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Bisons Head Back to East Tennessee State 50 Years Later

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Feb. 26, 2006

When the Lipscomb University Basketball team leaves Nashville this week for the 2006 Atlantic Sun Basketball Tournament, the Bisons will be heading back to Johnson City, Tennessee attempting to take care of some unfinished business that occurred the first weekend in March, 50 years ago. It was in 1956 that the Bisons compiled one of the single greatest seasons in Lipscomb history and put in motion the building of the storied Lipscomb basketball program. It all started with the arrival of new Lipscomb coach Charlie "Tiger" Morris. After completing his service in the Naval Academy, Coach Morris joined the team in mid-season on December 12, 1955 during the Bisons road swing through Texas. Prior to Coach Morris, Lipscomb had experienced only minimal success since the start of basketball in the early 1930's. What Coach Morris did with the Bison program was a prelude to what Bruce Pearl has done with the The University of Tennessee basketball program in 2006. At the time "Tiger" Morris took the reigns of the team the Bisons were a dismal 1-10 and headed in a different direction than Coach Morris was interested in going. Immediately, the Bisons started playing at a different level and the results were evident on the floor and on the scoreboard.

The Bisons improved on their 1-10 record, winning 14 out of their last 19 games. Along the way the 1956 Bisons would pick up a 71-56 win over rival Belmont College. It was Lipscomb's first win over Belmont since the Rebels had started playing basketball in 1950. The Bisons marched through the Volunteer State Athletic Conference Tournament surprising everyone by advancing to the championship game. In the finals the Bisons lost a heartbreaker to East Tennessee State University by a score of 65-63. For the Bisons it was their fifth game in seven days. As a result of their play in the VSAC tournament, the Bisons played a week later in the NAIA Regional Tournament in hopes of advancing to Kansas City, Missouri for Lipscomb's first-ever appearance in a National Tournament. In the Semi-final game the Bisons shocked everyone by upsetting Austin Peay in Clarksville by a score of 74-73.

With the win the Bisons would advance to the championship Tournament in Johnson City to take on East Tennessee State for the fourth time of the 1956 season. As a result of the outstanding basketball season, Bison fan support had reached an all-time high. The excitement created one of the most historical moments in Lipscomb athletic history as the school Administration declared it a holiday to allow students and faculty to support the team. Following the Bisons to Johnson City, for the 300 mile trek, were 400 enthusiastic Bison fans who chartered a train and affectionately called it, The Lipscomb Special. According to the school newspaper The Babbler, Bison fans departed Nashville's Union Station at 9:00 a.m. on the first Monday in March traveling first through Middle Tennessee, Alabama and then Georgia. Keeping in tune with a Lipscomb tradition at 10:10 that morning the eight train cars filled with Lipscomb fans broke into song as daily chapel was conducted on the train by the faculty members that had accompanied the students.

Along the way Lipscomb fans passed the time with competitive games of Scrabble and Rook. Lipscomb Food Service Director G.O. Traughber turned the Baggage Car into the school cafeteria and rolled out a lunch that consisted of Fried Chicken, Potato Salad, Ice Cream and Cold Drinks.

Continuing on the trip the Bison Express whistled through Chattanooga where the Bison Pep Band and fans created an impromptu Pep Rally taking over the Chattanooga Train Terminal. The train continued on through Knoxville until it finally arrived in Johnson City late that afternoon. Awaiting the fans were chartered buses that quickly took the Bison supporters to the East Tennessee campus. While at the game the Bisons battled hard, but were unable to come up with a victory failing in their late game comeback 80-67. While not going to the National Tournament was a disappointment the season would go down as one of the greatest in the history of the school. Charlie Morris would go on to coach until 1966 finishing as Lipscomb's all-time winningest coach.

Now, 50 years later, the 2006 Bisons head to Johnson City once again during the first week in March and seek to bring back to the Lipscomb campus that championship that has alluded the Bison basketball program since 1956. The Bisons enter the tournament with the same hopes, dreams and excitement that the past Bisons had many years ago. Replacing the names such as Gary Colson, Archie Crenshaw, Ken Donaldson and Coach Charlie Morris are Brian Fisk, Trey Williams, Eddie Ard, Cameron Robinson, James Poindexter, Shaun Durant and Coach Scott Sanderson. When Coach Sanderson leads his team in the 2006 Atlantic Sun Tournament, not only will he represent the current student body and Bison fans but, he'll also represent Coach Charlie Morris and his players who long ago had the same desire to advance and play in a National Tournament.

While the 1956 season raised Lipscomb basketball to a level never seen before, the 2006 season will also go down in the history book as arguably the greatest season in the history of Lipscomb basketball. February 26, 2006 will be recorded as the date that Coach Sanderson and the Bisons cut down the nets in Lipscomb's Allen Arena claiming their first conference championship of the Division I era. In only the third season of NCAA eligibility the Bisons amazed everyone by capturing this incredible feat. Along the way some of the milestones the 2006 Bisons achieved were: Winning 19 regular season games; winning an impressive 11 of 13 conference games during one stretch of the season; held Campbell University, the leading scoring team in the nation to a season low 70 points in a key conference game; set a new conference single game attendance record, as 5,273 packed into Allen Arena on January 20, 2006 to watch the Bisons defeat Belmont before a standing room only crowd; throughout the years more fans than ever before had the opportunity to watch the Bisons as several games throughout the year were televised on CSS and ESPN.

But maybe two of the biggest highlights of the year came even when the Bisons came up short on the scoreboard. In what would seem like an impossible opportunity by past Bisons of the pre NCAA-era, Lipscomb took on both The University of Kentucky and The University of Tennessee on the hardwood. On November 14, 2005 the Bisons played Kentucky in historic Rupp Arena and on December 29, Coach Sanderson led his team against the Vols in Tennessee's Thompson Boiling Arena. In both games the Bisons competed with the SEC schools right up until the final minutes before coming up on the short end of the scoreboard. Even though the Bisons were not able to pull off the upset the experience and exposure was priceless to the program and the University as thousands and thousands of sports fans and non-sports fans learned about Lipscomb University. In the present it is hard to appreciate what the 2006 Bisons have accomplished, but in future years the appreciation will grow in historical fashion, just as what the 1956 Bisons accomplished. Both the 1956 and 2006 Bisons created a path for future Bison teams. Thanks for a great season and let's hope not only can the Bisons add a few more highlights to an already unbelievable season, but also take care of some unfinished business 50 years later.

This story is dedicated to: 1956 Bisons: Ed Binkley, Jerry Brannon, Archie Crenshaw, Gary Colson, Wally Colson, Ken Donaldson, John Friend, Walter Glass, Gayle Napier, Roger Villines, Hoyt Kirk, Phil Hargis, William Brown, Jack Hogan and Coach Charlie Morris. Note: Gary Colson was named Conference Most Valuable Player.

2006 Bisons:Kris Alpers, Eddie Ard, Ryan Daniel, LaKory Daniels, Shaun Durant, Brian Fisk, Jason Guyette, Brandon Hartwell, Israel Kirk, Michael Lusk, Will Mantlo, Joe Peters, Thomas Pfaff, James Poindexter, Cameron Robinson, Trey Williams and Coaches Scott Sanderson, Shaun Senters, Hubie Smith, Jay Walton and Ryan Daly.