Great Alaska Throwback

November 25, 2015
The GCI Great Alaska Shootout tipped off on Tuesday. But first, lets take a trip through the time machine (Image courtesy of UAA Athletics).

The GCI Great Alaska Shootout tipped off on Tuesday. But first, let’s take a trip through the time machine. (Image courtesy of UAA Athletics)

Ah, the ’80s. A time of neon skinny ties and parachute pants, Pac-Man, keytar solos and the best team photos UAA has ever produced. As a shout out to the Shootout, we’ve compiled the top images of the early years of UAA basketball.

But first, a little history…

The GCI Great Alaska Shootout—the annual Thanksgiving sports smorgasbord—has been played every year since 1978, when the men’s team tipped off on national television in the original Sea Wolf Classic. The women’s tournament—then the Northern Lights Invitational—first launched in 1980. While the men have yet to claim the tournament prize, the women have won the title six times, including a four-year run from 2006 to 2009.

Though many things have changed over the years—like the tournament’s name, sponsors and its original location at Fort Richardson to the new Alaska Airlines Center—the Seawolves have always been the sole Division II team in the tournament.

Another major change, and perhaps to all of our detriment, was the loss of excellent oddball team photos. Early UAA basketball teams definitely sat for the traditional team photo—two rows of athletes, flanked by coaches, all sternly staring toward the camera—but it was always printed on the inside pages of the annual media guide, tucked among the player stats, original Air Jordan ads and Coca-Cola spots featuring Max Headroom. The true gems were the team photos on the front of each program. If you were to judge these books by their covers, you’d want to know a lot more about UAA basketball.

And that was exactly the point, said Tim McDiffett, UAA’s senior associate director of athletics. “Back in those days, your program cover was the first thing recruits saw about your program,” he said. These books, mailed around the world, needed to convey the team’s personality from the jump. Now, though, Facebook and Twitter can handle that, and the department doesn’t even print programs at all. “It was a time and a place,” Tim added. “The way of communicating has changed.”

Although today’s teams still boast the same frontier spirit and unmistakable energy, it may never be conveyed as prominently—or as peculiarly—as it was in the ’80s. So scroll through the wonder years of UAA’s lively team photos, then come back for the GCI Great Alaska Shootout—the annual holiday hoops extravaganza—all week long.

'84-'85 Men's Basketball tapped a connection on base to shoot this miltary photo in front of the Chugach Range.

“The sky’s the limit:” ’84-’85 Men’s Basketball tapped a connection on Elmendorf Air Force Base to shoot this epic team photo in front of the Chugach Range.

The '84-'85 women's team went 18-10, proving they're better at basketball than basketball mini-golf.

“Shooting for No. 1:” Playing putt-putt with a basketball? The ’84-’85 women’s team went 18-10, proving they’re far better with a basketball on the court than on the green.

With an 8-0 conference record, the '85-'86 men's team were kings of the road trip.

With an 8-0 conference record, the ’85-’86 men’s team were kings of the road trip.

14 years before the Grizzlies joined the NBA, the '81-'82 women's team was laying the groundwork with this photo.

14 years before the Grizzlies joined the NBA, the ’81-’82 women’s team laid the groundwork with this baller brown bear.

"Reaching for the Top:" The '83-'84 women try their hand at after-practice dinner theater.

“Reaching for the Top:” The ’83-’84 women try their hand at dinner theater after practice.

The '85-'86 women show off the wild side of campus from Goose Lake.

The ’85-’86 women show off the wild side of campus from Goose Lake.

"Chariots of Fire" won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1982. The men's team followed up with this tribute a year later.

“Chariots of Fire” won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1982. The men’s team followed up with this tribute a year later.

In perhaps the most ominous team photo of all time, the cheery women of the '82-'83 team surrounded themselves with taxidermy. Is it an Alaska allusion? Or a threat to opponents?

In perhaps the most ominous team photo of the era, the cheery women of the ’82-’83 team surrounded themselves with taxidermy. Is it an allusion to Alaska? Or a threat to opponents?

We hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane. Now bring the family back and create a few new memories at the GCI Great Alaska Shootout, Nov. 24-28 at the Alaska Airlines Center. Schedules and tickets are available online.

Images courtesy of UAA Athletics.

Written by J. Besl, UAA Office of University Advancement

University of Alaska Anchorage - University Advancement
3211 Providence Dr. Suite 236 - Anchorage, AK 99508