State Senator and Cheyney University of Pennsylvania Council of Trustee member, Vincent J. Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) and the entire Pennsylvania Senate honored the 40th anniversary of the Cheyney University men’s basketball team winning the 1977-1978 Division II Men’s National Championship at the Capitol Building in Harrisburg, PA on Tuesday, April 17.
Cheyney State College, led by Naismith Hall of Fame coach John Chaney, earned the championship by beating the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay 47-40 on March 18, 1978 at the Hammons Center in Springfield, Missouri. The team finished with a record of 27-2 to secure the school’s first and only national championship in men’s basketball.
“It gives me great honor on this day to ask this body to rise to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 1977-78 national champion Cheyney University men’s basketball team in Division II,” Senator Hughes said, as he recognized the team on the floor of the Pennsylvania Senate. He noted the “important accomplishment” of the basketball team at the nation’s oldest Historically Black College and Universities (HBCUs).
The championship team was composed of John Butts, Duane Coleman, Milt Colston, Andrew “Dip” Fields (Tournament MVP), Kenny “Cisco” Hinson, Jeffrey “White Mouse” Hutcherson, Roger “Bird” Leysath, Gerald “Mo” Mills, Charles “Murph”” Murphy, Gilbert “The Colonel” Saunders, Arthur “Suga Bear” Stone and John “Blue” Walker. Coach Cheyney was assisted by the late Charles Songster while Joe Iezzi served as the team’s athletic trainer.
Colston, a senior guard and All-American, led the team averaging 15.1 points per game. Hutcherson scored 13.4 points in his senior campaign. Sophomore Charles Murphy scored 11.2 points per game, as did Fields, who averaged 10.9 rebounds per game in addition to his scoring efforts.
One of the players pointed to Cheyney’s dynasty in that era in winning the conference championship so frequently. On its way to winning the national championship, Cheyney won its sixth straight Pennsylvania Athletic Conference title, defeating Slippery Rock 66-59.
To mark the 40th anniversary of the national championship, the Senate of Pennsylvania unanimously adopted a resolution honoring the University and the team for its accomplishments. The championship team, was first honored by the Athletics Department at Cheyney in February and later presented with a declaration at Philadelphia’s City Hall in mid-March.
Cheyney has made three men’s Division II Final Fours appearances, 1978, 79 and 86, while the Cheyney women appeared in the first ever Division I National Championship final game in 1982 and went to the Final Four again in 1984.