Vikings to Take On Division I Valparaiso Tuesday

Post a Comment » Written on December 29th, 2008     
Filed under: News
CHICAGO, IL (December 29, 2008) – The North Park University Vikings men’s basketball team will experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity when they take on Division 1 Valparaiso University at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday night in an away contest.

Division I teams rarely compete against Division III schools. The Crusaders more typically go against the likes of North Carolina and Purdue.

A longtime connection between Valparaiso University’s athletic director, Mark LaBarbera, and North Park made the unusual contest possible. LaBarbera graduated from North Park in 1981 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and later served as the school’s comptroller from 1984 to 1989.

“As an alumnus, I have continued to follow the school and the teams,” LaBarbera says. “I have been trying to get back to campus to see a game, but the timing has never worked out because of our game schedule,” LaBarbera adds. “It seemed that if I couldn’t get to campus, maybe we could get the Vikings here. I talked to Coach (Homer) Drew and he was able to work things out with Coach (Paul) Brenegan to get the game scheduled.”

During his tenure at North Park, LaBarbera’s primary duties were taking care of management, investment, distribution and accounting – he served as an accounting manager and as an accountant from 1981-84.

“I was fortunate to be there during the stretch of three basketball national championships (1978-1980),” LaBarbera recalls. “The student body was always talking about how the ‘big schools’ – the Division I programs – were afraid to play us. Maybe this is just my way of finally taking care of that.”

There is no question, of course, where LaBarbera’s loyalties lie today. “I will be cheering for Valpo and rooting for North Park to play well.”

Although a Viking victory is highly unlikely, Valpo’s coach knows what it is to win a big-time game as an underdog. The Crusaders became part of NCAA March Madness lore in 1998 when Drew’s son, Bryce, took a floor-length pass to put in a 3-point buzzer beater to upset No. 4 Mississippi in the opening round of the tournament. The team eventually made a Cinderella journey to the Sweet Sixteen.

The North Park men’s basketball team hopes to continue its seven-game winning streak, the longest under Brenegan, who is in his fifth year as the Vikings’ coach.

Valparaiso enters Tuesday’s game after falling 59-45 to No. 15 Purdue University Sunday. The Crusaders are looking to snap a five-game losing skid.

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