History is something worth more than just celebrating. The Hall of Fame, championship banners and records mean more to a school than just what they added to the win/loss column.
For Amen “Sleepy” Rahh, a professor emeritus of Africana studies and former Long Beach State basketball player, the athletics department hasn’t been doing its part in creating an inclusive environment for alumni.
“Most schools are known for their sports,” Rahh said. “Their alumni have a voice…some of us don’t even go to the games because we feel like we’re not a part of the programs, and I’m hoping we can share the information we have with the [coaches and administration].”
With a clear desire to bring back the glory days of the Beach, CSULB athletics champions from 1968-72 football, basketball and baseball teams gathered together on Sept. 28 for the 50 Year Sports Renaissance.
The event was brought together by the alumni in efforts to show that they are still a defining piece of the school’s history, which has been an area of miscommunication between the two sides.
“We didn’t have no budget, it all came from our pockets,” Rahh said. “We didn’t have no time, but we made time.”
Often times alumni hold these events without the information being presented to the full network of alumni and staff on the athletics department, leading to missed opportunities.
“The overall awareness of these efforts by alumni might also be part of how we can better engage in the future,” executive senior associate athletic director Rob Clark said in an email.
Attendees of the 1968-72 era included high profile names such as former NFL coach and CSULB quarterback Jim Fassel, former NBA champion and CSULB basketball player Glenn McDonald and former NFL safety and CSULB football Hall of Famer Jeff Severson.
The room was all smiles as former colleagues and life-long friends gathered together for a day of remembrance of their late teammates, like CSULB football’s only first round NFL draft pick Leon Burns.
“All these guys I played with, I’m the oldest out of all these guys,” said former CSULB basketball player Charles “Tap” Nixon. “So it was a great time seeing everybody.”
But once the food was eaten, drinks were enjoyed and stories were told, the players began to share what was on their minds about the recent state of CSULB’s athletic programs.
“[The athletes] worked hard,” Rahh said. “Students come [to CSULB] and don’t know about…this bowl they won with Leon [Burns], and the fact that we were the first team to go to the NCAA [basketball tournament].”
While the school does present the Hall of Fame and provides a ceremony for the new recipients, some of the alumni inducted in the past would still like to have their voice heard once their time in the spotlight on campus has ended.
“Once we’re done, where’s the tradition to bring back the [CSULB] Hall of Fame?” Severson said. “They need to reach out to the [former] athletes.”
One of the many ways Severson said he desires to help student athletes at the Beach is by making sure the students are confident in themselves thanks to his unique understanding of the struggles they go through.
One way the school looks to make this possible is with the Beach Athletic Fund Varsity Club, which will, “Help reconnect alumni with each other and provide mentoring opportunities with current student-athletes through the Athlete Network (they can have a voice, should they choose to engage),” Clark said in an email. “The launch will come very soon—I’d love to together to get the word out, so alumni are more aware of what we are doing instead of them feeling isolated.”
While CSULB has gotten its name back on the national stage through its success in men’s volleyball, the other programs still aren’t back to the notoriety they once had.
“We were the soldiers of the school,” Rahh said. “You don’t see it, but if you went to our practices you would have felt like it. We were on the front line for our school, giving them a name that they could be proud of.”
In efforts to help the alumni feel like they are part of the programs again, Clark presented the group with the Beach Athletic Varsity Club initiative, which will provide former CSULB athletes a ticket to any game of their choosing throughout all sports games.
“We need to connect, we need a vehicle,” Clark said. “It’s coming shortly.”
While this is a clear act to make amends, members had potential misgivings about the plan as they generally do not attend athletic events alone, and would have to purchase tickets for anyone else joining.
Standing in front of his peers, McDonald voiced his opinion that the efforts are a step in the right direction.
“It’s good if they follow up on it,” Severson said. “I have been through so many athletic directors over there. A lot of times they use us as a stepping stone.”
It remains to be seen if the athletics department will follow suit and give the former players the platform they feel they deserve.
“It’s our duty to remember,” Rahh said. “We have to tell our history. And we hope we inspire the athletic department to do more. Every great player in the Long Beach area and surrounding area should be wanting to come here to keep that legacy going.”
This article was updated Oct. 10 at 10:38 p.m. by Mark Lindahl, sports editor, with new information via email from executive senior associate athletic director Rob Clark.