COPYRIGHT 2006 MADDIE'S DADDY PRODUCTIONS
Chapter XVII: GametimeThings didn’t exactly go smoothly during the week of the big game.
On Monday, Newell had to cancel practice because he didn’t have enough healthy bodies to go through with it due to a circulating flu bug. Newell was stricken as well and went home to crawl into bed.
By Wednesday things were nearly back to normal with only Smith still missing from practice.
“The flu hasn’t affected our outlook. Everyone’s attitude is good,” Newell said. “Anyone would like to have a chance to play Notre Dame and we’re no exception. They have a great program. They just moved up to No. 10 in the nation so we have everything to gain.”
Heavy snow fell across the northern states as UALR attempted to get from Little Rock to Minneapolis. Well-wishers sent the players off at the airport and spirits were high, including Clarke, who wore a white sports coat, a pinstripe shirt and a thin, black tie.
It was determined that landing at Minneapolis was going to be a problem and the pilot diverted the airplane to La Crosse, Wisconsin. A short delay turned into two hours. They were supposed to eat on the airplane, but that meal consisted of a fruit cup and a croissant. They were getting hungry and grumpy as they waited.
“Hey, not everyone coming here for the NCAA Tournament will get to see La Crosse,” Young joked.
Finally, they took off on the 22-minute flight to Minneapolis and were greeted by 32-degree temperatures. They went to the Metrodome to practice, where a courtesy car provided to UALR got stolen out of the parking lot.
But when they arrived at the team hotel a positive vibe smothered the team. Hotel staff and a few fans gave them a standing ovation as they walked through the hotel lobby, where the loudspeakers played Billy Ocean’s song, “When the Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going.” That song had served as sort of an unofficial anthem for the team.
Anticipation ran high in both South Bend, Indiana, and Little Rock, Arkansas, as the broadcast hit the air that Friday night.
KTHV aired a 30-minute special called “UALR to NCAA” beginning at 9 p.m. It was hosted by Morgan and featured a look back at some of the memorable highlights of the year.
Right on time at 9:30, CBS’ coverage began. “From the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota, it’s the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Trojans against the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. And a pleasant good evening everybody, Wayne Larrivee with Gary Thompson, we’ve got Notre Dame and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Little Rock is a school in its second year under Mike Newell, one of the talented young coaches in the nation. They’re an up-tempo team, a lot of fun to watch, they like to run the basketball and are led by a talented guard from Hamburg, Arkansas, in Myron Jackson.”
As the coaching staffs shook hands before the start of the game, Calvin, who had worked with Phelps in the past, walked right up to the Notre Dame coach, stuck out his right hand and said: “We’re going to kick your ass.”
Phelps refused to shake hands with him.
“And they’re all set to go now, the two teams being called to the benches and we’re ready for the starting lineups. Arkansas-Little Rock at 23-10 and Notre Dame at 22-5. Let’s go to the Metrodome public address announcer Bob Casey,” Larrivee said.
“Ladies and gentlemen, here are the lineups for tonight’s final game.
- “For Arkansas-Little Rock, starting at a forward, number 30, 6-6, a senior, Michael Clarke. For the University of Notre Dame, at a forward, number 44, 6-10, a senior, Ken Barlow.”
- “For Arkansas at forward, number 25, 6-6, a senior, Pete Myers. For Notre Dame, a forward, number 15, at 6-7, a junior, Donald Royal.”
Yes, he really said “For Arkansas.” And no one cared.
- “For Arkansas-Little Rock, at center, a 6-7 freshman, Paris McCurdy. From Notre Dame at center, number 41, 6-9, a senior, Tim Kempton.”
- “From Arkansas-Little Rock at guard, number 4, at 6-1, a freshman, Paul Springer. Notre Dame, a guard, a sophomore, number 4, David Rivers.”
The biggest ovation of the introductions is heard.
“Arkansas-Little Rock at guard, number 11, at 6-3, a senior, Myron Jackson. Notre Dame, a guard, number 24, 6-5, a freshman, Mark Stevenson.”
- “The coach at Arkansas-Little Rock, Mark … Mike Newell. And the Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps.”