An Unusual Sporting Event

 

Daily Illini, March 15, 1963, page 13.

Advertisement in the Daily Illini

Found in RS 41/67/59

Student participating in game

There have been many strange events and occurrences on campus at the University of Illinois, but none quite as odd as the sport of “donkey basketball” that took place in the 1960s. The agronomy club Field and Furrow sponsored an event with the Agriculture Education Club on March 15, 1963 at 8:00 pm that included the unique form of recreation dubbed Donkey Basketball played by students and staff in the gymnasium in Huff Hall.[1] Several advertisements for the event appeared in the Daily Illini newspaper and a short article the day of the game was also published under the title, “No Horsing Around at Huff!”:

Donkey Basketball, heralded as “the world’s craziest sport,” is scheduled to invade Huff Gym at 8 tonight. An actual basketball game played on “donkeyback” will take place between the student organization of Agronomy [Field and Furrow] and Agriculture Education, two departments of the College of Agriculture at the University of Illinois. Staff members of each department will compete in the first half with students taking over in the last period. Rules for Donkey Basketball are similar to those used in ordinary basketball except their are only four players (and four donkeys) to each side. The primary object of the game is to get the ball through the hoop, but, as it turns out, a secondary object is to stay on the balking and bucking donkeys.[2]

Found in RS 41/67/59

President of Field and Furrow, Bill Kirk

The event was a success, despite the conflict of the Fighting Illini’s actual basketball team facing Bowling Green in the NCAA Tournament. An estimated 400 people attended the event. In a letter from the president of Field and Furrow, William Kirk, to the presidents and advisers of the Dairy Production Club, the Forestry Club, and the Agriculture Education Club a few days after the event, Kirk expressed his gratitude to those who contributed to and participated in the event and stated he felt the “Agriculture clubs should cooperate in sponsoring more all university-events.”[3] The game did not become an annual tradition, but it did appear again in the 1965 Illioskee Carnival as an event for a short stint.[4] The term “Donkey Basketball” shows up a few times in the 1970s in local newspapers, but it would seem the sport never quite caught on at the University of Illinois.

 

[1] Field and Furrow Records, 1954-89, Record Series 41/67/59, University of Illinois Archives.

[2] Daily Illini, March 15, 1963, page 14.

[3] Field and Furrow Records, 1954-89, Record Series 41/67/59, University of Illinois Archives.

[4] Daily Illini, May 14, 1965, page 14.

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