There have been a lot of great players and coaches who have graced the sideline of what is now known as Alumni Gymnasium on Lexington Avenue in Ashland.
But did you know Adolph Rupp could be included among them?
It’s true. Rupp, in only his third season as head coach at the University of Kentucky, brought the Wildcats to Ashland to play Marshall College on Dec. 17, 1932.
Described in the Ashland Daily Independent as “the greatest galaxy of stats ever assembled on one team at that school,” Kentucky smothered Marshall 57-23.
I’d never heard this myself until it was brought to my attention by J.R. VanHoose, a basketball hisotrian whose enjoys spending his idle time in front of microfilm.
One reason the game was played here was for Ellis Johnson and Darrell Darby, two UK seniors who had starred on Ashland’s 1928 national championship team.
Ashland was buzzing about the return of the former Tomcats so much that the west side of the gymnasium was reserved for Ashland fans.
The cost to get into the game was $1 with proceeds going to underprivileged children in Ashland.
Marshall coach Tom Dandalet was familiar to the area as well but in football where he played for the Ashland Steel team, the Ironton Tanks and the Portsmouth Spartans. He also coached at Ceredo-Kenova, his alma mater.
But on this day, he was coaching against the Baron, Adolph Rupp, and the Herd was very much outmatched.
It wasn’t much of a game with Kentucky blowing out to a 38-8 halftime lead and coasting to the win.
This was Rupp’s best team to date at UK, finishing 21-3 and winning the school’s first Southeastern Conference championship since 1921.
Johnson and Darby were starters along with All-American Forest “Aggie” Sale, John “Frenchy” DeMoisey and George Yates.
Sale, who would later be selected the National Player of the Year, had a disappointing game with only three points but DeMoisey scored 24. Darby had nine and Johnson five.
Johnson was eventually selected on Frank Lane’s All-American team.
Johnson and Darby were given the heroes welcome from the fans with standing ovations as 1,500 jammed their way inside the small gym.
The heat from so many in the gym caused some slippery spots on the floor, leading to treacherous play on both sides.
Whenever a player attempted a quick stop, he found himself flat on the gym floor, according to the game account in the ADI on Dec. 18, 1932.
Kentucky played before sold-out audiences practically every game in the 1932-33 season.
Kentucky defeated Mississippi A&M 46-22 in the SEC championship game in Atlanta.
Experts called the Wildcats the greatest Southern team of all time.
They played against teams from the Big Ten, Missouri Valley Conference, Southern Conference, Southern Intercollegiate Association and the Southeastern Conference.
And on one December night more than 81 years ago, in front of a rowdy crowd on Lexington Avenue, Rupp and the Wildcats defeated Marshall right here in Ashland.
MARK MAYNARD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2648.