The year was 1963 and it was a much different era of Valparaiso basketball.
This was long before the Homer Drew days – in fact Drew was a 19-year-old freshman at William Jewell College. It was long before The Shot and Valpo’s rise to mid-major prominence. It was long before the Crusaders moved to the “new” Athletics-Recreation Center court, which debuted in 1984.
In these days, the Crusaders called the Hilltop Gym home. They finished the season seventh of seven teams in the Indiana Collegiate Conference, going 2-10 in league play under head coach Paul Meadows.
This was the first year current Valparaiso men’s basketball athletic trainer Rod Moore stepped on Valpo’s campus as a freshman undergrad. He’s been at Valpo ever since.
Moore became the university’s head athletic trainer in 1967, immediately after his graduation. He’s the longest-tenured employee at the entire university and has witnessed over half of the Valpo basketball games in the program’s 100-year history.
“My pastor at my church in Spokane, Wash. was a classmate of (Valpo President) O.P. Kretzmen’s at the seminary,” Moore said. “They both played on the baseball team, and they both called the other one the little fat guy on the team. They were good friends, so that’s how I found out about Valpo. It was the first place I applied, and I got accepted in October of my senior year.”
Moore said the biggest change in his time with the program has been the development of the facilities. Although the current ARC is a significant improvement over previous facilities, its training room was designed for 225 athletes, and the school now has 450.
In recent years, Moore has observed the similarities and differences between Bryce and Homer Drew.
“They’re both very good teachers,” he said. “Homer was the ultimate teacher, and that’s what brought him back when Scott left. He loves to be on the floor teaching. Bryce picked up on that and picked up a lot of stuff from the pros. He’s got a lot of experience around him. He can pick (the assistant coaches’) brains and come up with the best solution.”
Indiana State’s Larry Bird – who would go on to become one of the greatest players in NBA history – delivered the most memorable play in Moore’s tenure at Valpo when the Sycamores visited the Crusaders in 1977.
“In Hilltop, you can see the corner of the court when you first come in the double doors,” Moore said. “If you put your feet right together and jump backward out of bounds, before you touch down, can you make a basket that way? Because Larry Bird did that. We didn’t have a 3-point shot in those days, but he jumped and ended up at least three-feet out of bounds. He got nothing but net. You couldn’t ever forget that one.”
At one time, Moore went 32 straight years without missing a Valpo football games. He can count on one hand the number of Valpo basketball game he’s missed – most recently the NCAA Tournament game against Gonzaga on March 18, 2004, when eye surgery prevented him from flying to Seattle.
The obvious question surrounding Moore is how much longer the Valpo legend will continue his run as head athletic trainer. Moore said he plans to stick around one or two more years before retiring.
“It’s gotten to a point where it’s tough to extend your career because all sports are all-year around,” Moore said. “I usually have 30 days of vacation and some of those can roll over, but basketball goes 11 months out of the year. During the two weeks after the season and two weeks in the summer that basketball is off, I’m busy with other sports. It all depends on my health; that’s the big thing.”