The Dunking Dukes
Dean Ehlers was very surprised when President Carrier told him that he as going to be the basketball coach the same year that he became athletic director, to the point that the former president still gets a laugh from the story to do this day (Dr. Carrier). Although Ehlers had a successful season while being the head coach, it was something that could not continue if he was to be the best athletic director he could be. The following year, Ehlers would hire Lou Campanelli had the head coach of the team for the following year (“Campanelli”). Campanelli was known for his very heated personality as President Carrier pointed out that coach had frequently gone into the lockeroom after a bad loss and would flip tables and throw all of the drinks off of a table (Dr.Carrier). With that, the coach was extremely successful in his tenure, and even had extremely successful assistants that would come through the program, but more than anything, he brought a program from almost nowhere and also putting the school on the map (Dr. Carrier).
During the summer of 1972, Godwin Hall opened giving all of the sports teams great new facilities that they never had
before, and more importantly gave the basketball team a brand new venue to play in (Gastrell and Jenkins). Coach Campanelli would say that the facility was actually sub par when the school went Division I because it could not compare, but when playing there, the team never seemed to play badly when they were there (Grimesey). The team would sometimes face their struggles, just as any team will, but for a team that was just staring out, they would really overcome expectations, while setting high ones. In 1975, going into one of their toughest schedules where they had to regularly face a team that went deep into the NCAA tournament, or even the national champion, but even with that Coach Campenelli expected a NCAA berth for the team (Morgan). Even with high expectations at such an extreme level of competition, the basketball team would actually have a very successful season and really represented the kind of decade the team had.
President Carrier spoke very highly of the program, especially with the direction it took during the 70’s. By the end of the decade, the team was starting to hit its stride in Division I and by 1980; the basketball team was actually beginning to make appearances in the NCAA tournament, and actually had some success (Dr, Carrier). President Carrier remembers fondly of the time that JMU played Michael Jordan’s North Carolina, and actually only lost to them by two points and even kept the all-time great to a very minimal scoring (Dr. Carrier). Although this is just one game, it shows the amazing steps that the basketball team took during the decade, and shows that they fit perfectly into what the university was trying to build. JMU had created another program that would help bring men to the university and continue to make James Madison University a successful coeducational institute.
Bob Grimesey, “Recruiting for Division I Basketball,” The Breeze, February 11, 1977.
Buck Gastrell and Van Jenkins, “The Grandstander,” The Breeze, March 2, 1973.
“Campanelli Replaces Ehlers As Dukes Basketball Coach.” The Breeze. May 19, 1972.
“Head Coach Lou Campanelli, is Interviewed Following a Win,” The Breeze, December 12, 1975.
Jim Morgan, “Dukes Face Challenges,” The Breeze, November 25, 1975.
Jim Morgan, “Two Goals To Go,” The Breeze, December 12, 2975.
“John Cadman Hooks Inside,” The Breeze, November 25, 1975.
“JMU Men’s Basketball Banners,” 1980-1983, James Madison University.
President Dr. Ronald Carrier, interview by author, James Madison University, April 23, 2013.