketball, wrestling, gymnastics, and swimming and were playing hosts to the other league teams in baseball, track, golf and tennis.

It was common for all administrators and head coaches to hold a joint business session the night before competition began.  At the meeting, a visiting athletics director raised a question as to the Sprengelmeyers’ eligibility.  It was voted on and passed.  The Sprengelmeyers were not allowed to play and the Salukis finished fourth.  Tennis was the only title that escaped SIU and came climaxing a season in which the Salukis had lost only to tennis powerhouses Northwestern and Notre Dame.

So the Salukis were forced to settle for just nine of the IIAC’s 10 titles, but the happening was enough for then-athletics director Don Boydston who almost immediately launched plans for the Salukis to drop out of the conference which included the other state schools, Illinois State, Eastern, Western and Northern Illinois, as well as Central and Eastern Michigan.

It was a major happening as SIU was without conference alignment for eight years until another league, the Midwestern, was formed in 1969.  It lasted for only two years, but more, perhaps, on that later.