Silverswords’ 30-Year Anniversary Of Win Over Virginia

Where were you when Chaminade beat Virginia in ’82?

The Chaminade-Virginia game, played Dec. 22, 1982, at Blaisdell Arena, was attended by 3,838 people – many of whom were there to catch a glimpse of college basketball’s reigning Player of the Year, 7-4 Ralph Sampson, and the No. 1-ranked Cavaliers.

The final figures – Chaminade 77, Virginia 72 – still seem frozen on the scoreboard 30 years later.

College basketball hasn’t been the same since, and Chaminade’s win has stood the test of time. It already had established itself on the island under head coach Merv Lopes, of course, but the school of just over 800 undergraduates, then competing in NAIA, was an unknown to most of America, and that game ended too late for most newspapers to publish stories on the game.

ESPN was the first to break the news, where the late Tom Mees was co-anchoring Sports Center in the early hours. In an interview with this writer, Mees recalled the game as if it were only the day before.

“We’d gotten a little blurb that was handed to us; it had come over on the Associated Press wire, saying that Chaminade had beaten Virginia,” Mees said. “I took one look at it and, quite frankly, I couldn’t believe it. If I was going to read something this momentous to the country, I wanted to make sure I’d been right.

“We had gotten a few details and (on the air) I said, ‘You may not believe this, but Chaminade upset Virginia in Honolulu tonight.’ After work, I went back upstairs to my office to make some phone calls to check on that score. I think we called it the biggest upset in the history of college basketball.”

The incredible win was to be a major news item in the days that followed, thrusting the tiny school from obscurity to instant fame.

As for Lopes, his reputation as one of college basketball’s great coaches was rightfully sealed that night.

Years after Chaminade’s historic upset, former Virginia head coach Terry Holland would occasionally introduce Lopes to others as in, “I’d like you to meet the man I made famous.