Thirteen years after Virginia’s final basketball game at University Hall, demolition of the Cavaliers’ home for more than 40 years will be completed Saturday in Charlottesville. The following story from the archives was written after UVa’s final men's basketball game at U-Hall in 2006 by Hall of Fame sportswriter Doug Doughty, the longtime Virginia sports beat writer for The Roanoke Times. It was published May 5, 2006. Read the story from before the game here.
Doughty saw his first basketball game at University Hall in 1970 and later took the floor for Hot Dog Night, a 1986 women’s game and halftime media scrimmage that caused the capacity to be reduced for posterity.
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- From the day it opened in 1965, with a circular roof that defied expansion, University Hall was rooted in imperfections. Its final day of ACC basketball action was no different.
After overcoming an 18-point second-half deficit against Maryland, Virginia rallied behind junior guard J.R. Reynolds from Roanoke and briefly took the lead, only to fall 71-70 when a contested Reynolds 3-point attempt fell short at the buzzer.
"The thing I'm going to remember is that we fought back," said Reynolds, Virginia's game-high scorer with 30 points, whose previous high at University Hall was 28. "Still, it's always sad when you lose your last game."
There is a possibility that U-Hall could be used if the Virginia men's or women's basketball team is invited to play in the National Invitational Tournament. But nobody was arguing with the description of Sunday's game as "the Last Ball in U-Hall."
A postgame ceremony involving close to 100 former players was under way when the UVa team returned to the floor.
"I wanted to win for you and for our players more than anything I've ever wanted in my life," first-year coach Dave Leitao told the former players who were ringing the floor.
Eventually, a ball was passed from player to player before Leitao carried it across Massie Road to the John Paul Jones Arena, a 15,000-seat facility that will replace University Hall. But first there had to be a ceremonial last shot.
That, too, was an imperfection.
The Cavaliers' only senior, Billy Campbell, posed for pictures with four Virginia players whose numbers have been retired: Barry Parkhill, Wally Walker, Ralph Sampson and Bryant Stith.
Parkhill, a UVa assistant athletic director who has been instrumental in John Paul Jones Arena fundraising, had been designated to take the shot and removed his suit coat, planting his feet behind the 3-point line.
To his left, Sampson, a 7-foot-4 three-time national player of the year, also had removed his jacket. Instead of shooting a 3-pointer, Parkhill passed the ball underneath the basket to Sampson, who barely got the ball over the rim on his first dunk attempt.
"Hey, at least it went in," Sampson said sheepishly.
Sampson tried to dunk again and while the ball went through the hoop for a second time, it was no slam dunk. Moreover, Sampson lost his footing and fell flat on his back.
The dignitaries would have been content to let Campbell take the shot, "but there was no way I was going to take the shot," said Campbell, who helped Sampson to his feet. "Those are the guys whose jerseys are retired."
Besides, Campbell had made his first shot of the day and he made his second and last shot -- a 3-pointer -- in the middle of UVa's second-half comeback. A walk-on who came to UVa on an academic scholarship, he was always the first player to come out for warm-ups before Cavalier games.
"I'd shoot till I'd make 100 3-pointers before every game and I'd always have to make the last one," Campbell said.
It was only fitting that Campbell made his last shot at University Hall, and it seemed like a Hollywood ending was in the making "but then it was over," he said.
The University Hall festivities provided some closure for Garland Jefferson, who drove from Covington one day after burying his father, Harry, who was 85 and in failing health.
"There was no chance I wasn't going to be here," said Jefferson, who lost his mother earlier in the year.
Jefferson, coach of the boys' basketball team at Covington High School, was a co-captain of the Virginia team that won the 1980 National Invitation Tournament.
Sunday's return brought back memories of running the University Hall steps during preseason conditioning drills. He was the product of a devout upbringing and didn't originally have his parents' approval to play school sports, but they came to accept his athletic participation and were occasional -- if not regular -- spectators at University Hall.
"It was special when they came to games," he said. "You know, even into my 40s, I talked to my parents every day of my life. My dad died Tuesday, so the last time we talked was Monday.
"I made sure to tell him where I was going to be today."