“Coach Nichols recruited
John Rudley because he was the point guard and floor leader
of the greatest basketball team in the history of Michigan
High School basketball. He distributed the ball in a manner
that made his team and teammates outstanding as Benton
Harbor won the Class A state championship two years in a row
and averaged 90 points a game before the 3-point shot.
“John was a leader while
starting four years on the basketball team. After he
graduated in 1970, he was a leader in his chosen profession
of accounting. John was employed by the U.S. Department of
Education and served as a special assistant to the Secretary
of Education during the Bush “41” Administration. John
served as Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance for the
sixth largest system postsecondary education in the nation,
the Tennessee Board of Regents. He was a leader while
serving as CFO for the University of Houston and then
interim Chancellor of the four campuses of the University of
Houston System. John was a leader while serving as the
President of Texas Southern University.
“Clearly, Dr. John Rudley
had been a leader on and off the court and exemplifies the
leadership qualities deserving of the recognition by the
University of Toledo Athletic Hall of Fame. We believe that
many of the Hall of Fame members who attended our university
during the 1965-67 years and know “Rudd” would be proud to
have Dr. Rudley as a fellow member of our Athletic Hall of
The letter is also
endorsed by an all-star lineup of Toledo notables including
former mayors Carty Finkbeiner, Mike Bell and Paula
Hicks-Hudson, ministers Robert Culp, James Willis, Willie
Perryman, along with dozens of members of Rudley’s
fraternity – Omega Psi Phi, among others.
Rudley has penned his own
letter to the HOF Committee, writing in part:
“Similar to my high school
honors, the championship program at UT was considered the
greatest basketball program in UT history. My job, playing
with a number of excellent shooters, was to distribute the
ball to ‘the hot hand’, and keeping everyone’s head into the
game. As sophomores (freshmen were not eligible back then)
we won the Mid-Am championship with a record of 23-2. Over
the next three seasons our team won 71 percent of our games.
I averaged 12 ppg and 5 rebounds per game. Assists were not
officially counted back in those years. I believe I was
right around double digit average in assists with my job
being ‘the ball distributor.’ I was elected co-captain both
y junior and senior years. Two of my teammates, Steve Mix
and John Brisker, played on the professional level. Steve
played a number of successful years and John led the
fledgling ABA in scoring his rookie season.”
The University of Toledo’s grudge against John Rudley, his
supporters claim, has gone on far too long. It’s a grudge
that started in the 1960’s and seemingly persists to this
day, preventing his entry into the Hall of Fame.
It was a trying time for black athletes – the second half of
the 1960s. When Muhammad Ali spoke up, became a member of
the Nation of Islam and denounced racism and the Vietnam
War, a standard of behavior was set. A symbol of heroism has
been accepted, almost universally.
Within a few years, Ali regained the chance to continue
fighting, gained and reclaimed the heavyweight crown and
earned plaudits as an American hero.
Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists in the air
on the Olympic podium when the U.S. National Anthem was
being played. As the decades have passed, that symbol of
protest against racism has become an iconic portrait of two
heroes’ decision to sacrifice everything for a cause much
larger than their personal ambitions.
Football’s Jim Brown and basketball’s Bill Russell spoke out
against oppression, injustice and racism and spent time with
protesters, such as Ali, seconding his calls for change.
Years later, Russell and Brown, both in their pro sports’
Halls of Fame, are remembered fondly for their athletic
exploits as well as their involvement in various causes.
However, for John Rudley and his teammates, who formed the
core of a University of Toledo basketball team that went
23-2 in 1966-67 and win the MAC Championship, no such future
athletic plaudits have been forthcoming. Indeed that 1966-67
team, during Rudley’s sophomore year, has been called the
best team that has ever taken the court at UT and, for too
many at the university, it’s as if they never existed.
Those Super Sophs, when
they won that championship in 66-67, frayed a bit by the
time they were seniors. Brisker, a volatile mix at best with
Nichols had left the team. Calvin Lawshe had suffered a
serious knee injury and his career was over. In early 1969,
the coach learned that Bob Miller had been skipping classes,
confronted him on that fact, ordered him to start attending
and suspended him from the team when he learned that Miller
had skipped again.
Rudley joined protesters
at mid court before the next game – several dozen black
students and teammate Jim Miller – and walked out of the
gym, missing one game. The team finished in the doldrums –
13-11 and fifth in the MAC.
Rudley went on to graduate
school, a career as a certified public accountant, a second
stellar career in academia as the interim president of the
University of Houston and then an eight-and-a-half-year
tenure as president of Texas Southern University, retiring
three years ago.