February 28, 2011
By Tony Phifer
The CSU men's basketball team will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps on Wednesday night when it faces Utah in the final home game of the regular season.
A tribute 50 years in the making and fond farewells are on the menu when the CSU men’s basketball team plays its final home game at 7 p.m. Wednesday against Mountain West Conference foe Utah.
The Rams, chasing their first 20-win season since 1998 and first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2003, are looking to better position themselves heading into the MWC Tournament, which begins March 10 in Las Vegas. CSU closes the regular season Saturday at San Diego State.
While the Rams are trying to build on their memorable season, the University will use the occasion to celebrate the Peace Corps on its 50th anniversary, while also bidding farewell to wildly popular pep band director Joe Spina. The game will also mark the final Moby Arena appearance for Mike Biggs, who has served as chief athletic trainer for the men’s basketball program for 32 years.
Former Peace Corps volunteers from the university and the surrounding community will be honored at halftime to mark the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps and celebrate the university’s role in helping lay the foundation for its creation in the early 1960s.
The late Maurice Albertson, a Centennial Emeritus Professor who served as the first director of the CSU Research Foundation, was director of the U.S. Congressional study on the Point 4 Youth Corps (an early name for the Peace Corps initiative). Albertson and two colleagues, Research Associate Pauline Birky- Kreutzer and Andrew Rice, co-authored the book, "New Frontiers for American Youth – Perspective on the Peace Corps," which set up the basic design for the Peace Corps.
CSU has identified more than 70 Peace Corps alums working on campus, many of whom will be on hand.
Spina, whose dance routines near the end of home games have become the stuff of legend, will graduate in May with an M.A. in Music Education and Wind Conducting. He will be honored during one of the game’s timeouts.
Spina’s crowning moment came during last week’s UNLV game when his traditional dance to the Green Day song “Holiday” concluded with him tossing his suit jacket and tie into the crowd. The sellout crowd of 8,745 gave him a standing ovation in his final appearance as pep band director at a men’s game.
“That was the most memorable experience I’ll ever have in terms of athletic bands,” Spina said. “From where this started last year to where it ended up at the UNLV game was just spectacular. I never dreamed it would come to that. Being a graduate teaching assistant her has been an incredible trip – two years of great fun.”
Spina, who is expected to lead the pep band in the March 5 women’s home finale against San Diego State and at the MWC Tournament, hopes to get a job as a high school band teacher upon graduation.
Biggs, who has worked with eight head coaches during his 32-year run, will pack plenty of memories into his trainer’s kit when he leaves CSU. He’s had a front-row seat for all of the highs and lows in the program since 1979, and he estimates that he has taped nearly 500,000 ankles during his tenure working with every Ram sports team.
Biggs, who came to CSU in 1975 hoping to play baseball, said he has no immediate plans to retire but knew it was time to move on from the job that has been a huge part of his life. He will marry Debbie LeClair in May.
“First, not long ago, I lost 120 pounds, and because of that I met a sweet, young thing – and I really like her a lot more than I like my job,” he said. “I want to spend some time with her, and you can’t do that when you’re working 70 hours a week and on the road all the time.
“It has been a great time. I’ve met so many special people in this job – for too many to mention. And I consider a very large number of the athletes I’ve worked with to be very good friends, and I still stay in touch with many of them.”