Confession: Sometimes when we are covering a game we are rooting for one of the teams.
We aren’t pulling for the team as much as we are for a story. Frequently, it is an upset we are pulling for because an upset is always a great story.
Fans still talk about Chaminade’s unbelievable 77-72 upset over Virginia in 1982. Many publications called it the greatest upset in the history of college basketball and at least one even referred to it as the biggest upset in the history of college sports.
Then, there was that football season opener when Appalachian State, an FCS school at the time, shocked an FBS Michigan team that was ranked No. 5 in the polls on that day in 2007. The Mountaineers blocked a winning field goal attempt by Michigan to end the game in a 34-32 victory.
Like the Silverswords’ victory over mighty Virginia, it lives on today.
Locally, I can never forget Springfield’s 38-30 win over a great Rutland boys basketball team that featured Jim McCaffrey.
I was there that night in Springfield to watch the Cosmos carry out coach Richie Wyman’s well-conceived game plan to perfection. They slowed down the game, took the highest of percentage shots and pulled off a result that nobody thought could happen.
I walked into the Springfield locker room after the game and it was bedlam. One Springfield player, Jeff Wyman, was yelling, “Nobody picked us.”
Nobody did and nobody ever would have.
The marquee upset throughout the state of Vermont is probably still viewed as No. 13 Vermont’s victory over No. 4 Syracuse in the 2005 NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
Tom Brennan was the UVM coach and all these years later in retirement he still gets asked about that game all the time.
Appalachian State and Chaminade have a shelf life like few upsets ever will.
Lake Region graduate Rose Janoski played on a No. 16 Harvard women’s basketball team that shocked No. 1 Stanford in the NCAA tournament.
But the biggest college sports upset of all time just might be the most obscure. It is one hardly anyone has heard about and a Rutland-area personality played in the game.
Retired Rutland surgeon Fred Bagley played on an NCAA Division III Carleton College hockey team that was not very good. That’s the polite description.
The Knights never won more than three games in a season during Bagley’s four years, had an outdoor rink they had to shovel, a part-time coach, and bought their own equipment.
But for some reason, in 1964, they were sent on a six-hour ride in a couple of station wagons to play the University of Wisconsin, a team launching an NCAA Division I program. The part-time coach was not even able to make the trip.
Today the Badgers skate in the ostentatious Kohl Center, which seats more than 15,000 for hockey.
The Badgers and Knights were playing in a rink that seated 2,000 for that game in 1964. That must have seemed like 15,000 to the Carleton players who had never skated before more than 100 fans. But at least Wisconsin’s was indoors.
The first night, the game went just about as expected. The Badgers skated to a 6-1 victory.
The next day, Carleton became what Appalachian State and Chaminade would become years later. The Knights did the unthinkable by tying Wisconsin 2-2 through a 10-minute overtime and then another five-minute overtime.
Three years later, Carleton dropped hockey.
Fifty-four years later, Wisconsin still plays the game at the highest level and there were 13 former Badgers on opening-day NHL rosters this season.
But for one night, defenseman Bagley and his teammates were their equal in an outcome every bit as improbable as the more famous David-and-Goliath stories involving Appalachian State and Chaminade.