January 8, 2002

Burn Baby Burn

Jan. 8, 2002

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Not only is the WCC opener in Spokane a chance to get the jump in the conference race, it's a chance to right a fashion wrong. A Santa Clara win over the 13-2 Bulldogs would rid the world of one of the most hideous garments worn by man.

For a decade, Director of Sports Medicine Mike Cembellin has kept a bright mustard-colored jacket in his closet, only to break it out for the trip to the Northwest trip. If SCU wins at both Gonzaga and Portland, he will light the jacket on fire.

Cembellin has been with the school since 1977 and in the early 80's was sick and tired of not being able to take 2 games up north. He challenged the group led by Harold Keeling, Dan Larson, Nick Vanos and Scott Lamson to win both games and they could go pyro with his coat. They didn't get it done as freshmen. Failed in the quest as sophomores. As juniors, it was just the team that went up in flames, losing both games. The Broncos would FINALLY break through as seniors. They beat Gonzaga 68-60 and Portland 64-59.

"The second game was at the University of Portland," says Cembellin, who's nickname is "Cemby." "Right after the game the players were screaming "Yellow Jacket! Yellow Jacket!"and were jumping up and down like they won the national championship. We ran into the locker room and the coaches usually have a post game talk, but all the coaches were pumped up, too. They knew the enthusiasm the players had at the time. Carroll (Williams) was excited about the double wins and he knew about the jacket thing, too.

"The players didn't shower after the game like they normally do. They jumped in the vans and we sped plus or minus the speed limit (I'm guessing plus) but we got to the Red Lion and everybody ran to my room. They almost knocked me down when they got to my door then tore the yellow jacket out of my closet. Harold Keeling said 'There's a great place underneath the overpass near the parking lot of the Red Lion.' We got a clothes line and doused the jacket with lighter fluid, lit it on fire and Harold Keeling was dancing around like an Indian and Nick Vanos was doing an Indian song and dance, talking to the lords of victory."

"The fire department came with the coaches and traveling party out there. We were all laughing and had to explain the situation to both the fire and police departments. They kind of laughed and we doused the fire out."

The challenge burned within Ron Reis and the future wrestler pried the jacket from Cembellin on February 22nd of '92 following a 3-point win in Spokane. The replacement jacket has remained in Cembellin's closet ever since, only packed on the journey to the Northwest. However, once upon a time, it was a valued part of his wardrobe.

"I thought I was cruising. I was Hollywood babe. Strutting my stuff. This yellow mustard-colored cord jacket. You couldn't look at it for 10 seconds without putting sunglasses on."

Last year, the Broncos were close, losing a hard fought game at Gonzaga preceding a win in Portland. This season, torching will be as difficult as ever. The #18 Zags showed grit and character in winning at New Mexico in overtime on Monday and are 13-2. They have lost only a handful of league games at home in the last 10 years, but half of them were to the Broncos.

Dick Davey's team is improving and it's hard to say there is ever a good time to play the Zags in the Kennel. It's like that old Framm commercial where the mechanic says "You can pay me now or pay me later." However, Santa Clara is the one team that has had success at the Martin Centre and Ross and Bailey are really rolling. What will happen Friday is anyone's guess. One way or another, the Broncos will be burning. We can only hope it's the jacket.