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My School and Winning an NCAA Championship

January 25th, 2019 · No Comments · Long Beach, Olympics

I graduated from Long Beach State.

There. I said it.

Not everyone is keen to let the world know they attended Long Beach State.

It is a real school, for sure, with more than 31,000 undergrads. But it is not known for academic excellence. It is ranked 26th among “regional universities West” by U.S. News. Just ahead of Cal Poly Pomona.

Generally, Long Beach State is not known for excellence, at all.

How does the saying go? “A Trojan for life, a Bruin for four years, a 49er until you finally get that diploma — or find a decent-paying job, first.”

Which is how it worked for me; I had a newspaper job before I had a Long Beach State diploma; that came some months later. Some of the most famous Long Beach State “alumni” didn’t actually graduate. Nearly all the athletes. The comedian Steve Martin; the singers Karen and Richard Carpenter. Lots of show-biz people. Steven Spielberg started at Long Beach State in 1965 and finished there in 2002. (He did a few things in between.) So he actually got a diploma. Go, Home Boy! The director Chris Carter. (Another guy who walked!)

So, this is a long way around to getting to some events that tempered a sort of built-in LBSU inferiority complex:

Long Beach State’s men’s volleyball team. Defending NCAA champions after defeating UCLA in five sets last year. Currently ranked No. 1 in the country, including a four-set (25-16, 26-24, 19-25, 25-17) victory tonight over USC.

And what you have done against those two heavyweights is important, among the ranks of southern California schools.

We took advantage of an attractive home match to be there on the night Long Beach State raise the 2018 championship banner to the ceiling of the Walter Pyramid, the home arena.

How big a deal is that?

Long Beach State has won only two NCAA titles in men’s team sports: The volleyball title last year, and the one in 1991.

So celebrating was a certainty, at LBSU.

The top moment was uncovering the NCAA title banner before the USC match.

NCAA titles do not land at Long Beach every year. Or every decade. The men’s volleyball program has two; the women’s has three (1989, 1993, 1998), the latter of which was a 36-0 season. Misty May was the MVP, and she went on to win three Olympic gold medals in Beach Volleyball.

And then we are done, with Long Beach State team national championships, though the school has some other gold-medal winners. Like volleyballers Bob Ctvrtlik, Tom Hoff, David Lee and Scott Touzinsky.

The men’s basketball program was pretty good when the late Jerry Tarkanian was coach, back in the late 1960s, and Lute Olsen had a team that went 24-2 — but was on probation from some of Tark’s rules tweaking. The basketball team has mostly struggled, since.

The baseball team has been reliably competitive for 30 years but can’t quite get the job done when the playoffs come around — despite producing as many Major League baseball players as any school around. To name a few: Troy Tulowitzki, Jason Giambi, Evan Longoria, Jared Weaver, Bryan Shaw … College World Series semifinals in 1993 and 1998, and that’s it.

It is in volleyball that we trust.

Find two or three 6-foot-5 guys who can leap, a setter with pinpoint accuracy, a libero who anchors the defense, maybe a designated pinch-server, a coach who knows the territory like Alan Knipe (who was a player on the 1991 team) …

And even Long Beach State can be master of the college world in the sport. A feather in the school’s athletics cap, and a couple of banners in the rafters.

Yes, I went to Long Beach State, which boasts the best team in college volleyball.


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