WKU honors Oldham, Rascoe | Sports & Recreation
Western Kentucky University legends John Oldham and Bobby Rascoe, whose contributions to Hilltopper basketball and athletics on The Hill are far-reaching, will be honored at the men's basketball games on December 27 and December 29, respectively.
The court at E.A. Diddle Arena was named in Oldham's honor at the FIU game on December 27, and Rascoe had his jersey retired in a ceremony at the North Texas game on December 29. Oldham is a Hartford native while Rascoe hails from Owensboro.
Fans coming to E.A. Diddle Arena in the future will watch the action on "John Oldham Court," and Rascoe becomes the seventh person affiliated with WKU men's basketball to have his jersey retired, joining E.A. Diddle, Clem Haskins, Tom Marshall, Jim McDaniels, Oldham and Carlisle Towery in the row of ceremonial jerseys in the rafters of the arena.
"John Oldham and Bobby Rascoe personify the word ‘success,’ and each has made a tremendous impact on WKU’s glorious basketball history,” Director of Athletics Todd Stewart said. “Coach Oldham’s influence transcends our athletic department. He was a superb player and then became an outstanding head coach, leading our program to four conference championships and the 1971 Final Four before embarking on a 15-year tenure as Director of Athletics. He presided over Hilltopper Athletics at a time of considerable change – Title IX and the revival of women’s athletics, football’s move to Division I-AA and a number of key coaching changes that brought Paul Sanderford, Joel Murrie and Curtiss Long, among others, including Big Red, to our campus.
"He also played a vital role in the development of one of the most recognizable symbols in intercollegiate athletics, the WKU Red Towel, our iconic logo. Naming the court at E.A. Diddle Arena in his honor is a fitting way to pay tribute to his innumerable contributions to WKU."
Oldham left his mark on Hilltopper basketball as both a player and a coach, earning All-America accolades as a player in 1949 and later coaching some of the greatest teams in WKU history.
In four years as a student-athlete (1942-43 before World War II and 1946-47, 1947-48 and 1948-49 after the war) he earned a place in WKU’s 1,000-point club, racking up 1,006 career points, and helped the Hilltoppers to three appearances in the NIT, four conference championships and 102 wins. He was named an All-American by both the United Press International and the Associated Press as a senior in 1949, and he was also named to a spot on the first All-Ohio Valley Conference Team that season.
After a stint in professional basketball, Oldham returned to The Hill to coach at old College High School before moving on to Tennessee Tech as the head coach. He returned to WKU in 1964 to take over the Hilltopper basketball program from the retiring E.A. Diddle. In seven seasons at his alma mater (1964-71), Oldham compiled an outstanding 146-41 record and led the Hilltoppers to five postseason trips, four conference championships, a Sweet 16 berth and a trip to the 1971 Final Four. Oldham’s .781 winning percentage as a head coach is tops in WKU’s illustrious men’s basketball history by a wide margin, and his number 42 from his playing days hangs in the rafters of E.A. Diddle Arena in tribute. He coached two of the WKU’s three “consensus” All-Americans (Clem Haskins and Jim McDaniels).
In all, Oldham had a hand in 248 men’s basketball victories, eight postseason appearances and nine conference championships in 11 years as a player and head coach. The overall record of those 11 teams was a remarkable 248-54 — 82.1%.
One of the truly beloved individuals in Western Kentucky University history, Oldham also served as Athletics Director from 1971-86 and, in 1971, conceptualized the Red Towel logo, which has evolved into one of the most easily recognized and historic athletic logos in the country. Oldham and his wife Bobbie reside in Bowling Green.
Rascoe excelled on the court for the Hilltoppers from 1960-62, and he helped the Hilltoppers to 56 wins in those three seasons, three Ohio Valley Conference championships and two trips to the NCAA Sweet 16. Rascoe scored a remarkable 1,687 points in just three seasons, which ranks ninth in WKU history, and only Jim McDaniels, the school's all-time leading scorer, scored more points than Rascoe in only three seasons of action.
“Unfortunately, I did not see Bobby Rascoe play,” Stewart commented. “But, without exception, those I know who did see him absolutely glow about his great talent, and, even more so, about the way he played the game. He was the ultimate 'competitor' – a force to be reckoned with from the moment he stepped onto the floor. He ranks high in our record books despite being limited to three years of varsity play due to NCAA rules during his era. And, equally as important, his contributions on the court led to tremendous team success as all three of his Hilltopper teams claimed Ohio Valley Conference titles, and they reached the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 twice.
"In 1962, when Bobby was named an All-American, legendary Daily News Sports Editor Bert Borrone wrote ‘Bobby isn’t fancy. He’s basic. You know what he’s going to do and you still can’t stop him. His second effort is the greatest most Western fans have ever seen on a basketball court.’ I think it goes without saying that Bobby Rascoe belongs up there with our other retired jersey honorees. I thank him for his long-term support of WKU and Hilltopper athletics, and I congratulate him and his family.”
When he completed his career on The Hill, Rascoe was third on the all-time scoring leaders list, and he is still ninth on that list. Of the eight former Hilltoppers ahead of him, all but McDaniels played in 100-or-more games. Rascoe played in 81 games in his three seasons. Rascoe remains one of only nine players in WKU history who have scored 500-or-more points in more than one season. And he is one of only four Hilltopper cagers to rank among the school’s top 10 all-time scorers for each of his varsity seasons (the others were McDaniels, Brett McNeal and Courtney Lee). He is one of only four players who averaged 20-or-more points in more than one season (the others were McDaniels, Haskins and Ralph Crosthwaite).
The Owensboro native earned All-American honors as a senior in 1962 season, and he was a three-time All-Ohio Valley Conference selection. He was named to the Ohio Valley Conference 40th Anniversary Team in 1988 as part of the league's celebration of 40 seasons of competition.
Rascoe was the 20th pick in the 1962 NBA Draft (New York Knicks) and played for the famed Phillips Sixty-Sixers before finishing out his pro career with the ABA’s Kentucky Colonels (1967-70). He then returned to Bowling Green and WKU. Rascoe served as an assistant on Coach Jim Richards’ basketball staff from 1974-78. He and his wife, Nancy, live in Bowling Green.
Both Oldham and Rascoe were among the 10 members of the inaugural class of the WKU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1991.