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 that 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 Roberta Boothby on the women’s side and Chris Kuhlmann 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 Morningside 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, Briar Cliff head coach Mark Svagera, former Briar Cliff athletic director Nic Nelson, former Chargers’ playing standout and assistant coach Ron Schultz, and Morningside head coach Jim Sykes at Minerva’s 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 that 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 household names like 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.