"Fake" All-America team is for real
On the eve of last weekend's Final Four, a story popped up in our nation's publications about four guys who, as William & Mary students in the early 1970s, created a fake college basketball All-America team.
The foursome believed there were too many All-America teams being named by a batch of sports magazines and other associations, none of which seemed to feature their own favorite - W&M's Mike Arizin.
So they created their own Freshman All-America team for the 1972-73 season, which happened to be the first season freshmen were permanently eligible to play on varsity teams. They named it the Leo G. Hershberger team in memory of a late "crusty, cigar-chomping New York sportswriter". Not only was Mr. Hershberger deceased, he never was alive. They also created a fictitious organization called the National Association of Collegiate Basketball Writers.
The quartet came up with a 15-man team which was as legitimate as any of the other teams out there. In addition to Arizin, Austin Peay freshman phenom Fly Williams was on the team along with Indiana's Quinn Buckner, Michigan's Campy Russell, Maryland's John Lucas, Notre Dame's John Shumate, Alabama's Leon Douglas and Oklahoma's Alvan Adams among a few others. All of the aforementioned played in the NBA , and if you're a longtime college basketball fan, you've probably heard of them. One player, Houston's Louis [Sweet Lou] Dunbar, went on to a long career with the Harlem Globetrotters.
The foursome even created official-looking certificates and mailed them to the players' schools. The Associated Press picked it up and distributed it to newspapers across the country.
These guys were good. For four decades, the players, their families and universities believed the Hershberger Award was legitimate. You can probably find it listed on the basketball websites of the schools involved in their historical section.
Finally, I guess the guys, who didn't put together any more teams afterward, couldn't stand it anymore and revealed their little secret to the world.
But here's the thing: Leo G. Hershberger and the NACBW were admitted fakes. But the team itself was as legitimate as any named by coaches, the AP or the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. These guys didn't use the eenie-meenie-minie-mo method to stack the team with a bunch of bench-warming walk-ons. In the pre-ESPN and internet days, they went to the library and did their research.
There is no law which makes one All-America team or award as official and all others as illegitimate. Anybody put together his/her own group of players for an all-star team and, through the magic of social media, spread the word out there. It's just a matter of the media and, by extension, the public accepting said list as legitimate.
The four guys may have used false pretenses to create their All-America team. The team itself, and the honor of being a member, was no hoax.