Chuck Witt arrived on the Hill in the 1969-70 season as a highly recruited prospect out of Cincinnati, Ohio. After playing on the Topper freshman team under Coach Buck Sydnor he moved on to the varsity squad the next season and became a key member of that great 1970-71 Hilltopper team that crushed Adolph Rupp and the Ky. Wildcats as they marched all the way to the Final Four in Houston, Tx. Chuck became a crowd favorite during his final two years on the Hill because of his great work ethic and determination on the court, and in his senior season (’72-’73) Chuck finished as Western’s third leading scorer with a 10.3 ppg average. This e-mail interview was conducted on 6/19/98
HH:What other schools recruited you coming out of high school, and what made you choose Western?
CW: If memory serves me, I visited Miami of Ohio, Cincinnati, Ohio U., Purdue, Western, and I talked at length with Alabama, and a number of smaller schools. I picked WKU for several reasons. Bowling Green was far enough away from Cincinnati that I would not be tempted to go home all the time, but not too far that should I want to make the trip I could. I really enjoyed my weekend visit and was impressed with what was a top notch program. I also really liked the campus.
HH: What was it like to play for Johnny Oldham? Looking back, what stands out most to you about the coach?
CW: Actually, I only played for Oldham one year as I played for Buck Sydnor my freshman year in ’69-’70 and then Oldham retired after the ’70-’71 season. I would have to say that I enjoyed playing for him and consider him a very close friend to this day. I most likely remember more about Jim Richards having played for him for my final two years. One special link that Jim and I have is that I was the first player he signed as an assistant at WKU.
HH: Were you able to get to know Coach Diddle very well before he passed away in 1970? If so, what were your impressions of him?
CW: I did not have the opportunity to get to know Coach Diddle as he passed away, I believe around the Christmas holidays (Jan.1, 1970), of my freshman year. Coach Diddle was clearly WKU basketball and vice versa…a true legend.
HH: How much did the season-ending injury to Jerome Perry prior to the ’70-’71 season affect the team? Do you feel like it cost the team a national championship?
CW: Obviously it is hard to say what impact Jerome would have had if not for the injury. I do think that throwing out the injury, Jerome was most likely the best athlete on campus, and that includes all sports. I think his contribution would have been considerable, but I don’t assign that as the reason for not winning the championship. To this day, I am convinced that on any other given day we would have defeated Villanova and we had what it took to beat UCLA. But, it simply did not work out. We had more than enough opportunities, but just could not put it away.
HH: What stands out most in your mind about the Final Four run?
CW: Believe it or not, the Final Four run didn’t really mean that much for a long time. We were having a good time, playing ball and winning games. Without question, the Kentucky win was huge and I guess what stands out the most for me was our return to Bowling Green following the Kentucky win and the Mideast Regional. We arrived at the Nashville airport and got a police escort by Tennessee State Police to the state line. Then, the Kentucky State Police escorted us to B.G. But, the thing that was so impressive was that as soon as we crossed the state line, cars and fans were parked on each side of the northbound lanes of I-65 all the way to BG. By the time we were in Warren Co. and close to the Scottsville Rd. exit, they were parked 3 and 4 deep on each side. Scottsville Rd. was likewise packed. We pulled into Diddle parking lot to literally a sea of people. It was simply unbelievable.
HH: Was the UK win the greatest victory you were associated with at WKU? How much did that game really mean to the players and coaches?
CW: During my years, the Kentucky game would be at the top of the list, along with the Jacksonville games, both in the NCAA first round and earlier in the season here in Louisville. If everyone thinks that there is a lot of hype for the UL vs. UK games over the past 10 or 15 years, it has been nothing compared to the hype I recall the week prior to the Kentucky game. It was billed in the Courier-Journal as the “game of the century.” It was really an historic event. I also remember the Murray State game at BG in ’71. It was more than a packed house and I remember that we held them scoreless for something like 12 minutes. But, as an indication of the type of teams we had, my stronger memories are of my teammates and the coaches and staff more so than a lot of the games. It was the people that meant, and mean so much now. I consider them all friends and wish I could see them more often.
HH: Is there a game that really stands out for you in terms of personal accomplishments?
CW: Other than what I have mentioned, we played in the Trojan Classic in Louisiana my senior year and the first game was against Purdue. Unfortunately, we lost in the game (91-75) but personally I felt it was one of my best efforts. And, there was more icing for me because it was telecast back to Indiana, and in particular it gave a lot of my friends and relatives in and around my hometown of Lebanon a chance to see the game.
HH: Tell us a little about what you’ve done since leaving WKU.
CW: I lived in BG after WKU until 1980 when I moved to Louisville. I am in business in several areas of the computer industry and have tried to remain active with the HAF Louisville Chapter and the Alumni Chapter here. I do not get to BG very often but wish I could so that I might see more football and basketball games. Most of my traveling like that is now in a westerly direction, not southern, as I have a son, who as a freshman this past year, was a member of the Kentucky Wesleyan Basketball team that finished 2nd in the Division II championship (Elite Eight held here in Louisville) and I know that he cannot wait for the next season to come around.
HH: Have you always kept up with the program since leaving the Hill, and what are your initial impressions of Coach Felton and the direction that he has the team headed in?
CW: I have tried to follow the program over the years but I admit that there were times when I sort of lost track. I certainly followed and enjoyed the years of Jim Richards, Clem, Gene, and Willard, and I still follow Clem and Gene. I hope that the basketball program can head in a positive upward direction and I think Dennis has as good a shot at doing that as anyone. I met Coach Felton at our HAF cookout in May and talked with him again the following Saturday at the races at Churchill Downs. I was impressed with him, I believe him to be sincere, down to earth, and very personable. I think he understands the task at hand and I have the impression that he is willing to do the right things, sometimes biting the bullet, to move the program forward. I certainly hope that he is successful and I wish him all the best. However, I am afraid that the likes of Murray Arnold and Matt Kilcullen have extended a situation that will be hard to overcome, along with all the other problems down there the past few years. Again, I was very impressed when I met him, as were most others here in Louisville, and I like what I have heard from BG. I hope Dennis can hang tough, clean out the closet a little, and start to rebuild. Now having said that, we all know it will be difficult considering the past, the conference, etc., but that does not mean it is impossible…..far from it.