Fifty years after he ascended to the pinnacle of the NCAA basketball career scoring chart, Peter Press Maravich is suspiciously absent from his university’s athletic Hall of Fame. As former Chancellor Mike Martin once lamented about his soon to be ex-employer, “LSU is the most political place on the planet.”
This topic has been broached previously in this column and will continue to be revisited until LSU officials reflect on the insanity of a Hall of Fame located in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center with no inclusion of the building’s namesake who is the most decorated athlete in the fabulous history of Louisiana State University.
The stated reason for blackballing “The Pistol” is that he never graduated from LSU or any other university on his way to accumulating 3,667 points in 83 games for a 44.2 points per game average during three of the most memorable years by any player ever featured on a college court.
Records from the National Student Clearinghouse show that at least four members of the LSU sports shrine are not college graduates, and like Pete, they are dead and not returning to Old State U to pursue a diploma. It is unfair to call them out, but one of them, Frank Brian, was admitted in 2017 when the selection panel knew Brian was short of receiving a diploma.
Brian was given a break because his academic goals were interrupted by gallant military service, but he had seven decades after WWII to obtain a degree and did not. Brian was a worthy inductee for his athletic achievement as an All American. Yet Brian is not in the same category as the fellow with the floppy socks who stayed four years at LSU and mused that despite his fame, a longtime professor spent a semester calling out the name, Maverick, not Maravich.
Since LSU continues to snub the Pistol over performance in the classroom that was as putrid as his prowess in basketball was genius, it is appropriate to employ the graduation standard with Tiger fans.
Until Pete is admitted into the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame, it should be a requirement for any fan attending an LSU sporting event to prove they have a college degree.
If the NCAA scoring king is unfit for his school’s HOF, fans without diplomas are unfit for admission to the PMAC or Tiger Stadium or Alex Box Stadium. With today’s technology, fans are capable of showing their degree status on their phones.
For those who flunked out of college or never attended, this would be a motivator to return to school and graduate. In a state which has about one in five adults who did the cap and gown routine at some higher learning outpost, this simple move could spur thousands of citizens to seek sheepskins.
LSU has branded its greatest performer as second class for lacking the credits to graduate. It should render the same judgment on any fan, coach, administrator, journalist, publicist, concession stand operator or law enforcement officer who dares to enter a campus arena without a college diploma.
LSU should learn from Ole Miss
When Pete Maravich departed the SEC for the Atlanta Hawks in 1970, he figuratively tossed the ball to a phenom at Ole Miss named Johnny Neumann.
The 6-6 guard for the Rebels led the nation in scoring as he averaged 40.1 points per game in 1970-71, including a 63-point outburst in the final season for LSU at the Parker Coliseum. Neumann was a second team All-America selection and the SEC Player of the Year in his lone college season.
The Memphis native left Ole Miss with two years of eligibility remaining to play professionally for his hometown franchise in the American Basketball Association. Neumann retains the Ole Miss single-season scoring record of 923 points in just 23 starts.
Neumann died last year at 68, outliving Maravich by 28 years. That additional time enabled him to return to Ole Miss shortly before his death and receive a degree.
Neumann was inducted in the Ole Miss Athletic Hall of Fame despite playing 60 fewer varsity games than the Louisiana trailblazer who preceded him.
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf Getting Worthy Honor
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf will have his No. 35 retired by LSU at Saturday’s home game against Texas A&M. The exquisite performer then known as Chris Wayne Jackson evoked memories of his playmaking predecessor two decades earlier across campus. The other basketball numbers retired by the Tigers are No. 23 by Pete Maravich, No. 50 by Bob Pettit and No. 40 by Rudy Macklin.
The SEC for whatever reason keeps basketball records from 1985 to the present. Abdul-Rauf has the two most prolific scoring campaigns from a league player from 1985-present. In those 35 years, the LSU star scored 965 points in 1989 and 889 points in 1990 to lead the conference pack. He averaged more than 30 points in his 64 games for the Tigers.
The Jackson Five in Baton Rouge had a two-year run. But Jackson’s heroics are the source of amazing recollections of his spectacular grace and talent on the court. Abdul-Rauf never took the bait from visiting fans although there was ample provocation.
After LSU fans pestered Mississippi State’s fabulous guard Jeff Malone (1979-83) on four visits with the constant chants of “Eddie Munster,” insensitive fans in Starkville took taunting a new level as they bellowed in unison to a kid from a single-parent household, “Chris, Who’s Your Dad. . .Chris, Who’s Your Dad.”
After earning millions in the NBA, Abdul-Rauf returned to his hometown on the Mississippi coast only to see his estate burned to the ground by arsonists. The slightly built 6-1, 162-pound man was a target of violence after Abdul-Rauf opted to sit for the National Anthem during part of his NBA odyssey.
Mahmoud’s NBA career was limited to nine years in large part by the reaction this move generated long before the NFL and Colin Kaepernick.
Abdul-Rauf averaged 15 points per game in his professional tenure and was magnificent at the free throw line. The all-time leader for percentage at the line in the NBA is Stephen Curry at 90.528556 percent. Abdul-Rauf is a close second at 90.525409.
In this corner, Abdul-Rauf is a class act who has brought honor to his school.