On the TUNNEYSIDE of Sports November 30, 2915 #569 Up next…Student- athlete!

After further review…The Sports Illustrated, November 23, 2015 issue featured a story on Caltech athletics, taking specific aim at their current basketball prowess. This was an uncommon SI article, to say the least, and it spoke to me personally. In “Revenge of the Nerds,” staff writer Chris Ballard went on to observe “After decades of ignominious defeats, Caltech finally has a formula for turning the tables on its conference foes.” The Beavers, as they are known, play in Division III SCIAC (Southern California Intercollegiate Conference Athletic Conference). “Humiliating” might have been the more familiar word to use, but “ignominious” is more “Caltech-ese.” Of course.

Caltech, known formerly as California Institute of Technology, is located in Pasadena, California, just two miles from where I grew up in San Gabriel. Obviously, with that title the college tends to be primarily devoted to the instruction of technical arts and sciences, not athletics. The school, whose motto is “The truth shall make you free,” is known more for its Nobel Prize winners (20) than for its Heisman Trophy winners (zero). The Beavers nickname pays homage to nature’s engineers – and they are the best!

When I attended Occidental College, also an SCIAC member, I became well-acquainted with the athletic programs at Caltech, playing against them in three sports: football (which they cancelled after the 1993 season), basketball, and baseball. Today, the school offers 19 sports for its students. “OXY” seldom lost to Caltech during my tenure. The Beavers were not much competition for our OXY Tigers in football as we had a bowl-ready T*E*A*M. Caltech was coached by legendary football coach, Burt LaBrucherie (erstwhile head football coach at UCLA, his alma mater, and whose Bruins played in the 1947 Rose Bowl Game), yet OXY never lost to them. Ironically, when LaBrucherie became the Beavers coach in 1949, the Rose Bowl was their home field. The change was dramatic for LaBrucherie since football was highly regarded at UCLA, but not so much at Caltech. LaBrucherie loved coaching as Caltech, but he once observed about his players, “often they would line up with the wrong team.” Their focus was clearly elsewhere!

If memory serves me accurately, OXY never lost to Caltech during my four-year basketball career, although their effort (think beavers!) was without question! My admiration for the dedication shown by Caltech student-athletes – then as well as today – is of the utmost. My congratulations to the 11 men on this year’s basketball T*E*A*M, who with GPAs at 3.85 and above (and no athletic scholarships) continue “trying to solve the unsolvable problem.”

Will you support superior students who also honor athletic competition for its value in their education, and later contributions to society? To contact Jim go to www.jimtunney or email him at

“Another 101 Best of TUNNEYSIDE of SPORTS” book will be on the market at the end of this month (November, 2015). This book takes current sports issues and transforms them into positive messages for productive living. The book will sell for $20 and can be obtained via email.

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