This post is written by Alex Thomas (HIST ’16), a Student Assistant in Special Collections and Archives (you can see more of Alex’s work here and here). Alex writes today about the Cal Poly Men’s Basketball Team’s past history and history in the making.
Keith Wheeler, class of 1984, might have the same look on his face now if he heard of Cal Poly’s historic NCAA Division I win against Texas Southern on March 19, 2014. In Poly’s previous record season of 1981, Wheeler played with Kevin Lucas (#32) and Jim Schultz (#14). Schultz and Wheeler still hold first and second place all time for number of career assists, and Schultz’ record of 295 assists for the ’81 season hasn’t come close to falling. Lucas held the record for most points in a season – 579 – until 1991, and he remains second-place all-time.
Cal Poly was a Division II school back then in the era of long hair and short shorts. The coach, Ernie Wheeler, was the father to two players on the team: Keith and his older brother Ernie Jr. Coach Wheeler, who coached the team from 1972 to 1986, holds the record for highest percentage of games won both inside and outside of conferences. In that 1981 season, they made it to the Final Four but eventually lost to Florida Southern, bringing home a third-place finish. Their record for games that season was 24-8, which still stands today. 1980-81 also holds the record for most free throws – 577 – and most free throws attempted – 807.
Poly entered Division I in the 1994-1995 season, which at 1-26 was their worst performance to date. But this year they’ve been making history, earning their first Division I victory in their first Division I tournament game. The excitement is in the air for today’s game against Wichita State. It could be one for the record books.