MAMI — One sure indication that the 73rd Annual Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College High School Invitational Basketball Tournament is on the calendar has been the involvement of Mother Nature in the past.
The “Old Girl” kind of undershot her mark by this year by depositing 5 inches of snow on Miami during a Monday storm while the three-day tournament didn’t tip off until Thursday.
She must be slipping just a little because most of the area surrounding the three tournament sites (especially to the south) received little or no accumulations.
Mother Nature did, however, keep nighttime temperatures at sub-zero levels through Wednesday.
According to local forecasts, temperatures should reach the upper 40s and 50s that will allow the tournament to proceed as scheduled.
This “near miss” situation caused me to pause and remember past weather occurrences during my 45-year involvement with this tournament.
To my knowledge, only one time in the history of the tournament has the mammoth event has weather forced cancellation of the championship games.
During the 2011 tournament a 20-inch snowfall presented the final round on Saturday from being completed. Tournament coordinator, current Golden Norseman head basketball coach Dustin Grover, made the decision.
“We’ve always found a way to get it done,” NEO athletic director and coordinator of the event Dale Patterson said. “It’s such a huge undertaking, without the cooperation of NEO students, faculty and staff, we couldn’t put it on.”
Not only has Patterson been involved as tournament coordinator since the summer of 2011, he participated in the event as a student during the 1965-66 years.
Snow was more of a nuisance during the decades of the 1990s and 1980s because the tournament involved more teams, games and venues.
Since teams were traveling from greater distances away, any inclement weather caused a reshuffling of either game times or opponents.
Once billed as “the world’s largest high school invitational basketball tournament,” the 1986 edition featured 98 total games played in seven venues over three days.
The late Dr. Boyd Converse served as tournament coordinator and set an unofficial Guinness Book of World Record by attending all 98 games.
Just before the start of the 1979 marathon tournament, frigid arctic air plunged south and gripped the area in sub-zero temperatures for 10 days. The cold was so intense that much of Grand Lake froze solid for days.
The result was a shuffling of the tournament schedule to include several junior varsity teams to replace the teams that could not make the trip to Miami.
Although not specifically related to a weather happenstance, the unofficial longest gym manager in the history of the tournament was James Grover, former chair of the technology department and computer science instructor.
Grover was in charge of the NEO Field House from 1968 to 2009.
He, along with former NEO computer science instructors James Reece, Jessie Jones and Bill Hill assumed the gym manager spot once the “new gym” was completed in 1968.
“Our first year, we were selected by then-tournament director Homa Thomas to make sure that things ran smoothly in the new building,” Grover said. “Once, Dr. Carter (longtime president Dr. Bruce G. Carter) came by and told us to move the rubber walking mats that ran along all four sides of the court, off the playing surface so the games could start.
“Then in 1971, we had a lady slip and fall and hurt herself on the slick steps that were located outside the gym and faced south,” Grover said. “Dr. Creech (president Dr. D.D. Creech) called me Monday morning in my office and asked for a detailed written description of the incident.
“Over the years there were numerous other situations that required the gym managers attention,” Grover said. “But, overall, it was a unique experience.”