Little known facts: famous losing streak

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The scoreboard in a 1988 University of Dallas home basketball game shows the Crusaders losing 20-6. Photo courtesy of the UD Archives.

The University of Dallas men’s basketball team had a successful set of games last weekend, winning both of their home games against Trinity University and Schreiner University. However, the basketball team hasn’t always been this successful, and at one point, it held the record for the longest losing streak in all college sports.

The basketball team was established during UD’s first academic year in 1956, along with the baseball team. At the time, these were UD’s only intercollegiate teams — both coached by Athletic Director Al Ogletree.

Over the next six years, the basketball team never experienced a winning season; the closest they came to a winning season was an 11-17 record in 1962-63. This was the Crusaders last season as an intercollegiate team until 1984.

Although the men’s basketball team had never achieved a winning season, they at least won some games, which is better than what was to become of the team. Coached by Barry Davis, the intercollegiate basketball team of 1984 had a discouraging first season with a record of 2-13, thus beginning the team’s rapid decline.

The following two seasons were even more disappointing as the Crusaders failed to win a single game. The future looked promising for the team with star player Steve Prud’homme scoring 547 points and setting UD’s record for most points in a season.

Unfortunately, Prud’homme’s contributions were not enough to break the losing streak, and the Crusaders went nearly a third season of entirely losing. At this point, the basketball team began gaining popularity as the nation’s leading college team in lost games.

The Los Angeles Times picked up the depressing story and titled it “LOST CRUSADE: University of Dallas Has a Losing Streak of 73 Games.” The article put the large number of losses into perspective.

“Loss number 73 in the streak was a 111-61 blowout by St. Mary’s of San Antonio Wednesday night,” Denne Freeman of the Los Angeles Times said. “The previous record for futility was 47 consecutive games by Rutgers-Newark (N.J.) from 1983 to 1985.”

While this isn’t an ideal way to gain publicity, Ty Tyler, the sports information director, had a positive outlook.

“We hate to get ink this way, but in a way it hasn’t been bad publicity … at least the nation is talking about us,” Tyler said.

The losses continued for the Crusaders and in February of 1988, Sports Illustrated featured UD’s basketball team in the “Short Shots” section of the basketball page.

The futility continues for the University of Dallas,” Morin Bishop of Sports Illustrated said. “The Crusaders’ 80-67 loss to Millsaps dropped their 1987-88 record to 0-22 and their losing streak to 85 straight.”  

The losing streak finally came to an end during the 1987-88 season, when the Crusaders won 76-68 over John Brown.

With the game’s win, came a loss in popularity. As a 1988 Los Angeles Times article says:

The Dallas Crusaders now are just another college basketball team trying to put together two straight victories after the small Catholic school ended a record 86-game losing streak.”

While much was to be celebrated in ending an almost three-year losing streak, some students were disheartened.

“I heard some people say in the cafeteria, ‘Now that we won, we won’t be as notorious,’ ” Jon Whatley said.

1 COMMENT

  1. Yeah, sure, but by that time John Brown had been a-moulderin’ in his grave for near-about 130 years, so would’n’t call it much of a win.

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