The Allstate Sugar Bowl Believes in Champions
Champions have long defined the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The list of Hall of Fame athletes who have competed in the annual contest is staggering. But the list of champions extends well past the football game. Since its inception in 1934, the Allstate Sugar Bowl has given opportunities to young athletes in many amateur sporting events.
In late 2016, the Allstate Sugar Bowl published stories on five athletes who competed in Sugar Bowl events and then went on to excellence after their New Orleans’ experiences.
The Allstate Sugar Bowl Believes in Champions – Bob Cousy
Before Pete Maravich there was Bob Cousy. The Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer and point guard dazzled NBA crowds from 1950-63 as the Boston Celtics point guard.
He was part of six Celtics championship teams and a 13-time NBA All-Star. His free-wheeling style and basketball handling abilities earned him the nickname “Houdini of the Hardwood.” Boston Celtics fans simply referred to him as Mr. Basketball.
But before Cousy made his mark in the NBA, he played at Holy Cross in college. It was during his college days at the Massachusetts school that Cousy, a native New Yorker, made his first visit to New Orleans.
Holy Cross competed twice in the Sugar Bowl Basketball Tournament, in 1947 and 1948, Cousy’s sophomore and junior seasons. He said visiting New Orleans was special.
“I remember going to the Sugar Bowl Tournament in New Orleans, but now as an 88-year old, I don’t remember the games so much as I remember being a teenager and having the opportunity to play in New Orleans and visit the city,” Cousy said. “It was pretty exciting stuff for a young guy who had not traveled much out of New York City.”
Holy Cross knocked off North Carolina State, 56-51, in the Sugar Bowl Tournament in 1947. The Crusaders were the defending (1947) NCAA champions that season, led by Hall of Fame coach Doggie Julian. They would fall in the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament in 1948.
The Crusaders returned to the Sugar Bowl Tournament in 1948, losing to Saint Louis, 61-52, in the first round and to Tulane, 81-70, in the consolation contest. Several Hall of Famers were in New Orleans for that year’s event, including Cousy, Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp, Tulane coach Cliff Wells, Saint Louis coach Eddie Hickey and player Ed Macauley.
“The Sugar Bowl basketball event featured many great players and coaches,” said Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan. “Bob Cousy was certainly in that number. Though football is our headline event, the Sugar Bowl is proud to have sponsored so many other competitions that have brought scores of exceptional athletes to New Orleans through the years.”
Cousy is recognized as one of the all-time greats in basketball history. He was named to the NBA’s 25th, 35th and 50th Anniversary All-Time teams, one of only four players to earn that honor. He averaged 18.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game during his 13 years with the Celtics.
But there was more to Cousy than just basketball. His crusade against racism came at a time in U.S. history when standing up against segregation was frowned upon by much of mainstream society.
As a Celtics rookie in 1950, Cousy travelled with an African-American teammate, Chuck Cooper, to Charlotte, N.C., on an overnight train ride instead of staying in a hotel room. Cooper would not have been allowed to stay in the same hotel as the rest of the team because of segregation in Charlotte. It was just one example of Cousy’s stance against racism.
He also was a founding member of the NBA Players Association, which worked to improve working conditions for the league’s players.
From its earliest years, the Sugar Bowl Committee has been honored to provide opportunities for young athletes from around the country, athletes like Derek Wolfe. That’s because at the Allstate Sugar Bowl, We Believe in Champions.
– Story by Trey Iles