1983 title-winning NC State team to visit White House for first time

The 1982-83 title-winning Wolfpack team, coached by Jim Valvano. (NC State Athletics)

RALEIGH, N.C. (CBSSports) – There has been one big regret for one of the most memorable title-winning teams in college basketball history. The 1982-83 North Carolina State Wolfpack championship team never got to visit the White House in wake of its incredible upset win over Houston.

American custom in recent decades has been to have the President invite championship winners from professional and college sports ranks visit the White House at some point in the following year after they win a title. It’s a big honor and a memorable experience. But the reality is some never get there.

Now, 33 years post, NC State finally will.

What’s interesting is, back in the 1980s, these trips weren’t normal for college teams. And apparently NC State did have a standing offer in ’83 due to its monumental upset against Houston, but it opted not to pay for the trip. Only then-coach Jim Valvano visisted the nation’s capital, and President Ronald Reagan, in 1983. The rest of the team talked to Reagan via satellite.

“For the past 33 years, the members of the ’83 Wolfpack have watched other national champions visit the White House and have always regretted that they weren’t afforded that opportunity,” according to NC State’s release, which was put out on Thursday. “Following the tragic death of Lorenzo Charles in 2011, the team began a tradition of getting together every summer and the topic usually came up.”

Next month, NC State will visit Barack Obama at the White House. Why and how did this happen? Former Wolfpack player Thurl Bailey used a go-between, Utah senator Orrin Hatch, to get in contact with Obama. From there, everything fell into place.

So on May 9, many members of the ’83 team will get their moment in D.C.

“Every time I’ve seen a team going to the White House over the years, I always felt like we missed out on something,” Ernie Myers, who was a freshman in ’83, said in NC State’s statement. “To have this opportunity is like ANOTHER dream come true.”

Here is Bailey’s letter in full:

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President

My name is Thurl Bailey and I’m writing to you in hopes that you might be so kind as to grant a long-standing wish for me and my former college teammates, who over 30 years ago, were able to achieve the unthinkable in sports.

In 1983 our North Carolina State University men’s basketball team, coached by the late Jim Valvano (Jimmy V), beat the University of Houston Cougars for the NCAA Championship. As a college basketball fan yourself, I’m sure you can recall the significance of not only what that championship meant to our team, but also the message it embodied to the world that, with strong determination, the underdog can achieve great success.

It was to say the least, an incredible journey for a group of young men who committed to the philosophy of a young enthusiastic coach to, “Never Ever Give Up.”

With that being said, the one thing that has eluded us for these many years is a chance for the members of our team to visit the White House by invitation of the President of the United States. But my hope is that you will grant an opportunity to a team who truly embodied the definition of what sports should represent. We were, as Jonathan Hock penned it, “A team of destiny, led by a once-in-a-generation coach, that capped the last true golden age of college basketball.” But even more than that, our story was one of hope, commitment, vision, and how a team of individuals with a true purpose could achieve the ultimate goal.

Over the years we have lost a few members of our basketball family including our coach Jimmy V and teammate Lorenzo Charles who scored the championship game’s winning shot. However, every year we all find time to reunite in Raleigh, N.C., to honor their memories and carry on the legacy of that season.

I hope that you will seriously consider and grant us an opportunity to visit you in our Nation’s Capital. Thank you in advance for your consideration and I wish you great blessings in your final year in office.

Most respectfully,

Thurl L. Bailey
1983 NCAA Basketball Champion
N.C. State University

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