An era in University of Virginia basketball history ended on March 5, 2006, when the Virginia men’s basketball team played its final game in University Hall. After 41 seasons, the Cavaliers headed across the street to the new John Paul Jones Arena.
While the 8,392-seat University Hall may no longer be the home of the Cavaliers, the memories of great games, players and coaches remain with Virginia fans. Many of the most recognizable names in UVa men’s basketball history called University Hall home during their collegiate careers. Jeff Lamp, Barry Parkhill, Ralph Sampson, Bryant Stith and Wally Walker spent their entire Virginia careers in the building, while Terry Holland was the head coach of 16 UVa teams on his way to becoming the winningest coach in the program’s history.
Virginia played its home games in Memorial Gymnasium for 42 years before the construction of University Hall. The building was dedicated on Nov. 21, 1965, and Virginia played its first game in University Hall under the direction of head coach Bill Gibson on Dec. 4 against Adolph Rupp’s Kentucky Wildcats. “Rupp’s Runts,” a team that featured Pat Riley, defeated the Cavaliers as the University Hall era got underway.
Over the years there were many special moments in the building and Cavalier fans no doubt have their list of favorites. One that long-time Virginia fans would no doubt mention as a turning point for UVa basketball came on the evening of Jan. 11, 1971. That night Parkhill, a sophomore guard, made a baseline jumper in the closing seconds to give UVa a 50-49 victory over second-ranked South Carolina. That win was part of a stretch of four wins in eight days at U-Hall that enabled the Cavaliers to move into The Associated Press Top 20 rankings for the first time.
The following season Parkhill scored 51 points, still a UVa single-game record, in a victory over Baldwin-Wallace at University Hall and had 21 points in a 78-57 win over fifth-ranked Maryland. The Cavaliers went on to finish the 1971-72 season with a 21-7 record, the program’s first 20-win season in 44 years.
Players like Walker, Lamp and Lee Raker followed Parkhill to University Hall. Walker averaged 22.1 points a game during the 1975-76 season and led the Cavaliers to their only Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament Championship. The addition of Lamp, one of the great clutch performers in Virginia basketball history, and Raker to the Virginia program for the 1977-78 season was a significant recruiting victory for Holland.Lamp’s eight-foot jump shot with six seconds remaining gave the Cavaliers their first postseason win, a 79-78 victory over Northeast Louisiana in an NIT game at University Hall on March 7, 1979.
With Ralph Sampson joining the Virginia program in the fall of 1979, University Hall became known as “Ralph’s House.” During Sampson’s four years, the Cavaliers compiled an overall record of 50-2 at University Hall, participated in three NCAA Tournaments, reached the Final Four in 1981 and won an NIT Championship in 1980.
UVa started a program-record 34-game home winning streak with a 73-69 victory over 10th-ranked Duke at U-Hall on Feb. 6, 1980, and the Cavaliers won their first home game as the nation’s top-ranked team with an 83-73 victory over sixth-ranked Wake Forest on Jan. 28, 1981.
“Senior Day” for Lamp and Raker came on Feb. 28, 1981, and UVa defeated Maryland 74-63 at University Hall. Lamp’s No. 3 jersey was retired shortly after the game.
Sampson had many outstanding games at University Hall, including a performance against Ohio State when he scored a career-high 40 points and had 16 rebounds in an 89-73 win before a national television audience on “Super Bowl Sunday” in 1981. He scored 35 points in a 98-81 victory over eighth-ranked Louisville on Jan. 29, 1983.
One of the most unforgettable afternoons at U-Hall came on March 6, 1983, when a packed house tearfully said goodbye to three seniors, including Sampson, a three-time National Player of the Year. With a national television audience looking on, Sampson made a game winning jump shot as the Cavaliers edged Maryland. As part of the special postgame ceremonies, Sampson’s jersey number was unrolled from the rafters, signifying the retirement of Virginia’s number 50 for all time.UVa’s only victory over a No. 1 ranked opponent came on Jan. 30, 1986, when the Cavaliers upset previously unbeaten (21-0) North Carolina 86-73 at University Hall behind 19 points from Olden Polynice.
The 1990 season was Holland’s final one as head coach of the Virginia program. He coached his final game at University Hall on March 1, 1990. UVa unfortunately suffered a 51-50 loss to a Wake Forest team coached by Holland’s former assistant coach and close friend Dave Odom.
Bryant Stith, the Cavaliers’ all-time leading scorer (2,516 points), said goodbye to U-Hall late in the 1991-92 season. In his final regular season game on March 3, 1992, he scored 29 points and had nine rebounds in a 74-68 victory over North Carolina State. After the game, he was honored as the sixth Cavalier to have his number (20) retired.
Norman Nolan (35) and Curtis Staples (16) combined to score 51 of UVa’s 59 points in a 59-56 victory over North Carolina State on Jan. 18, 1998. Staples established an NCAA record with 413 three-point field goals during his Virginia career. He held that record until Duke’s J.J. Redick broke it in 2006.
The memorable games continued at University Hall in more recent years. In 2001, the Cavaliers had victories over third-ranked Duke and second-ranked North Carolina in an 11-day period.
The following season, the Cavaliers trailed third-ranked Duke by 13 points at U-Hall with 7:39 to play, but outscored the Blue Devils 24-8 the rest of the way for an 87-84 upset victory on Feb. 28, 2002.
During the 2005-06 season, Virginia won its 400th game in University Hall by defeating in-state rival Virginia Tech 81-77 in overtime on Feb. 11. The Cavaliers’ final win at U-Hall was a 72-58 victory over 11th-ranked Boston College on Feb. 21, 2006.
Many former Virginia men’s basketball players returned to Charlottesville for the “Last Ball in U-Hall” celebration at the end of the 2005-06 season. Those players helped Virginia compile an overall record of 402-143 (.738 winning percentage) in University Hall and a record of 179-112 (.615) against ACC opponents in the building. Like the fans in attendance for the tough 71-70 loss to Maryland on March 5, 2006, each of those players had their own special memories of University Hall. Those memories will remain as Virginia basketball creates new ones in the John Paul Jones Arena.
In addition to University Hall and the John Paul Jones Arena, the Virginia men’s basketball team has played home games in two other venues on the University’s Grounds, Fayerweather Gymnasium and Memorial Gymnasium.
Fayerweather Gymnasium was built in 1893 and featured the University’s first bathtubs. The Virginia men’s basketball program’s first season of competition was in 1906 and many of the Cavaliers’ early victories under coach Henry H. “Pop” Lannigan were achieved in Fayerweather Gym.Lannigan’s 1915 team finished the season undefeated with a 17-0 record. The team was known as the “Famous Five” and featured Wellington Stickley, John Luck, Bill Strickling, Andrew Dittrich and Bill Nickels, Jr. Strickling, the team’s center, became the first UVa player to earn first-team All-America honors after averaging 17.8 points a game that season. He made the winning foul shot in a 30-29 overtime victory against North Carolina in Raleigh, N.C., on Feb. 8 to keep the Cavaliers undefeated. Strickling led Virginia to a 40-3-1 (.920 winning percentage) record from 1914-16, the best three-year winning percentage in school history.
Now known as Fayerweather Hall, the structure is still in use at the University. The building houses the University’s art history program and art department offices, and features Fayerweather Gallery.
Memorial Gymnasium replaced Fayerweather Gym for the 1924 season and was built as a memorial to the University’s World War I casualties. Built at a cost of $300,000, “Mem Gym” served as Virginia’s basketball home for 42 seasons. Among the highlights of those 42 seasons were the 1941 team which earned UVa’s first postseason tournament invitation, Virginia’s joining the Atlantic Coast Conference and the exploits of Richard Warren “Buzzy” Wilkinson.
The 1941 team compiled a record of 18-6 and was the only school from the South invited to participate in the eight-team National Invitation Tournament in New York City. Virginia lost in the first round to City College of New York.UVa accepted an invitation to join the ACC in 1953 and Wilkinson was a prolific scorer for the Cavaliers at that time. He averaged 22.7, 30.1 and 32.1 points a game in his three varsity seasons, becoming the first collegiate player to average 30 points a game in back-to-back seasons. Wilkinson scored 2,233 points during his career (currently third on Virginia’s career scoring list) and finished with a career scoring average of 28.6 points a game. He still holds the conference and school record for season scoring average of 32.1 points a game during the 1954-55 season.
The Cavaliers compiled an overall record of 286-158 (.644 winning percentage) at Memorial Gymnasium in 42 seasons.
Memorial Gymnasium is still in use as an athletics venue. Virginia’s volleyball and wrestling teams hold their home competitions at “Mem Gym.” The structure continues to play a vital role in the athletic, recreational and physical education kinesiology programs on Grounds.