BYU’s NIT note from President Smith



Maybe it helps to have a note from the right high profile person.

BYU lost in the semifinal round of the NIT on Tuesday, ending dreams of winning the tournament as it did in 1951.

New York City in ‘51 was a bigger deal than now, at least from a basketball perspective. It was home to the biggest college basketball tournament in the world – the NIT. Now it’s home to the best teams that didn’t make the NCAA field.

BYU’s Tuesday loss to Baylor ended the Cougars’ season. The game at Madison Square Garden brought the inevitable comparisons to BYU’s championship teams in ’51 and ’66.

As chronicled in “Greatest Moments in BYU Sports” by Lee Warnick and yours truly, BYU coach Stan Watts was reading encouraging telegrams to his team in the locker room prior to the championship game in ‘51. He had not realized, until he read it, that one of the notes came from then –LDS President George Albert Smith.

Deseret News photo

“From the top of the Rockies I send my love and blessing. Many thousands share my pride in your record. I have faith in your abilities. Play clean, play hard, play fair, play to win. God bless you,” the telegram said.

On that team were Mel Hutchins and Roland Minson, who were honored this season during a ceremony at BYU.  They led BYU to its title-game win over Dayton, claiming what was effectively the national championship.

A final note on that ’51 team, courtesy of “Greatest Moments in BYU Sports”: It had humor.

When the Cougars stepped into the empty Garden for their first practice, reserve center Boyd Jarman, from Wyoming, looked up and said, “Boy, this barn sure will hold a lot of hay.”

It still would, no doubt.

1951 BYU team at a reunion 25 years later




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