Tournament Basketball Returns to Duquesne

Duquesne's announcement of the men's basketball team's 2009-10 non-conference schedule included information about the return of an in-season tournament to Duquesne. This is a one-evening twin-bill. Its predecessor, the Steel Bowl, featured two evenings of action with four teams on the ticket.

From Friday's press release:

    DU will honor one of its all-time greats with the Chuck Cooper Classic on Dec. 5. The event will consist of a doubleheader with West Virginia State hosting Davis & Elkins followed by Duquesne's game against Savannah State. Cooper, whose jersey was retired at Duquesne in 2001, officially integrated professional basketball when he was drafted by the NBA Boston Celtics in April of 1950. Cooper, who was an All-American for DU in 1950, began his college career at West Virginia State before enlisting in the military during World War II.

West Virginia State University in Institute, W. Va., and the first stop in the 1940s for Chuck Cooper, is an Historically Black College/University (HBCU) that is now racially diverse. The Division II school was nationally-ranked with a 24-6 record least season, 19-1 in the WVIAC. The Yellow Jackets lost to Kutztown State, 99-88, in an NCAA Atlantic Region first round game.

Davis and Elkins College in Elkins, W.Va. also competes in the WVIAC. The Senators were 7-21 in 2008-09, 5-15 in league play.

The Dukes' foe, Savannah State University in Savannah, Ga., is the oldest HBCU in Georgia. Closing in on a decade as a Division I independent, the Tigers were 15-14 last season, a far cry from the 0–28 finish in 2004-05.

A weekend in December was, for many years, the top college basketball event in the 'Burgh. The Steel Bowl began in the early '50s at the University of Pittsburgh's Fitzgerald Field House and then moved to the Civic Arena in 1964.

The format was generally Duquesne and Pitt facing visiting teams in first round games with the hope, and expectation, the Dukes and Panthers would meet for the championship. Many times they did, though there were seasons when one or the other of the locals lost the opening game and less frequently met in the final day's consolation game.

In 1970 and from 1972-on, DU & UP faced off on the first night when the draw was a national power, e.g. UCLA. The last tournament was in 1975 when UNLV beat the Dukes, 86-83, for the final Steel Bowl Title.