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Another excerpt from RCR – Tom Betz

Tom was one of my very first interviews and provided more than significant help in contacting other former players and coaches. You’ll get real enjoyment from his remembrances and stories about the series: this is just a taste. 

Few people who have played in the Briar Cliff-Morningside series have as much connection to both sides as Tom Betz has. A former Bishop Heelan graduate, Betz was close to heading to BCU. “I went to every Briar Cliff game growing up, and the two biggest rivals were Northwestern and Morningside. Playing at SC Heelan, the natural progression would have been to go to BCU, but things didn’t work out and I ended up at Morningside. No regrets!” Speaking of Bishop Heelan High, Betz went back to his roots and was the head boys’ basketball coach there from 2001 through 2015. His teams went 264-83 (76 percent), won three state titles, and finished runner-up twice. In 2016, Betz was elected to the IHSAA Hall of Fame. He’s now director of advancement at Bishop Heelan.

Tom’s toughest opponent in the series? “Hands down, Fernando Pinillo, probably the most underrated BCU player, just tough as nails. Also, Amado Martinez, BCU post man. Now we’re friends, but back then we had some battles underneath the basket. It’s never been a cutthroat rivalry. After the games in the late ’80s you could find players from both teams at dance clubs. It’s a tough rivalry but once it’s over, you were okay, there weren’t any off the court issues. My son, Jared, says the teams don’t hang out today like we used to. We played twice a year, but being in the same league now, there’s more on the line. The BCU 50th reunion a few years ago was like a reunion for me, too.” So well thought of is Betz that even as a Morningsider, he was the Master of Ceremony for Briar Cliff’s 50th Anniversary of Men’s Basketball, held in 2016.

 “One game Mario Galvez—it’s a tight game, I was a freshman, on the bench watching. They threw a long pass to Galvez. As he goes up for the ball, over the out of bounds line, he catches it, turns, and shoots it over the backboard; all net! That’s when you knew how great he was. I’d like to forget that shot, but it’s the best I’ve ever seen in the series.” How did Betz think Briar Cliff could have fit into the NCC when he played? “They would have been very competitive, when they had the talent in the Panamanians they could definitely play with the NCC teams.”

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Another excerpt from River City Rivals

Mark Grace played for one of the best Bishop Heelan High teams of all-time before heading to Briar Cliff where he helped lead BCU to its first National Tournament in Kansas City. He still lives in NW Iowa and I was fortunate enough to meet him for an interview. Here’s part of his remembrances of the 1970’s.

Morningside was “a good team to measure yourself against. I think they got us my freshman year. They were just so good. We were good, but we were a year or so away still. I think we won all the games my junior and senior years. I just, you know, I pumped for the first game at the auditorium. I know Morningside had a really good team my freshman year with Dave Schlesser, Doug Schultz from Le Mars, yeah. He was a good player. And Doug Marx! If you ask who I remember playing against the most, it was Marx.” When I mentioned Marx had said he liked Grace’s game and that they “battled,” Mark responded, “Oh, yeah, it was fun. They were just a good team.”

Mark’s senior season was the first time the Chargers won 20 games, finishing 25-4. The Chargers only four losses were to Kearney State (now UNK), which finished second in the NAIA Championships, Northwestern, and Loras, (both regular season losses were avenged in the District 15 playoffs), and a one-point loss in the second round in KC to Winston Salem. “We had a great underclass. Rolando was our sixth man off the bench, and he was the best player on the team. I know there were some games the other guys would ask, ‘That guy doesn’t start?’ We would just say, ‘No, he’s our secret weapon.’ Rolando could jump, really smooth, really smooth, and could almost like, just hang there, you know? He just always could get open and make good shots. I tell you what, the guy today that reminds me a little bit of Rolando is Kevin Durant.”

Mark had good memories of Ray Nacke, too. “I remember old Ray, though, and I can still picture him to this day. He’d be, whoever it was, say it was ‘John’ refereeing the game that night; Ray would say, ‘Blankity-blank, John, you’ll never ref another game for me again.’ He would say that every day! ‘John, you’re never going to ref.’ And then Ray would always, after the game or during the game, he would always say comments to Ron [Schultz], and Ron would write them down, and then at our next practice, he would go over them. You know, bless Ray, but sometimes it was funny. He’d say, ‘Mark, why did you not get that rebound?’ or he would say something crazy, you know, ‘Why’d you shoot that way?’ and I’m like ‘I don’t even know what you’re talking about, Coach.’ Ray always had funny stories. I mean, he didn’t mean them funny, they just came across funny. Yeah, he was fun.”

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Excerpt from River City Rivals

One of my favorite interviews while researching the book was with Bob Bargen, a long-time coach in Nebraska high schools as well as college. He was the coach at Morningside through the transition years of the early 2000’s. Here is a portion of his story.

Bob Bargen still looks like he could play. Whether it be baseball or basketball, Bob is in great shape. Except you can tell he’d rather be pacing the sidelines. This man, like so many others I’ve talked to during this book’s journey, is a coach. But unlike many of the others, his time in the BCU-MC series was extremely short, and difficult. You could say the deck may have been stacked against him in his only two seasons as a college head coach, but he was the transitional piece between the two eras of Morningside men’s basketball.

When you sit down with him, Bob’s eyes belie his gracious demeanor when talking about the Morningside’s transition from NCAA D2 to the NAIA at the beginning of this new century. You can see the hurt that still lies deep inside, never bubbling to the top, but there nonetheless. He says, “The hardest part has been the not knowing why” he was let go after having an incredible recruiting season prior to his second and final year. All he received was the standard, “We have decided to go in a different direction.” That recruiting class yielded Morningside’s all-time scoring leader Brad Schmidt; its 11th, Eddie Ceaser; its 15th, Tom Regan; and its 28th, Paul McGill. Quite a haul for one class that culminated their senior season with a trip to the NAIA’s Elite Eight and a final mark of 29-7 in 2006, the most wins in Morningside men’s history.

Gene Steinmeyer, who coached the women’s programs at Doane University (remember BCU Women’s “that Doane loss”?) and Northwest Missouri State, was Bargen’s assistant for a couple of years at Milford, Nebraska High. A few years ago, Steinmeyer wrote the following testimonial about his old boss.

“The next great character in coaching I was lucky enough to work with was Bob Bargen. Bob was one of those coaching figures that I had admired when I coached at Humboldt, NE. Working with Bob provided great insight on what made him tick. He was great at working officials. Usually he knew exactly how far he could take it with the officials. He could back off just in time, unless we had a big lead. It was then he didn’t care if he crossed the technical foul line.

“I saw him once get a technical from official with bad judgement and bad hair. Bob really didn’t like how he had called the game. With just a little time left in the fourth quarter and Milford safely in the lead, the official ran by our bench. Bob shouted to him, “Too bad about your hair.” It took a few seconds for the comment to sink in, but eventually the official was able to stop the game and give Bob a very comical technical foul.

“The absolute funniest exchange with an official came when Bob confronted the late, great Rudy Stoehr, an icon of an official among the high school refereeing ranks. Bob thought Rudy was letting Centennial High School get away with rough play one night in the Milford gym. Rudy had called a jump ball and Bob had disagreed. He yelled, ‘Rudy, we are getting hammered, just hammered.’ Rudy heard Bob’s loud pleads. He handed the ball to his officiating partner, so he could take the outside position on the jump ball. He walked right at Bob as the two glared at each other. I was sure Bob was about to be given a technical foul. Instead, Rudy stopped right by Bob, turned around and got into a ready position so his butt was no more than two inches from Bob’s face. I loved Bob’s comment to me. ‘Think he’s trying to tell me something?’ Bob and Rudy were two of the great characters of the hardwood I had the privilege to see in action during the same game.”

There’s much more to Bob’s story and seasons on the bench at Morningside, as well as his ‘release’ from the head coaching position. You can find it all in River City Rivals.

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Mark Adkins article: Morningside SID

Hoops Hysteria – Morningside alum looks back at “River City Rivalry”

You can almost smell the popcorn popping.

A steady stroll through the River City Rivals book, penned by Morningside College graduate Barry Fouts, offers names of yesterday and today to jump off the page … creating the loud venues of Allee Gymnasium and the Flanagan Center with the syncopated dribbling of the basketball, the sneakers squeaking on the floor and more. Digging into interesting personal histories such as that of Hall of Fame level individuals like Cheryl Dreckman and Rebecca Boothby on the women’s side and Chris Kuhlman and Rolando Frazer on the men’s side while also including the “new age” where Madison Braun and Julie Targy stepped to the forefront for the women while players such as Brody Egger and Jared Betz stood out for the men.

The process of developing the history of Siouxland’s version of collegiate “Hoops Hysteria” came about with a thought.

“I’d been wondering if anyone had delved into the history for a book when I was told about Briar Cliff celebrating 50 years of men’s basketball,” Fouts, a 1976 Mside graduate, remembered. “I looked around and, to my surprise, no one had. I told myself ‘If I want to read it, I’m going to have to write it.’ “

Fouts gathered Mustangs’ athletic historian Dr. Sharon Ocker and BC head coach Mark Svagara, athletic director Nic Nelson, and former Chargers’ standout Ron Schultz at Minveras restaurant in Sioux City and pitched his idea. “I told them here’s what I need … I can’t do it alone,” he reflected. “I was so very impressed that they all immediately responded with the idea they wanted to help in any way possible.”

Trudging through the archives of both institution’s libraries and other outlets for the base of the book, Fouts felt confident it’d be out in “six or seven months.” “Well, I was wrong on that prediction,” he laughed. “It was an 18 to 19-month project. I needed interviews to go with the facts … personal histories were important to me and those could only be gathered by going to the people.”

Over 50 vignettes covering the A to Z’s of Morningside-Briar Cliff hoops … stories about current Morningside women’s coach Jamie Sale and Briar Cliff women’s coach Mike Power being college roommates and then Sale moving on to build the Maroon powerhouse; looking back at legendary Briar Cliff men’s coach Ray Nacke and his “Panamanian Pipeline” that included households names like Rolando Frazer, Mario Galvez and more for fans on the hill; chatting with former sports media area staples such as Terry Hersom, Jerry Hanson and Chuck Happe … Taking a quote from James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams “Memories so strong you’ll have to brush them away from your face with your hand.”

Fouts also added his memories in. “I remember the first varsity game between the two men’s programs in 1973 … the game was incredible and the excitement at Allee was amazing,” he noted. “It was also neat for me, as a Morningside alum, to see the culture of Briar Cliff basketball which I’m sure is the same way for BC alums in regards to Morningside. There’s so much respect (in the series) and former athletes doing great things after college were two other things I took away (from the book).”

Fouts’ ease with putting the rivalry down on paper and making it come to life isn’t a surprise. He came to Morningside wanting to be a journalism major but the field of study was dropped. While he went to a political science track, his love for the written word didn’t fade.

“It actually goes back to third grade,” he reflected. “I wrote a play based on the old Man from U.N.C.L.E. television series. I’m keeping my passion alive too by covering basketball, football and wrestling for Victory Sports Network as well as potentially working up a third book to add to River City Rivals and the 2006 title ‘A Season in the GPAC.’ “ Just as the Briar Cliff – Morningside hoops rivalries continue to build and gain more history, Barry Fouts adds to his memory bank … seeking out the stories.