Dogs To Honor Their History
Feb. 8, 2011
Fresno, CALIF. - It's been nearly 30 years since Diane Gray last wandered the Fresno State campus, the place where her collegiate basketball dreams came to fruition.
She's never been to the Save Mart Center. She hasn't seen Jaleesa Ross drain a 3, or Michelle Moses drive a homerun over the fence at Bulldog Diamond. But her recollections are as vivid as they were when she last roamed the hardwood almost 40 years ago.
Indeed, Gray rapidly recalls witnessing her first snowfall while busing over the Grapevine with members of the Fresno State women's basketball team in 1975. She still gushes about the Bulldogs' clash against UCLA, where Gray had the unenviable task of guarding former All-American Ann Meyers, now a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
"She still scored, but she didn't do much on me," Gray recalled with a laugh. "I was able to hold her."
Such memories will abound when former Fresno State student-athletes from the 1970s return to their stomping grounds Feb. 12 to celebrate National Girls and Women in Sports Day, which brings national attention to the achievements of female athletes throughout the country.
It's sure to be a festive occasion, as the women reunite to celebrate the experiences that tie them together. The celebration coincides with Fresno State's women's basketball game against Utah State, at which time the student-athletes will receive their varsity letters.
As a part of the festivities, the Bulldogs' athletics department will host a free sports clinic for children. Student-athletes from women's golf, swimming and diving, volleyball, women's tennis and soccer will teach participants a variety of skills from their respective sports.
"This is going to be a humbling experience," said Gray, a point guard at Fresno State from 1973-76. "Back in the 1970s, I was just excited to play basketball at the college level. ... I talk about it all the time. Compared to the teams now, it's just a growth period. We were just starting out. I guess we were pioneers."
The same could be said of Kim Sanders, a former gymnast at Fresno State. While Sanders enjoyed her time competing, it's the friendships she forged along the way that mean the most. Sanders is still close friends with two of her teammates, Donna (Badasci) Flanigan and Toni (Marsh) Skates, all of whom will be attending the event on Feb. 12.
"We met at Fresno State and just had an amazing friendship," Sanders said. "We started hanging out, and here we are at 50 still hanging out.... I had a really good experience at Fresno State. This makes me feel really special, and I'm honored to be a part of it. I'm looking forward to the relationships because that's what I remember most about my time there."
Joanne Schroll, Fresno State's women's basketball coach from 1964-71, attended last season's event (which honored former athletes from the 1960s) and understands that desire to reconnect all too well.
After all, the get-together enabled her to reminisce with both players and colleagues from the past about what it was like to be a college athlete so many years ago. Together, they looked back on the days when budgets were tight and they had to drive their own cars to road games. They laughed about sleeping on the floor of a local family's home rather than staying in a pricey hotel. They even chuckled about wearing "pennies" instead of the traditional uniforms teams get today.
"It was a wonderful, special treat to be able to see and talk to them," Schroll said. "I'm hoping they have other people from their teams that will be there. That was one of the most important aspects of the day. Receiving our letters and the reception was icing on the cake."
"We Are Your Team!" -- The Fresno State athletics department will celebrate National Girls and Women in Sports Day on Feb. 12. The festivities will coincide with the Bulldogs' women's basketball game against Utah State and will include a free sports clinic for children. Fans in attendance will also get a chance to visit with honored former Fresno State student-athletes after the game.