Much like the rest of Chicago, basketball was very popular at NEIU in the ‘90s.
In 1991, the men’s basketball team took part in the NCAA Division I. Under Coach Rees Johnson, the Golden Eagles finished the season with a 2-25 record. NEIU would slightly improve over the next two years, ending the 1991-92 season 8-20, and 1992-93 with a record of 11-16.
The Men’s Golden Eagles team joined the East Coast Conference for one season in 1993. There, the team won a total of 17 matches, with 11 defeats. This record left them in second place at the end of the season.
The 1994-95 season began with the move by NEIU to another conference: the Mid-Continent, now known as the Summit League. The first season NEIU spent in the conference proved unsuccessful, and the season ended with a 4-22 record.
By the time the 1996-97 season began, there was talk of NEIU closing its sports program. That year, the men’s team ended with a 16-12 record. Although the Golden Eagles struggled as a team, there were some athletes that stood out. One example is guard Andrell Hoard.
Hoard participated in the 1997 ESPN College Slam Dunk Competition. He represented NEIU, and not only that, he championed the competition, beating out athletes from other universities such as Duke. (See 1997 Slam Dunk Champion- Andrell Hoard). By that time, Hoard had national attention, and his name was often mixed with getting drafted by the NBA. According to an article published in 1997 by the Northwest Indiana Times, Hoard was not invited to a camp where draft hopefuls could show coaches and scouts why the NBA should select them. Scouts overlooked Hoard mostly because despite having a team, NEIU was not a basketball town like other universities were. Hoard did not get drafted to the NBA, but joined the Georgia Gwizzlies at the American Basketball Association League.
While Hoard made his name in men’s basketball, another Golden Eagle was also making her name resonate in college basketball: Delores Jones. The star center went on to participate in the 1998 WNBA Draft. Meanwhile, the head coach of the women’s team, Denise Taylor, moved on to coach the 1997 Utah Starzz. Unfortunately, her team ended their season with the worst record in the league, 7-21.
Soon, the talk of disbanding the athletics department at NEIU turned to action, and in 1997-98, NEIU played its last season of college basketball. Under Coach Johnson, the final record for the Golden Eagles was 95-176.
While the walk from the Student Union to the actual gymnasium may be a workout itself, it’s still a popular spot for students. Throughout the year, the P.E. Complex offers various activities for students. Some of these are intramural sports leagues which include soccer, flag football, volleyball, and of course, basketball. Despite the absence of an athletics program, students have access to an indoor track, indoor rock climbing wall, and of course, a basketball court.