THE HOYA HOOP CLUB HISTORY
The fall of 1906 was the beginning of something special at Georgetown. The University's director of physical education, Maurice Joyce, introduced the game of basketball to students in the newly-constructed Ryan Gymnasium. Seventy-two years later, another special something was added to the mix. Alumni and fans of Georgetown basketball were introduced to the newly-formed Hoya Hoop Club. The club did not simply arrive fully grown. Hoyas Unlimited, the fund raising and support group for all Georgetown sports, had established a "Committee on Basketball" in 1976 and devoted virtually all its resources over the following two years to increasing interest for the men's program on the Hilltop.
The investment paid off. Staffed by Brian McGuire (C'72) of the Athletic Department and supported by a strong group of alumni volunteers, the Committee met regularly for two years with then Athletic Director Frank Rienzo and Head Men’s Basketball Coach John Thompson, Jr., to discuss the needs of the rapidly improving program. One member of the committee (and later president of the Hoya Hoop Club), Dr. Anthony Fernicola (C'42, M'45), was quoted in the 1982 Hoyas game day program as saying, "after meeting with Coach Thompson, a group of us decided that the basketball team needed the kind of support, financial and otherwise, that was on level with where the basketball program was." The Committee sponsored the first men's basketball banquet in the spring of 1977. They soon realized that an expanded organization would be needed to supplement the University’s growing expenses associated with building a championship-caliber basketball program. The group subsequently developed the concept and mission statement of the Hoya Hoop Club. Simply stated, the Hoya Hoop Club was and is a support and advocacy group of loyal alumni and friends of Georgetown with a particular interest in advancing the men's basketball program.
By the fall of 1978, the Hoya Hoop Club was standing on its own two feet -- and just in time too. The Hoyas were undergoing their own transformation. With a line-up led by John Duren, Craig "Big Sky" Shelton and freshman sensation Eric "Sleepy" Floyd, Georgetown surprised a heavily-favored Syracuse team with a 66-58 win at Cole Field House to capture the 1979 ECAC.
This ECAC victory secured the Hoyas a spot in the NCAA tournament for just the fourth time in school history. More significantly, it became the first of 14 consecutive trips to the "Big Dance." Further evidence of prescient timing by the Hoya Hoop Club came in the post-season with the featured Magic Johnson-Larry Bird match-up and the growth of the NCAA tournament, which that year joined the World Series and the Super Bowl as the nation's most-watched sports spectacles.
The Hoya Hoop Club was not the first support club for a specific sport at Georgetown. Both the Georgetown Gridiron Club and Spiked Shoe Club were already established prior to the Hoya Hoop Club. The Hoya Hoop Club, however, quickly grew to be the largest support organization at Georgetown, both in number of members and total dollars raised (annually and all-time). In 1979, its first year of alumni outreach, the club consisted of 77 members who contributed over $5,000 to the men’s basketball program. By 1983, the Hoya Hoop Club had over 1,000 current members whose annual financial support totaled over $100,000. In the ensuing decades, thousands more would join the Hoya Hoop Club; to date, Hoya Hoop Club members have contributed tens of millions of dollars in support of Georgetown Men’s Basketball.
Over the years, the club's members have distinguished themselves by giving more than just financial support. Anecdotes from those early days of the Hoya Hoop Club abound. Dr. Fernicola drove his family to virtually every Georgetown home game during the 1970's and 1980's -- no small feat considering they lived more than three hours away in Allenhurst, New Jersey. And following the semi-final game at the 1982 NCAA Final Four in New Orleans, Dr. Fernicola flew from the Crescent City to Newark to perform emergency surgery on a close friend. He returned to the Big Easy in time to rejoin his family at tip-off for the championship game against North Carolina.
The late Raymond O'Brien (C'49, L'51) was another Georgetown alumnus who often drove to games from his home in Elizabeth, New Jersey. At games, Ray would attempt to use his persuasive trial attorney skills to educate the referees on properly applying the rules. Such individuals have left a lasting legacy of inspiration for the many dedicated club members today. You only have to walk into Verizon Center at any home game to see Hoya Hoop Club member Joe Lonardo (C'69) sitting courtside, engaging in a good-natured banter with the referees, or former Hoya Hoop Club presidents, including Jim Brown, Bill Rich, Joe Guarriello, Frank Lacey, Wayne Cyron, Michael Karam and Al Bozzo, celebrating after a Hoya win.
The Hoya Hoop Club remains the largest varsity athletics support club at Georgetown University. The club is led by an all-volunteer Board of Directors and elected officers. Each Board member serves a three-year term. The officers are voted on every other year.
The funds contributed by Hoya Hoop Club members are used to support Georgetown Men’s Basketball in a myriad of important ways. Financial support is applied to team, department and University expenses including but not limited to player and manager scholarships, travel, equipment, salaries and recruiting. Furthermore, enhancements to the playing surfaces at Verizon Center, McDonough Arena and Yates Field House as well as renovations to the team’s locker room would not have been possible without the generosity of members of the Hoya Hoop.
The Hoya Hoop Club continues to host the men's basketball annual awards banquet at season's end. In addition, the Hoya Hoop Club established an award in honor of Dr. Anthony Fernicola shortly after his death in 1990. The award is presented periodically to an individual for outstanding dedication and service to the men's basketball program.
Past Presidents of the Hoya Hoop Club
Speakers at the annual awards banquet have included:
Dan Rather, TV news anchor (first speaker)