Reprinted with permission from the Terre Haute Tribune-Star, February 19, 2022
Standout of the 60s has his No. 41 retired by the Sycamores
It’s a real shame that history is often viewed through the prism of present-day circumstance.
In pro football? The pre-Super Bowl era is treated like ancient history, almost as if the championships won before its existence don’t count the same. College football has a playoff and a pre-playoff poll era, but it’s not as if the teams that played in the pre-playoff era weren’t playing for lower stakes.
In college basketball and quite a few other college sports, a similar line of delineation is made between the Division I and the pre-Division I eras. The modern history of Division I began in 1973 when the former University and College Divisions of the NCAA were changed.
Prior to 1973, Indiana State played in the College Division, along with quite a few other current Division I schools, including most of the current membership of the Missouri Valley Conference — Bradley, Drake and Loyola are the only exceptions. This was the era that ISU great Jerry Newsom and the Sycamores’ great teams of the late 1960s played in.
However, you had to know your ISU stuff or had to have lived through the 1960s to understand how good that team was.
While there are well-earned tributes paid to the late 1970s Sycamores, the turn of the century Sycamores, and even the 2011 Sycamores — all made the NCAA Tournament, the current benchmark for success — ISU’s late 1960s teams are on the short list of greatest ISU teams of all-time, but they played in an era before ISU competed for the current NCAA Tournament.
Until Saturday, there was very little inside Hulman Center to demonstrate how good that team was, but a historic wrong was corrected when Newsom’s No. 41 was retired along with the jerseys of Larry Bird, Duane Klueh, and Carl Nicks.
“It’s a fantastic day for me. I’m glad all of my friends and people could make it. I’m glad to make it back. Terre Haute is where I spent my time in college. It’s nice to have so many of my friends from here show up,” Newsom said just after his number was unveiled in a halftime ceremony.
Newsom’s individual accomplishments speak for themselves. He played from 1966-68 and is still the third-leading scorer in school history at 2,147 points.
Newsom averaged 25.3 points per game, second only to Bird on the all-time ISU list. Newsom is also ISU’s second-leading rebounder in history at 953 boards. Newsom’s 11.2 rebounds in second-best in ISU’s annals.
However, Newsom’s contributions have to be placed in the context of success. He wasn’t just compiling points in a vacuum.
The Sycamores were 66-21 in Newsom’s three seasons and made a NCAA regional, at minimum, in each of his seasons — two under Klueh and one under Gordon Stauffer.
“Coach Klueh was here, which is awesome. I’ve had a great time,” Newsom said.
ISU’s finest hour in the late 60s came in the 1968 season, Stauffer’s first as coach. The high-scoring Sycamores went 23-8, winning their final six games to qualify for the College Division Tournament.
In the tournament, ISU dispatched South Dakota, Illinois State, Nevada Southern (today’s UNLV), and Trinity of Texas before Kentucky Wesleyan triumphed 63-52 in the College Division championship game at Evansville’s Roberts Stadium.
Newsom, as well as teammate Fred Hardman, were on the 1968 College Division All-Tournament team.
Newsom just saw his success at ISU as an extension of the success he had at old Columbus High School. Newsom played with fellow Columbus standouts Butch Wade and Steve Hollenbeck on the late 60s Sycamores teams.
“I’ve said before that when I played on the reserve team in Columbus, we were 10-0. My junior year, we were 20-0 and we went to state. My senior year, we’re 20-0 and went to state, so I was 50-0 in Columbus. I came with friends, Butch Wade and Steve Hollenbeck, we were good. We played for a similar coach to what Bill Stearman [Columbus’s coach] was. We fit right and we took right off,” Newsom said.
These days, Newsom lives in the same place he came to ISU from — Columbus, Ind. He admitted that he doesn’t keep up on basketball these days, but was appreciative of the day he had.
“I don’t follow basketball too much now with the changes. The one-and-done’s, a coach leaving along with the players, people can’t build a team. It’s tough on the fans and it’s tough to get into it. I don’t like class basketball. I just wish everybody well. A lot of good people out there making a good effort,” Newsom said.
ISU also retired women’s all-time great Amy Hile’s number during Sunday’s women’s contest.