By Aspasia Celia Tsampas
The following article is featured in the January 2020 special edition of The Campus, The Beaverbeat.
Seventy years ago, under the leadership of Nat Holman, the namesake for the City College gymnasium, the 1949-50 men’s basketball team became the first and only team to win both the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) and NCAA Tournament in the same year. This anniversary is celebrated by the publication of “The City Game: Triumph, Scandal, and a Legendary Basketball Team” by John Goodman, about the events of this momentous occasion and more.
While the CCNY Beavers had an impressive 17-5 record that regular season, no one expected the team to triumph in the NIT, the principal tournament at the time. Out of the twelve teams chosen to participate, City College was the second to last pick. The team was comprised of only Jewish and African-American players, making it the most diverse team at the time. Goodman states, “In becoming the only team in history to win the NIT and NCAA championships in a single year, the Beavers carried a college’s — and a city’s — brightest hopes, of racial harmony, social mobility, and the triumph of the underdog.”
It was this unexpected victory at the NIT Championships against top-ranked Bradley University that spurred an invitation to the NCAA Tournament. Again, in the final showdown, the Beavers faced Bradley University. City College won the tournament, 71-68, and became the first and only Grand Slam in the history of college basketball.
This double win sent shock across the nation. Coach Nat Holman even appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show after the win. However, not all the shock was good. This win was not without controversy. After the games, it was revealed that players had taken money from gamblers in the point-shaving scandals during the regular seasons game that year. While it was concluded that no foul play had occurred during the post-season tournaments, the scandal certainly put a damper on City College’s achievements.
After the historic and unexpected win, the NCAA Committee changed the rules of participation, preventing teams from playing in both the NIT and NCAA Tournaments. Subsequently, City College became the first and last double champions.
On November 22nd, 2019, City College hosted the Inaugural Basketball Tip-Off Banquet, welcoming the new season and commemorating the 70th anniversary of this momentous championship. At the event, the 1949-50 squad was honored, including Floyd Layne of the class of 1957, the last living member of the team, who received a standing ovation before sharing his memories from that season.