Leroy Edwards
- New York University Game -

Leroy Edwards (dark jersey) jumps center against his NYU opponent

| NYU Game | Boxscore | Three-Second Rule (Quotations) | Blocking Interpretations (Articles) | Seeds of National Tournament |

New York University Game

The game between the University of Kentucky and New York University, held in Madison Square Garden on January 5, 1935 was important for a number of reasons. Some were recognized at the time but many did not become apparent until afterwards, sometimes years later.

1935 Game Program
The game marked the first time that Kentucky travelled to New York City to play a basketball game, and the Wildcat's first game in Madison Square Garden. The game was also only the second collegiate basketball doubleheader at The Garden organized by a little known at the time (but later renowned) promoter by the name of Ned Irish. These games would prove to be the start of an unprecedented golden era of collegiate hoops in New York City, and the nation as a whole.

The crowd of 16,539 spectators watching the game was considered to be the highest attendance mark for any college basketball game to date, just edging out the doubleheader between NYU and Notre Dame held the week before. [JPS Note: See this article by Grantland Rice for more details (Kansas City Star, January 23, 1935)]

The NYU Violets boasted a 22-game winning streak, having gone undefeated the previous 1933-34 season. NYU was regarded as the top team in the country at the time, and indeed the Violets later went on to be named the top team in the nation for that season by the Helms Foundation Committee.

Kentucky itself was on a six-game winning streak and came to New York undefeated on the season. Little was known of the Wildcats outside the South, however the Violets were expecting a difficult foe after hearing news that Kentucky had easily handled the highly respected University of Chicago Maroons 42-16 a few days earlier. In that game Leroy Edwards led the Wildcat charge with 26 points, outscoring the Maroons all by himself.

Anticipation was high for this matchup and it did not disappoint. The game was a close affair but one of contrasting styles. As described by Arthur Daley of the New York Times:

UK Coach Adolph Rupp
Early in the game Edwards was whistled with three quick fouls, some on what the officials deemed to be blocks. The Kentucky players were confused as to the calls, which was a problem since use of screens was an integral part of the Kentucky offense. At halftime, Coach Rupp had no choice but to instruct his team to abandon much of its offense. The inability to utilize screens hampered the Kentucky team, and Edwards could not play as aggressively as he normally would.

Beyond this problem, the officials allowed the New York big men to grab and push Edwards constantly while he was stationed in the pivot area. Noted the Lexington Herald newspaper:

Despite the differences in style of play and the handicap in differences with officials as to what constituted a foul, the score remained close throughout the game. In the end with the game tied at 22-all and less than a minute remaining, Edwards was whistled for a blocking foul and had to leave the game on fouls. (During that era, four fouls led to ejection from the game.) NYU's Sidney Gross converted the free throw to put the Violets ahead. With Edwards out of the game, Garland Lewis was called to jump center but Kentucky was unable to gain possession of the ball and NYU was able to dribble out the clock and secure the victory.

Footage from the UK-NYU Game. Kentucky is in dark blue. NYU is in white with horizontal stripes.


Kentucky - 22 (Head Coach: Adolph Rupp)
Jack Tucker226
Dave Lawrence306
Leroy Edwards146
Garland Lewis000
Milerd Anderson102
Warfield Donohue102

New York University - 23 (Head Coach: Howard Cann)
Sidney Gross215
Leonard Maidman204
Irving "Slim" Terjesen011
Irwin "Red" Klein204
Milt Schulman113
Willie Rubenstein226

Halftime Score: Kentucky 9, New York University 8
Officials: Dave Walsh and John Murray
Attendance: 16,539
Arena: Madison Square Garden (Old)
References: New York Times, Lexington Herald and New York University Sports Information Department

Three-Second Rule

The game revealed two major issues with respect to officiating. The first was the fact that the play in the pivot, where Edwards operated and was the centerpiece of UK's offense, was extraordinarily rough. Despite NYU's "Slim" Terjesen fouling out in the first half, the officials allowed much of the mayhem in the post to go uncalled.

Edwards ended up with a season-low six points, but ironically it was this performance which likely exerted his biggest influence on the sport of basketball. As it was, the rough play under the basket is generally credited with adoption of the three-second rule a few months later.

This rule, which allowed offensive players only three seconds to remain inside the lane before moving outside the boundary, was intended to cut down on violence, of the type that was exhibited in the Kentucky-NYU contest. Some in the coaching community, including Rupp's mentor at Kansas, Forrest "Phog" Allen saw more into the rule than merely cleaning up rough play. They intended to eliminate post play from the game of basketball completely, which was an outcome Allen lobbied for, and saw the rule change as a means to achieve this.

Rupp on the NYU Game

"We decided that we were going to use our style of play. We didn't think they could defense it.

Ahh, but, I think, they called us early one time for an inside screen. The thing that hurt us, Edwards drew three fouls, Bang, Bang, Bang ! Just that quick.

NYU's Irwin Klein
Now they had a man by the name of King Kong Klein. I'll never forget that guy; he was bigger than Edwards! And they got under that basket and they just wrestled and wrestled and banged each other all over that place.

We were getting the worst of it, and I told the officials at the half that we were getting absolutely the worst of that. Now the inability of us to use the screen hurt us. Everytime that Edwards would get the ball and go back to the basket, they knocked him down. That was his mode of play.

But I'll never forget the screen that they called on him. He fouled Sidney Gross, and so he fouled out on a play with 10 seconds left.

The shot hit the rim, bounced straight in the air, came down, teetered uncertainly and then it toppled through. And that's how we got beat.

The newspaper will prove, and we've got clippings to prove that. The International News Service said at least fifteen thousand of 16,539 fans agreed when I said that we were robbed, and that's exactly what I said.

He said the UK team was much better team, but some spotty officiating allowed New York to hamstring Edwards." - Adolph Rupp, The Rupp Tape (Audiocassette), WHAS Productions, 1992.

The three-second rule was adopted in April of 1935. Pror to this, there was great discussion of the rule, along with other radical proposals such as raising the goal from 10 feet to 12. One proponent of the three-second rule was legendary New York City player and coach Nat Holman who stated, "The pivot post is our greatest headache and I suggest we get rid of it. Let's stick the pivot post player on the foul line." Coach Rupp, who had been the beneficiary of great pivot players to date at UK, was against the three-second rule, instead blaming inadequate officiating for the problem. "Why do you insist on putting the premium on defensive play? . . We don't have any trouble with the pivot post play anywhere in the south, as all teams have learned to play the pivot post man cleanly." (all quotes above in article from "Parley on Cage Rule Changes Deadlocked" The Evening Tribune Albert Lea, Minn., April 5, 1935.)

Rupp was able to obtain support from a majority of the coaches against the rule but this was later overturned and the rule went into effect. Not only was the space between the foul line and the basket ruled off-limits, but the near jump circle which encompassed the free-throw line was also designated as the three-second area (this area was later removed from the 3-second zone a few years later.) With news of the new rule, the newspapers of the day heralded the death of the pivot. [(1) - Syracuse Herald, April 7, 1935; (2) - Monitor Index and Democrat, Moberly MO, April 9, 1935; (3) - The Morning Herald Uniontown PA, April 9, 1935]

Quotations about Three-second rule

Blocking Interpretation

Newspaper Article the following week. January 10, 1935, The Lincoln (NE) Star, pg. 10.
The second aspect of the officiating controversy involved use of the screen and its interpretation by officials. In the South and Midwest, officials acknowledged offensive players had the right to a position on the floor. In the eyes of Eastern officials, however, if an offensive player was in a position that it impeded the defensive man, he would be called for a block. (JPS Note: Some Easterners even went so far as to suggest that a block should be called even if no contact occurred.)

Since much of Kentucky's offense revolved around set-plays that employed screens, they were called early and often by the local Eastern officials.

At halftime, Rupp demanded of official John Murray an explanation for the calls and what Kentucky was doing wrong. "You know what you're doing. And it isn't legal." was the reported reply from Murray.

After the game and Rupp's initial complaints about the officiating, Murray took a highly unusual step for a referee when he released a statement concerning the game and in particular the call against Edwards. He noted in part:

However if officials thought the controversy ended with the game, they were mistaken. The issue continued to simmer and a broader national discussion gained momentum which eventually led to efforts being made to standardize officiating throughout the country, a task that still requires vigilance to this day.

The articles below illustrate some of the national discussions at the time in relation to the Kentucky-NYU game.

Articles concerning Blocks

Even years later, some Eastern referees were still maintaining that screens were illegal and were still talking about the critical call that night. In an article written in 1941, well-known Eastern official Pat Kennedy wrote an article about various tricks that players can use to sway referee's calls. He started the piece by writing,

Seeds of a National Tournament

Another important development which can be traced in part to this game was the beginning of National Tournaments, which became a reality a few years after the Kentucky-NYU clash (beginning with the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) in 1938 and the NCAA Tournament in 1939).

Rupp on the NYU Game

AP Article Jan. 6, 1935
"I remember, that, ah, this was the beginning of, where we really got some publicity. And for the first time I broke into the paper. We were at the Victoria Hotel where we had a big press conference. The first one I'd ever attended, of any size. All those big smart New York writers were there. And some of them were good and some of them were bad.

All they wanted to do, was of course to glorify the New York teams, and of course I suggested that we ought to have a tournament, a National Tournament, that would bring together all the teams from various sections of the country.

Now if that was the suggestion, that was finally taken to bring about the N.C.A.A. or not, I don't know.

But we got a good press out of it, and I think that may have been the idea that sold them on that."

(Adolph Rupp, The Rupp Tape (Audiocassette), WHAS Productions, 1992.)

Although the idea of a national tournament was one that had been floated before, and had even been put to practice at the high school level in the 1920's, the idea had never gained any traction on the collegiate level. The setting of two highly regarded and successful teams meeting along with the disparity in officiating witnessed in the game proved to be a compelling example. It clearly demonstrated where adoption of a national tournament could potentially address some of the problems which were being experienced under the existing system.

Leroy Edwards comes to assist as UK Player Andy Anderson is sprawled on the floor with two NYU Violets


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