FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 27, 2002
Contact: Cheryl Peck
UIS Announces Addition of Men’s Basketball Program
SPRINGFIELD – Chancellor Richard Ringeisen kick-started the future of UIS’ athletic program on Wednesday by announcing that the University would not only add men’s basketball, but had landed one of the sport’s brightest stars to build the program from scratch.
Kevin Gamble, who led Springfield’s Lanphier Lions basketball team to a state championship in 1983 and went on to play for the Big Ten’s Iowa Hawkeyes and the NBA’s Boston Celtics, was named head coach.
Ringeisen said the appointment, which needs the approval of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, adds the expertise and the star power needed to recruit talent and build fan support for a long-awaited program that is brand new.
“Not a week has gone by since I arrived a year ago that I haven’t heard from individual students or student groups that we need to add men’s basketball to our athletic program,” said Ringeisen. “This is something they want, and it’s also something we need to continue to build student life and spirit on this campus. We are delighted to make this announcement about the program and even more excited to bring on board such an extraordinary player as head coach.”
Ringeisen said Gamble will begin his duties immediately and will lead the effort to build the program and recruit talent at both the high school and junior college levels. The goal is to begin competing when the season begins in fall 2002, initially in the UIS gymnasium but as fan support grows, it may be necessary to explore other larger locations in which to play home games. UIS is seeking private funding to build a $20 million recreation center in the next few years, which would house a state-of-the-art gymnasium with adequate seating capacity.
UIS will also be exploring the appropriate league in which to compete, although eventually UIS envisions moving to the NCAA and joining a competitive midwestern conference. To do that, UIS would need to offer participation in 10 sports. With the addition of men’s basketball and the planned addition of another women’s sport in 2003, UIS will have seven sports. “There are lots of details to work out over the next year and Kevin will help us do that,” said Ringeisen.
“This is a great opportunity and I look forward to being a part of the UIS team,” said Gamble. “The sky is the limit when you start something from the bottom up and that will be one of our strongest selling points when it comes to recruiting. The administration and the students here are more than supportive, they are excited, and that bodes well for the success of this program.”
The men’s basketball program will be paid for through a combination of private funding and student fees, a financing option that students have supported. “Improving athletics is one of the expenditures that students have said they are willing to pay for through increased student fees,” said Ringeisen. Student fees at UIS will go up next year, but Ringeisen said it’s an increase that would have taken place whether additional sports were added or not. Part of the fee increase is slated for the remodeling of student housing, another student-identified priority.
“There’s no question that adding men’s basketball will enhance student life at UIS,” said Ringeisen. “We believe it will also increase awareness of the University and enhance the recreational options of the community. What better way to spend an evening than to come out and cheer on your hometown university in a game against their archrivals? We look forward to playing host.”
Born in Springfield, Illinois, Kevin played basketball at Lanphier High School, leading the Lions to the Illinois Class AA State Basketball Championship title in 1983. He went on to attend Lincoln College for two years before transferring to the University of Iowa for his final two college seasons. In his senior year at Iowa, he led the Hawkeyes to a 30-5 record and the NCAA tournament regional finals. He was named co-MVP in 1987.
In 1988, the Boston Celtics signed him as a replacement for the injured Larry Bird. He played with the Celtics until 1994 before signing on as a free agent with the Miami Heat. He was traded to the Sacramento Kings in 1996, where he played one year before injuring his back.
When his NBA career ended, Kevin returned to Springfield and formed the real estate development company, PitGam Enterprises, Inc. with another former athlete, ex-Springfield Cardinal Mike Pittman. PitGam is heavily involved in the development of Springfield’s east side community.