In this Feb. 1, 2006, file photo, California Institute of Technology head basketball coach Roy Dow watches his team play against Occidental College in Pasadena, Calif. The California Institute of Technology has been given a reprimand and penalties for fielding players who were academically ineligible, the NCAA announced on Thursday.
More Bad News
In the world of college sports, there are power-houses like USC and UCLA, and then you have your Bad News Bears-type teams —or, in this case, Bad News Beavers. Turns out that Cal Tech—a school better known for setting losing streak records—has been hit with sanctions by the NCAA.
That’s left students and professors, including chemistry professor Harry Gray, dumbfounded. Upon hearing the news that Cal Tech’s student-athletes had violated the rules for playing while ineligible, Gray had to get to the bottom of it. So he got into his Lexus and drove to the Pasadena campus.
“This isn’t Penn State. This is Caltech,” he said walking hurriedly toward the Athletic Building. “You know our baseball team just lost 400 games in a row. Why should anybody investigate us? We’re actually not winning any games. I think this is some crazy gimmick or something to maybe get attention for us now, to come out at the same time as Penn State.”
Not exactly. Caltech has a unique class enrollment system that allows students to sit-in on classes before officially registering. That means, technically, they’re not full-time students during that period.
So, over the course of four years, when the school let 30 Beavers suit-up for games, they were breaking the rules. In penance, they’ll vacate some of their wins and individual records involving ineligible students.
That’s not that big a deal for a school described by Costas Anastassiou as “not exactly winning a lot.”
Anastassiou is a post-doctoral fellow at Caltech who, on days like today, likes to play pick-up basketball in the cavernous gym. He was at the now infamous game in February of 2011 when the basketball team finally broke a 26-year losing streak while playing against Occidental College.
He vividly recalls their opponents attempting a game-winning shot at the buzzer and the feeling of dread that washed over him when it seemed the Beavers would lose yet again.
“I was really expecting the worst, but after all it didn’t go in," he said. "And so it was a great, great win and coach was almost crying and everybody was super excited about it. It was a huge thing for our community.”
Score one for the Beavers. It was a thrilling victory. And, the official word from NCAA is they’ll get to keep it.
Back outside the gymnasium, Professor Gray is still talking about the news. Joking with a colleague he wonders if this is a silver lining for the school’s reputation.
“Maybe we’ll have to forfeit some of our losing games,” he said laughing heartily. “Or maybe we can get a lot of our losing games off the record this way? Maybe that’s the deal.”
Couldn’t get much worse.