Wa…HOO for my alma mater

Virginia's Braxton Key (2) blocks a shot by Texas Tech's Jarrett Culver (23) during the second half in the championship NCAA college basketball in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

It has taken 53 years for my “Wahoo-ness” to celebrate a long-pursued sports victory.

My alma mater is now king of the NCAA basketball world.

And it took two comebacks and constant nail-biters to carry out the University of Virginia’s win over Texas Tech in the NCAA championship game in Minneapolis Monday evening.

As Doug Doughty reports in today’s Roanoke Times:

The drama that has marked Virginia’s NCAA Tournament run ended in the best possible fashion for the Cavaliers on Monday night as they rallied to beat Texas Tech 85-77 in overtime.

Virginia needed a 3-pointer by De’Andre Hunter with 12.9 seconds remaining in regulation and trailed 73-72 with 2:02 remaining in overtime before Hunter hit a go-ahead 3-pointer to make it 75-73.

The win comes 13 months after the Cavaliers went into last season’s NCAA tournament ranked Number One and lost in the first round to a team ranked 16th, the worst drubbing of a top-ranked team in NCAA history.

A decision 53 years ago on whether or not to leave my job as a reporter at the Times to finish my college education at Virginia does not affect my happiness that the Wahoos took the NCAA title.

Monday night’s win brings back many memories of my two years at a UVa student after leaving Floyd in 1965.  I had won a full academic scholarship at Virginia but opted to study at what was then The Roanoke Center of the institution for the first two years before transferring to Charlottesville for my junior and senior years.

I had a full-time gig at The Roanoke Times with an agreement that I would get a college degree within five years but taking  a two-year break in Charlottesville seemed less and less of a good idea as found life as a newspaper reporter so enticing.

Virginia agreed to let me have a year off my education without losing my scholarship but that year came and went and decided that I would try to take classes at Virginia Tech or Roanoke College to complete my requirements for a degree.

Never happened.  I kept pushing off a start of any additional classes until 1969, when Times managing editor Woody Middleton wanted to know what happened to my degree.  I had to admit I didn’t have one yet and I didn’t have a job at the Times any longer.

Newspapers thrives back then and it took 48 hours for me to secure another reporting position at The Telegraph in Alton, Illinois at a higher salary and in the St. Louis media market.

Still, I told myself, I would complete my college education.  Part of my “beat” at the Telegraph became coverage of news at Southern Illinois University, which had opened a new campus in nearby Edwardsville and I kept telling myself that I would start taking classes there.

SIU had both a journalism and photojournalism schools where I could have learned a lot.  A year passed, then another, then 12 years had come and gone and I never got around to enrolling.

By the time I left Alton in 1981, future potential employers weren’t asking about my college education.  They wanted to see my clips and my photos.

My life would have taken a different path had I taken the break from working in Roanoke to finish my education in Charlottesville.  I most likely wouldn’t have gone to Illinois for a job that brought a better salary and 12 years of good years as a reporter, photographer and columnist at a good paper.

I wouldn’t have met the woman I love and who stayed with me through thick and thin for the past 39 years.  I wouldn’t have known the Congressman who talked me into going to Washington — our home for 23 years.

Decisions and events of the past result in different paths of one’s life.

But what didn’t change are my two years as a college student at the University of Virginia and the school still treats me like an alumnus (at least when they want a donation).  So I can celebrate their first NCAA basketball championship.

Wa-HOO!

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