Faculty basketball game in limbo

By The Beacon | April 12, 2012 9:00pm

The future of the annual faculty basketball game is uncertain as its organizer retires this year

Professor Jack Kondrasuk displays his game face before his final faculty basketball game at UP. Kondrasuk has organized the inter-departmental game for the past nine years but he will retire at the end of this year, and it is uncertain if the tradition will continue. (Monica McAllister | The Beacon)

By Jason Hortsch, Staff Writer -- hortsch12@up.edu

For the past nine years, an inter-departmental battle has been waged.

Unbeknownst to the majority of the school, professors and staff from various departments on campus have participated in an annual basketball game designed to allow faculty to get to know each other better. This year's chapter of the saga took place April 5.

The effort has always been spearheaded by Jack Kondrasuk, a business professor who is currently on sabbatical and will retire after this year.

"I want to bring the faculty and staff together, both men and women," Kondrasuk said. "It's meant to be fun and to be an event that we can all enjoy, which also brings us closer and celebrates the end of the school year."

After years of trying to round up enough players for a game, Kondrasuk eventually decided to pit the College of Arts and Sciences against all other departments, but lamented the fact that the business department usually does not boast a strong showing.

"It's basically the professional schools versus CAS," Kondrasuk said. "We just don't get enough players from business. It just means we need to recruit harder."

Kondrasuk is not alone in making the event happen. One of his helpers has traditionally been women's basketball Head Coach Jim Sollars, who was again slated this year to referee the game.

"I've reffed them for every year they've had the game," Sollars said. "It's fun and they enjoy it."

The friendly atmosphere is also a change of pace for Sollars, who is used to the more intense nature of division one college basketball.

"They are very nice to each other," Sollars said. "They stop and pick each other up when they knock each other down, which is something I'm not used to."

This year, Sollars' services were ultimately not needed, as the game experienced its lowest turnout in years. As of the scheduled start time, only five participants had shown up, forcing them to start with two on two.

Chemistry Professor Ray Bard, best known on campus for his bushy beard, opened the scoring with one of his patented two-handed, long-range jumpers. Bard, whom Sollars referred to as a sharpshooter, has been a long-time participant in the game.

"I've been doing this for a few years now," said Bard. "It's fun, but I wish we had more people in terms of being able to get to know them better. Maybe with some more publicity we could get more faculty together."

While he has enjoyed his experiences with the game, Bard is worried about its future with regards to Kondrasuk's impending retirement.

"Jack is the only one that's really been organizing this, but he's retiring, so this might be the last year," Bard said. "Maybe we should switch to soccer to try to get more people."

After 10 minutes of two on two, Kyle Flann from the physiology department arrived, allowing three on three to start.

Flann quickly proved to be an offensive juggernaut, but was not to be outdone by Professor Hilary Merk of the education department, who boasted a silky smooth jumper of her own.

"I played in high school for all four years," Merk said.

"I think I've played in this game twice before. It's a lot of fun, but the fundamentals are a little low," she added with a smile.

Other highlights included Kondrasuk hitting a 12-foot Kareem skyhook, Jon Down (Director for Entrepreneurship in the business school) rattling in several elbow jumpers and Professor Steve Vegdahl of the engineering department taking a note out of Kobe's playbook and passing it to himself off of the backboard (intentionality questionable).

Ultimately, with so few players, no score was kept and play continued until conditioning took its toll on the game's participants. While a good time was had by all, the game's future remains in jeopardy with Kondrasuk's upcoming retirement.

"It was fun," Merk said afterwards. "I'm always glad to participate, and I met some new faculty members from across campus."

Ray Bard of the chemistry department prepares to huck the rock while Education Professor Hilary Merk and Business Professor John Donn play defense. According to women’s basketball Head Coach Jim Sollars, who has always refereed the faculty basketball game, Bard is a “sharpshooter,” typically using a non-traditional two-handed shot. (Monica McAllister | The Beacon)