Salt Lake City, UT

The NCAA Tournament's most forgotten Cinderella Tale of All Time was "supposed to never happen"

Braydyn The Bear Lents
Photo from the Utah Redskins after the 1944 National Championship game.Photo byUnknown Photographer

On December 27, 2022, the most iconic face in the Utah basketball community in Arnie Ferrin passed away at the age of 97.

It was a tragic loss for the residents of the Utes community, especially for those who bled the native red and white and remembered the history of one of the most forgotten NCAA Tournament Cinderella teams in history.

The team carried the same definition of success and grit as Ferrin did on and off the court.

Before Ferrin’s son died hours after him, The Salt Lake Tribune said he kept battling his illness like he was on the national championship team that led the Utes to the promised land almost 80 years ago.

Being a part of this national championship mentality and being the first players to do something special was in their DNA even after many of the players have passed away or are alive and elderly.

The team also made history as Wat Misaka, broke the color barrier, and became the first Asian player of Japanese descent to ever play in college basketball.

All this success was honorable to the indigenous communities of the Utah valley, as this team embodied the spirit of the native tribes through the hard work they put in before the 1943-44 season.

The 1943-44 Utes basketball team was the only team to ever win a national championship at any Utah men’s or women’s basketball division.

On paper, this team was never supposed to even go to the NCAA Tournament, but they shocked the Mountain State Conference and won their conference championship, and advanced to the tournament after two of the Arkansas Razorbacks starters were prompted to withdraw members of the team were involved in a car accident.

Wikiwand dot com wrote, “While attempting to fix a flat tire, Deno Nichols and Ben Jones were injured when another car rammed into the back of the station wagon. Both players were injured. The accident's severity caused Arkansas to withdraw from the upcoming NCAA tournament and the Redskins were tapped as a replacement.”

They beat Missouri and Iowa State fondly in Kansas City, Kansas, but their final opponent, Dartmouth in a close 42-40 victory in the national championship game.

Since the team’s last championship that season, the Utes would not find similar success on the basketball court, but the team broke boundaries and went in directions that no other team in that era or even now would have done before.

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Student at Indiana University Bloomington, journalism major, Class of 2024, sports media minor, staff writer/journalist for Hoosiers Network, freelancer "It's called the American Dream cause you have to be asleep to believe it." -- George Carlin

Bloomington, IN

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