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Looking Back to See Forward to Gonzaga’s 125th Anniversary in 2012

Elite Eight Bound

Guard Richie Frahm leaps into the arms of center Axel Dench after Casey Calvary's follow shot with 4.4 seconds to play lifted the 10th-seeded Zags to a 73-72 victory over Florida and kept Gonzaga's stunning run in the 1999 NCAA Tournament alive. The win powered Gonzaga to the Elite Eight. Photo by Garth Patil/POV Image Ser.

Editor’s Note: Looking forward to Gonzaga University’s quasquicentennial celebration (125th anniversary) in 2012, @Gonzaga continues its series counting back to its founding year, 1887. This series began last month when we looked back six years to the 2004-05 academic year. In this issue, we travel back in time another six years to view highlights of the 1998-99 academic year.

By Stephanie Plowman
Special Collections Librarian

The highlight of the 1998-99 academic year occurred in men’s basketball. For the first time before or since, Gonzaga advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. The Zags’ 28 victories (7 losses) that season was matched twice since (28-3, 2003-04; 28-6, 2008-09) and topped twice (29-4 in 2001-02 and 2005-06).

This was Gonzaga’s second time in the NCAA tournament; the first was a loss to University of Maryland in the 1995 tournament. After the 1998-99 season, second-year head coach Dan Monson left Gonzaga to coach at the University of Minnesota. Mark Few, a member of Gonzaga’s basketball coaching staff for the past 10 seasons, was promoted to head coach. Athletic Director Mike Roth called Few “an integral part of Gonzaga’s success the last eight years.” The 1998-99 run marked the first of 12 consecutive trips by the Gonzaga men’s team to the NCAA Tournament.

Also during the 1998-99 academic year, President Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., began a growth plan striving for “Magis,” or greater service. Two major goals of the eight-year Momentum 2007 plan were to increase enrollment and launch a capital campaign to fund endowment, technology, Mission, renovation, new facilities, and athletics. At the time, total enrollment was 4,507 with 2,813 undergraduates including 565 freshmen. The goal was to have 6,000 students by 2007 (actual enrollment reached 6,923 by 2007).

Other notable highlights during the 1998-99 academic year included:

  • Gonzaga’s debate team finished the year ranked No. 4 in the nation, after beating Harvard University in the Elite Eight of debate.
  • Rev. Bill Watson, S.J. was hired as Gonzaga’s first vice president for mission.
  • The Campus Kids Project received Spokane’s highest service award, the United Way Service Award.
  • The University’s endowment grew from $89 million to approximately $100 million.

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