On the Road to Rochester

By Marcia Faye
#43 John G. Olin (ME ’61) in action Source: IIT Archives (Chicago)

The NCAA may have its March Madness Division I Basketball Championship, but decades ago, technology-focused schools had their own much-anticipated competition: the Rochester Institute of Technology Tech Invitational Basketball Tournament. Created in 1959, the tourney was the first of its kind in the country. In 1960, a team considered to be the competition’s dark horse—Illinois Tech—surprised the pre-tourney favorite, West Virginia Tech, to win the coveted award by a score of 61–56.

Although IIT’s 1959–1960 b-ball season was fairly lackluster at eight wins and 12 losses, Coach Ed Glancy said in the Techawks 1960–61 Basketball Press Information that the 1960–61 roster could have been the best squad he had seen since the 1954–55 season. He decided to take the Techawks on the road to Rochester with a core of six returning lettermen, including captain Michael “Mike” Wayte (ME ’61) and forward John G. Olin (ME ’61). At 6’4”, Olin was nicknamed the “spark plug” for his ability to energize his teammates. Olin played 66 games over his four-year career, totaling 1,290 points and averaging 19.3 points per game. Olin also set a new single-game scoring record of 41 points for IIT.

“Winning the Rochester tourney and being the high scorer was the highlight of my four-year career,” says Olin, who led IIT in the championship game with 17 points. “Basketball at IIT is one of my life’s best memories.”