The Early Years: The Team is Called the Thoroughbreds



Written by Sid Easley...

In June of 1928 Dr. Rainey Wells announced that he had given the name Thoroughbreds to the Murray State athletic teams.  He chose the picture of the head of the horse Man O' War as the emblem to be placed on the uniform of each player.  In a day when the greatest horse of all time evoked in all an image of overwhelming superiority, the choice was a popular one.   Dr. Carr, in his book Recollections of Murray State College said, “The name Thoroughbreds was received with enthusiasm not only by the members of different teams, but by the faculty, students, and the friends of the college.”

The College News on Jan 29, 1929 published an editorial entitled A THOROUGHBRED CODE.  Dr. Carr said that though the code was never adopted officially, “the spirit of the code has been exemplified throughout the years.”

Basketball is Played “On the Stage”

The 1928 season was special in another way.  The Thoroughbreds were given a new place to play basketball.  For the players and fans it was truly a luxurious facility that doubled as an auditorium for music, drama, speech, and all types of public presentations, together with a full sized basketball court.

Dr. Carr described the new auditorium that was opened in January of 1928,  “The auditorium is one of the largest in Kentucky with a seating capacity of 4,000,” he said. For a basketball game it held up to 3500.  The building also contained classrooms, offices, and dressing rooms, and comfortable seating. Its cost was $176,549.37.

J. D. Rayburn who played on that court for four years described it this way “It was a regulation sized court.  The scorekeeper sat in an elevated platform on the north wall.  The team’s benches were also on the north side of the floor facing the fans.  The scorekeeper used a bell he rang by hand rather than an electric buzzer. Often the ball would go out into the crowd and would be thrown back by a fan.  The cheerleaders would come up on the stage at timeouts and at halftime, and lead cheers. Since the stage was recessed fans had to seat themselves in areas where they could see the entire court.  If you sat too far to either side you could only see one goal.  You had to get there early to get good seats.”  When asked about the size of the crowds Rayburn said, “We had good crowds, and when we played Western we filled it up.”

The 1929 season brought brighter days to Thoroughbred basketball.  Murray State began to play larger schools, such as Delta State from Cleveland, Mississippi and Southern Illinois College at Carbondale, Ill.  They swept Delta State in two games that year, but lost to Southern Illinois twice—the last game by two points.  Still, they finished 12-8 and outscored their opponents 785 to 602.   A tall center from Missouri began to make a difference for the team.  John Miller became a stalwart in the all-important center jump averaging 10.5 points a game in 1929   Miller later coached the freshman team when J. D Rayburn played.   

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