Here’s the scenario. On the night of Jan. 23, 1979, a horde of Collegiate guys crammed into the north balcony of what a decade later would be named, appropriately enough, the Jacobs Gym to cheer on their Cougars against St. Christopher’s.
Then, as now, the rivalry in basketball (all sports, actually) was intense. Pride was on the line. Win-loss records meant nothing. The venue was packed and rocking. The action was fast and furious. High-decibel verbiage came from the respective cheering sections and echoed off the cinderblock walls.
Cary Mauck was the Saints’ point guard that year. He was a senior, a good ball handler and a pretty good marksman. Through his time growing up in the Richmond community and attending Camp Virginia, he had a host of Collegiate friends, many of whom thought nothing of razzing him unmercifully with the chant “Shoot, Cary, Shoot!” every time he touched the ball.
“It started in warmups and continued during the game,” recalled Mauck, who has worked at his alma mater for 30 years, and serves as director of admissions and coaches JV basketball. “I thought it was hilarious as I looked up in the balcony and saw familiar faces laughing and yelling at the top of their lungs.”
Albert L. “Petey” Jacobs was Collegiate’s director of athletics at the time. Any reminiscence of him begins with sportsmanship. Coach Jacobs didn’t just talk about that sacred attribute. He didn’t just expect it of others. He lived it. During his 42 years in education (21 at St. Christopher’s, 21 at Collegiate), he coached basketball and baseball and found a way to blend his intense competitive drive with gentlemanly behavior and command the respect of friends, athletic rivals, officials and the media.
As you might imagine, he didn’t take kindly to the antics of the Green and Gold faithful. It didn’t matter that the Cougars won 68-51 to improve to 9-4 (6-0 in the Prep League) or that they dealt the Saints their first league defeat and only their second loss in 13 games. It didn’t matter that Mauck scored 16 points.
Mason Chapman, a 1984 graduate who recently reminded me of the incident, picks up the story.
“I was a little kid,” Chapman recalled. “All the big guys started chanting, ‘Shoot, Cary, shoot!’ The next day, Petey Jacobs, the classiest guy who ever set foot on this campus, walked into chapel in Memorial Hall. He got up in front of the whole Boys School, 5th through 12th grade, and told us how rude and awful it was. That cut to the core of poor sportsmanship. That’s just one of those memories of how important sportsmanship was to Petey. If it was so important to Petey, it was important to me. His commitment to honor, sportsmanship and decorum sticks with me to this day.”
What was intended as good-natured ribbing back then seems so benign, so harmless and so “part of the game” today. Coach Jacobs passed away Dec. 7, 1995, and the old timers among us have often wondered how he would view the world of sports today considering his expectations and values.
“Petey was a firm believer in the importance of sportsmanship,” said Charlie McFall, longtime coach and athletic director at Collegiate. “It wasn’t all about winning or losing, even in a tense rivalry game. Because of the way the schools handled the rivalry and what they stood for, he felt we had to play the game the right way.”
Turns out that memorable upbraiding he delivered that morning wasn’t enough. A couple of days later, Mauck received a letter of apology from Coach Jacobs.
“It was a very thoughtful note,” Mauck said. “Having known what a great sport Petey was, both as my counselor at Camp Virginia and through my father (Dr. Bill Mauck) whom he coached at St. Christopher’s, I wasn’t really surprised. Yet I still hear the cheer, ‘Shoot, Cary, shoot!’ today when I run into certain folks, both Saints and Cougars. I’m reminded how funny I thought it was but how serious Petey thought it was. Furthermore, that spring Petey sent me another note congratulating me and my baseball team for edging out the Cougars in a close game. He was always a gentleman. The consummate gentleman.”