BLUE MOUNTAIN, Miss.
– Before the Lady Vols, Dukes and UConns of the college basketball universe
figured out there was money to be made in the “ladies game,” Blue Mountain
College was right smack in the middle of women’s hoops.
More than 40 years later – Saturday,
January 24 to be specific – Blue Mountain College will celebrate its “Four
Decades of Topper Basketball” during its annual homecoming weekend.
Players from the early days of the
60s through the current season will be on hand to for the reunion – as well as all
five BMC women coaches: Johnnie Armstrong, Mari Hubbard, Dixie Everett, Lavon
Driskell, and Jack Moser.
The festivities begin at 11:30 a.m.
in the Lowrey Administration Building.
The 2015 BMC Homecoming Court – featuring Lady Toppers senior guard
Kati Prince as Homecoming Queen – will be presented at 12:30 p.m. and the
Toppers take on William Carey University in a 2 p.m. Southern States Athletic
Conference game in Tyler Gymnasium. Tickets for the ball game are $5.
“When we first started our basketball program (in 1967) it was more of
a club sport,” said Armstrong, who is in her 60th year as a member of the BMC
faculty. “We began playing in a league of Baptist Student Union teams.”
From there Topper hoops became a part of the Association for
Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW), and later the National Association
for Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), where it plays today.
BMC’s schedule in earlyh days included such teams as Ole Miss,
Mississippi State, Memphis, Mississippi College, Mississippi University for
Women, and, of course, Delta State, who would rule the women’s college
basketball world for much of the AIAW 1970s (and into the early NCAA days).
“We would have a Christmas tournament every year,” said Armstrong, who
was the BMC athletic director and head of the physical education department.
“We would have teams like Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, Ole Miss, State … just
about anybody who could get up here on a bus.”
Armstrong and Hubbard began the BMC program in 1967 – still in the days
of six-player, three-on-three half-court games.
“We coached together,” Armstrong recalled. “I never wanted to coach but
President (Harold) Fisher wanted us to have a program, so Mari and I got one
going. She coached the offense and I coached defense.”
When the women moved to the five-player, full-court game in 1971,
Hubbard took the reins and was the Lady Toppers’ coach through the 1977 season.
Hubbard was followed by Dixie Everett, who would stay through the 1984
season. Driskell, the current Lady Toppers coach, began his first tenure in the
fall of ’84.
Driskell moved to MUW in 1989 and Moser came in and stayed through the
2006 season. When he stepped down, Driskell returned to BMC.
In a reflective moment, Armstrong, who still attends every BMC home
game, said she thought the “old game” might have been more fun, “because we all
knew each other.”
“Most of the coaches back then were also physical education teachers,”
she said, “so we would be around each other at coaching clinics and at P.E.
workshops and seminars. It was a pretty tight-knit group.”
Armstrong said the “fun” part shouldn’t be mistaken for lack of
“I think it’s obvious the players today are better athletes, but our
games back then were just as intense as they are now. We got after it pretty
Moser, BMC’s Dean of Students and, interestingly, assistant women’s
coach said as the rules began to change in women’s basketball, the athleticism
of the players also emerged.
“There was a misconception for a long time that the quality of
basketball we were playing wasn’t very good,” Moser said. “But once people saw
our game they realized it was a pretty good product.”
Driskell agreed. “I think the difference now is the speed and
physicality of the players,” he said. “That and their ability to go one-on-one.
Once we put in the shot clock that became an integral part of every team’s
The Toppers coach also emphasized BMC women’s basketball continues to
get stronger. “Because of social media, through our SportsSouth TV network that
includes the small colleges, and being a part of the Southern States Athletic
Conference, our program is getting more exposure than we ever dreamed it
For complete information about the BMC
Homecoming weekend, contact BMC Alumni Director Nancy McDonald at 662-685-4771
extension 119 or by email at email@example.com.