Since 1972, the University of Notre Dame has been home to the largest 5-on-5 outdoor basketball tournament — Bookstore Basketball. This annual tradition during the University’s An Tostal celebrations was created by students Fritz Hoefer (‘72) and Vince Meconi (‘75), who wanted to provide a platform for average students to pursue athletics on a larger scale than interhall competitions. The first tournament in 1972 was a massive hit, and the event allowed students to compete against varsity athletes.Although competitive in spirit, the tournament is all in good fun and is known for its strange occurrences, from teams dressing up in costume to calling time-outs to have study breaks. Bookstore Basketball has become an integral part of Notre Dame culture, with over 700 teams competing at its peak. In this edition, From the Archives looks back at Bookstore Basketball’s memorable moments and how it became a cherished tradition.
What is Bookstore Basketball?The largest 5-on-5 outdoor basketball tournament found its origins at the University of Notre Dame in 1972 and has since become an annual tradition during the University’s An Tostal celebrations. Students Fritz Hoefer (‘72), an An Tostal chairman, and Vince Meconi (‘75), president of Morrissey Hall, were the masterminds behind the tournament. The two worked together to create an athletic event that allowed the average student to pursue athletics on a larger scale than would be possible with any interhall competition. The opportunity to compete against varsity athletes coupled with the lack of fervor surrounding spring sports during the early 70’s led Notre Dame students to flock toward this event. “Besides creating interest on campus, it does something more important. It allows the frustrated jocks of the University their chance at the big time, their opportunity to meet a major college athlete on the field of battle. Bookstore basketball is probably responsible for the making and breaking of more egos than any other event on campus,” writes Fred Herbst (‘77) in a 1976 article from The Observer. Although Bookstore Basketball is known for its competitive spirit, the tournament is all in good fun. Marc Ramirez (‘85), a feature writer for The Observer, recalled some of the strange occurrences that took place at the first Bookstore Basketball tournament he attended. “The Esophagus Constrictors were an interesting team,” Ramirez wrote. “Their uniforms consisted of white dress shirts, ties, thick-rimmed glasses and calculators strapped to their belts. At various intervals throughout the game they would call time-outs in order to have study breaks.”
Bookstore Basketball’s Memorable MomentsBookstore Basketball has a storied history as an all-weather sport in the most literal of senses. But since its inception in 1972, only one game has ever been decided off of the court.In 1988, many of the games in the round of 256 took place in a driving rainstorm. Fans were hard to come by and points ever harder. The blacktop courts were soaked, and the players were miserable. The Wedge, a Hoosier and 3 Other Lame Guys were playing 4 Guys from Air Loomer in the terrible weather when they mutually agreed to suspend play.
From Bill Laimbeer to Bill Hanzlik: The Legacy of Professional Players in Notre Dame’s Bookstore Basketball
As March Madness heats up, college basketball fans around the country are celebrating their favorite teams, players and traditions. At Notre Dame, one such tradition is Bookstore Basketball, a massive tournament in which teams of students compete against one another in a grueling test of athleticism, teamwork and determination. And while most of the players are Notre Dame students, some have hailed from the ranks of professional basketball.From an archived story in The Observer, we learn about some of the professional players who have competed in Bookstore Basketball over the years. Two of the most notable are Bill Laimbeer (‘79) and Bill Hanzlik (‘80), both of whom went on to successful careers in the NBA.Laimbeer, who played for Notre Dame from 1975-79, participated in Bookstore Basketball in 1976. During the ‘76 tournament, Laimbeer “set a Bookstore record with 7 blocked shots.” For his success at the rim, Laimbeer was awarded the “Dr. J trophy.” It’s clear that Laimbeer’s skills were already impressive back then, and his success in the NBA only solidified his status as one of the all-time greats.