Celebrating 30 years of basketball in the Ferrell Center
Three trivia questions for you:
1) What is Baylor’s oldest current athletic facility?
2) What was the first featured event in that facility?
3) Who was Baylor’s first opponent in that facility?
Chances are good you answered the first question correctly; that would be the Ferrell Center, which opened 30 years ago this fall. The second question’s a little more difficult; the Ferrell Center debuted on Sept. 22, 1988, with a visit from then-President Ronald Reagan.
If you got the third question, then I tip my cap to you. The first Baylor sporting event in the Ferrell Center — Nov. 17, 1988 — was a men’s basketball exhibition game against the Adelaide 36ers, an Australian professional basketball team that’s actually still in existence today. (Many years later, Baylor fan favorite Aaron Bruce would go on to play for the 36ers.) The Baylor men, led by head coach Gene Iba, defeated the 36ers 75-57 that day to christen their new home court.
After decades playing across town at the Heart O’ Texas Coliseum (now the Extraco Events Center), the Bears and Lady Bears moved back to campus and into the new Ferrell Special Events Center in time for the 1988-89 season. Twelve days after that first exhibition, the Lady Bears hosted Southwest Texas (now Texas State) on Nov. 25, 1988, in the arena’s first regular season game; the Bears hosted San Diego State four nights later in their first regular season contest.
The new arena didn’t pay immediate dividends for either team, but success would eventually come. The Bears lost their opener to SDSU, 83-58, and the Lady Bears lost to SWT, 88-76. The men, coming off their first NCAA tournament appearance in almost 40 years a season earlier, would have to wait another 20 years to return to the NCAA tournament. But since 2008, head coach Scott Drew’s Bears have reached the postseason 10 times in 11 seasons (7 NCAAs, 3 NITs).
Likewise, the women — led in 1988-89 by All-Southwest Conference performer, Maggie Davis-Stinnett (BSEd ’91), the team’s new radio analyst — were 10 years away from their first postseason appearance, and 12 years away from the arrival of Kim Mulkey. But since 2001, the Lady Bears have made 17 NCAA appearances, winning two national titles and reaching the Elite Eight eight times.
Today, the Baylor Family is once again excited about the prospect of a new hoops home. With the Homecoming launch of “Give Light”, Baylor’s new $1.1 billion campaign, came the possibility of a new basketball fieldhouse. The venerable Ferrell Center may soon bid farewell to basketball, but it’s hard to envision the eight-straight Big 12 championships and two NCAA titles for the Lady Bears and the golden era of men’s basketball under head coach Scott Drew without it.
Sic ’em, Ferrell Center!