Wilkerson wants 1976 IU team remembered for more than winning games

May 29, 2013
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Five years ago, former Indiana University basketball player and Anderson native Bobby Wilkerson had a vision.

He wanted to launch a business capitalizing on the 1976 IU basketball team he started on.

Wilkerson wanted to license a line of products—retro jerseys, etched glassware, T-shirts and more—commemorating the national championship team, the last undefeated NCAA men’s Division I team.

It would be a business opportunity for Wilkerson and his teammates to be sure. But he wanted it to be something more.

Wilkerson, who owns a Maryland-based drinking water bottling company, wanted to use the business venture to do something his coach, Bob Knight, had taught him.

“The one thing we all learned from Coach Knight was to give back to the community and never forget those less fortunate,” Wilkerson said. “Bob Knight did a lot for people and for charities. He did a lot people don’t know about, and will probably never know about. His example left a lasting impression on me.”

It was such an impression that in 2008, Wilkerson sat down with IU alums Scott May, Kent Benson, Quinn Buckner and Mike Woodson at May’s Bloomington house. Over lunch, he explained his idea. May, Benson and Buckner were also on the 1976 team. Woodson, now coach of the New York Knicks, starred for IU in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

“They immediately embraced the idea,” Wilkerson said. “They told me to go for it.”

When the economy tanked, Wilkerson put his plans on hold. But last year, when Wilkerson’s older brother, John, died of a terminal illness, he said his vision returned—along with a message from God.

“God put it in my heart and in my spirit,” Wilkerson explained. “I knew it was time. It was time to start this venture. It was time to pull this team together again. It was time to pull them together to help others.”

Dana Curish, executive director of Susan G. Komen Central Indiana, calls Wilkerson’s initiative “a blessing.”

“He just called us out of the blue and volunteered to help, to make us part of this. He said he wanted to help and to give something back to this community,” Curish said. “Those are rare phone calls. Those are the types of phone calls we like. We feel very fortunate to be a part of this.”

Wilkerson and Benson held a press conference Wednesday on the IUPUI campus to unveil the initiative. Wilkerson and Benson were flanked by several of their former Hoosier teammates, including Wayne Radford, Tom Abernathy and Scott Eells.

Wilkerson has no doubt his new venture will pay off—and not just for himself and his 12 teammates.

“I learned a long time ago that this team can do anything it puts its mind to if it works together,” Wilkerson said. “We know from 1976, there’s nothing we can’t achieve together.”

Wilkerson got the blessing of all his teammates—and Knight—for the project. Wilkerson even included the family of former teammate Mark Haymore, who died in 2004, in the initiative. This year, Wilkerson officially formed the 32 and 0 Undefeated College Basketball Champions Foundation Inc.

Benson, along with Wilkerson, agreed to co-chair the organization, which will be based in central Indiana. Wilkerson also secured a license from IU to make and sell the products.

In addition to Susan G. Komen Central Indiana, part of the proceeds will benefit the Hoosier Oncology Group, Macon Mentor Academy and Help Indiana Vets. Wilkerson said a percentage of each sale will go to the four charities, depending on the price of the item. He declined to give specific percentages that will be awarded to the charities.

Wilkerson insists the monetary donations are just the beginning to his—and his teammates’—community involvement.

“It’s not just about raising money; it’s about being active in the community,” Wilkerson said. “It’s also about an initiative where this team and its supporters can come together to do something great, do something that really matters to others. And you know, we’re all just one step away from needing help.”

Part of the plan is to partner with more not-for-profits in central Indiana and also charities in the hometowns of each of the former players on that 1976 team.

In many ways, Wilkerson’s timing couldn’t be better—and not just because there are more charitable causes than ever that need help. The resurgence of the IU program in the last two years under Coach Tom Crean has rekindled the fire of the Hoosier fan base.

On top of that, the 1976 Hoosiers in April at the Final Four were honored as the greatest college basketball team ever. Many area fans still fondly remember that magical run and will be willing to fuel Wilkerson’s dream by purchasing commemorative items.

The 32 and 0 items are scheduled to go on sale Thursday at 32and0.com.

ADVERTISEMENT
  • Great Team
    The Undefeated Indiana Hoosier National Championship run was amazing. The 32and0 foundation is also amazing with the same Leadership. We are blessed to be a part of their team.
  • So proud of you all!
    I know Bob was so proud of you all when you played at Indiana University. He must be even prouder now. Since Bob died of brain cancer after only five months last year , I want to help however I can. Please let me know where I can send donations or purchase products.
  • iU Great Legacy
    This is a great opportunity to show the players of the future to learn from legends of the past on who to give back to the program that gave so much

Post a comment to this blog

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
  1. Great article and post scripts by Mike L (Great addition to IBJ BTW). Bobby's stubborn as a mule, and doubt if he ever comes back to IU. But the love he would receive would be enormous. Hope he shows some time, but not counting on it.

  2. When the Indiana GOP was going around the State selling the Voucher bill they were promising people that the vouchers would only be for public charter schools. They lied. As usual.

  3. I am Mr. Morris Ray, a Legitimate And a Reputable money Lender. We lend funds out to individuals in need of financial assistance, we give loan to people that have a bad credit or in need of money to pay bills, to invest on business. Have you been looking for loan? you have not to worry, because you are in the right place i offer loan at low interest rate of 2% so if you are in need of a loan i want you to just contact me via this email Address: morris_ray123@outlook.com

  4. Jim, your "misleading" numbers comment is spot on. This is the spin these posers are putting on it. News flash, fans: these guys lie. They are not publicly traded so no one holds them accountable for anything they say. The TV numbers are so miniscule to begin with any "increase" produces double digit "growth" numbers. It's ridiculous to think that anything these guys have done has awakened the marketplace. What have they done? Consolidate the season so they run more races on consecutive weekends? And this creates "momentum." Is that the same momentum you enjoy when you don't race between August and March? Keep in mind that you are running teams who barely make ends meet ragged over the summer to accomplish this brilliant strategy of avoiding the NFL while you run your season finale at midnight on the East Coast. But I should not obfuscate my own point: any "ratings increase" is exactly what Jim points to - the increased availability of NBC Sports in households. Look fans, I love the sport to but these posers are running it off a cliff. Miles wants to declare victory and then run for Mayor. I could go on and on but bottom line for God's sake don't believe a word they say. Note to Anthony - try doing just a little research instead of reporting what these pretenders say and then offering an "opinion" no more informed than the average fan.

  5. If he's finally planning to do the right thing and resign, why not do it before the election? Waiting until after means what - s special election at tax payer expense? Appointment (by whom?) thus robbing the voters of their chance to choose? Does he accrue some additional financial advantage to waiting, like extra pension payments? What's in it for him? That's the question that needs to be asked.

ADVERTISEMENT