October 31, 1992 is a date I’ll always remember. Halloween, of course. And it was a Saturday Night in downtown Chicago. Loyola’s WLUW/Energy 88.7 FM radio station was at the height of its popularity. Days earlier, I read a report in the offices of Strategic Radio Research that measured WLUW’s weekly 12+ cume audience at over 120,000 in the Spring of that year.
That means 120,000 people over the age of 12 were listening to the radio station every week.
That was the cumulative audience.
Unheard of for a 100-watt noncommercial radio station with a signal emanating from Rogers Park that barely covers 25% of the Chicago market.
Audience numbers unsurpassed then, and now. As far as I know.
Energy 88.7 was fucking crushing it.
And we also carried Loyola Rambler basketball games.
WLUW had a remote broadcast that Halloween night from a downtown nightclub. And as my taxi rolled up to the entrance, I’ll never forget the feeling. Line out the door. Down the street. One estimate pegged the attendance in the nightclub that night at 3,000. The scene was electric.
I was on the guest list. I think. I remember not having to wait to get inside.
The advantages of working in radio.
Yeah, that’s what it’s was like in Atlanta for March Madness and the Loyola Rambler fan base this past weekend.
Electric. I’ve also read euphoric.
Yeah, that’s what it was like.
Everything about the team, its fan base and the experience crushed it. Absolutely fucking crushed it.
On that Halloween night in ’92, as WLUW’s General Manager, I couldn’t have been prouder of every single person involved in what we were doing as a team.
Like I felt this past weekend in Atlanta.
Nothing at Loyola over the past 25 years has produced anything close to that feeling on Halloween of 1992. Sure, I got my Loyola MBA in June, 1995. Fair enough. But that would largely be considered individual effort — with a ton of faculty, friends and family support. But in 1992, WLUW was working as a cohesive unit that produced an image, style and sound unique to Chicago. The music rocked. No, the music jammed. The station rocked — in every facet of its performance.
This Rambler team also jams. And it rocks.
I was honored to build upon WLUW’s foundation constructed by so many in the 1970s, 80s and 90s who have gone on to lead extraordinary lives.
They also rocked.
Introducing the Marconi College Radio Awards the next month at the Loyola Radio Conference in November of 1992 was also a fantastic team effort. Groundbreaking. Meeting and having the opportunity to work with the daughter of the man who invented radio was incredible.
I’m quite certain Guglielmo Marconi jammed, rocked and changed the world. I think he’d be a fan of the Loyola Ramblers. He may even broadcast their games on his invention.
As the Loyola Radio Conference’s Executive Director, I marveled at every individual contribution and the totality of the team effort to launch the Marconi College Radio Awards as part of the annual radio conference event. That effort extended from Seattle to New York, and was anchored in Chicago.
I was both the General Manager of the station and the Executive Director of the radio conference. But it was WLUW that rivaled the city’s powerhouse commercial stations, excelled at producing exceptional student, staff and audience experiences, and was known for being slick and slightly ahead of its time.
Kinda like this season’s Loyola Ramblers men’s basketball team.
Nothing against a lot of good people doing a lot of great work, but nothing at Loyola made me feel the way I felt that Halloween night in ’92.
Then I looked down on the crowd in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta last Thursday evening.
Yesterday, I returned to Top Notch on 95th Street in Chicago for a pre-Final Four lunch with my friend Lem Newell.
Of course I did.
I wore my Water Tower Campus purchased Loyola Ramblers hat.
Another customer wore her maroon and gold scarf.
“I like your scarf.”
“I like your hat.”
In unison: “Go Ramblers!”
Derivates of that script now heard nationwide.
I showed Lem the three-minute video I had taken of the team sendoff before the Sweet 16 game against Nevada. A game that now seems as if it were played ages ago.
A Loyola crowd filled the lobby. The Rambler team was sent to the Phillips Arena with enthusiasm.
To say the least.
“Ever see anything like that (video) for Chicago basketball?”
Lem smiled and shook his head.
I’m sure the 1963 celebrations were memorable. But I wasn’t here.
The Rogers Park Sweet 16 celebration in 1985 was wild. (Even after a loss.)
But what I captured on video Thursday in Atlanta was unexpected.
And new to both of us on Chicago’s college hoops scene.
Our conversation included Lem’s experience as a high school student in Mississippi. He was the statistician for his 1964 school basketball team. That year his team played games in a tournament at Pearl High School in Nashville, Tennessee. It’s where pictures of Les Hunter and Vic Rouse hung on the wall. Hunter and Rouse were members of Loyola’s 1963 NCAA championship team.
While grinding no axe, Lem also tells me about the schools in Mississippi being segregated in 1964. That basketball tournament in Nashville was for black schools.
Lem’s storytelling is smooth. Honest. Down-to-earth and friendly.
I was not equally as receptive.
Segregation? Fucking segregation?
My throat tightens.
“This is the United States of America” I replied, echoing my father’s point of view.
And it wasn’t that long ago.
I’d like to have a word with the person who told my friend he couldn’t go to school with white students.
What that 1963 Loyola Ramblers team went through and accomplished produces feelings.
Too many to list here.
I wish I could relive this past weekend events in Atlanta, but do it differently. In addition to the way I did it. I wish I could go back and watch the games on TV in Chicago at a watch party. And at home. Alone. Then with family and friends. I want to pick up the Friday and Sunday morning newspapers, have breakfast in downtown Chicago and read about Loyola’s Sweet 16 and Elite Eight victories. I want to read the social media posts, look at the pictures, videos, texts and stories about the Ramblers and their fans. I want to listen to local sports radio. Watch the national sports channels. I want to view the games from a sports book in Las Vegas. And from an airport bar while stranded because of a weather delay where I get to say “I went to Loyola” because I’ll certainly be the only one who went to school there.
But never will I say “Loyola Chicago”. (Unless I have to explain it to somebody.)
I want to text and talk to the people who weren’t in Atlanta because they couldn’t be there. Who should’ve been there. Who didn’t get to see what I saw. To see what everybody in Atlanta saw, and felt.
The winning performances.
That electric feeling.
The Loyola Ramblers — and everybody in town supporting the team — owned Atlanta.
And Atlanta loved Loyola right back.
Much like the Ramblers already own the media narrative around the Final Four in San Antonio. The powerhouse collective of Michigan, Kansas and Villanova can’t touch the stories of Sister Jean and the Rambler Nation.
It’s three on one, but it’s a battle that’s already been won — before it’s ever been fought.
I started this article by writing that WLUW’s 12+ cume audience in the Spring of 1992 was 120,000. But that may or may not be true. I interviewed for a job at Arbitron (now Nielsen) in 1994 and was given permission to ‘play around’ on one of their computers while I waited in the office. Their system had Chicago audience and ratings information. So I searched for and punched up the Spring, 1992 numbers for WLUW.
The audience wasn’t 120,000.
It was 140,000.
At least that’s how I remember it.
Even with the skills to lead a team to produce those incredible numbers at a 100 watt noncommercial college radio station in the City of Chicago, I still didn’t get the job at Arbitron.
And if anybody has contradictory ratings information from Chicago radio in 1992 to dispute my claims, please file the necessary paperwork and documentation with my London office.
(BTW, I don’t own, claim any rights to, and have never sold or used those 25-year old WLUW audience numbers for any monetary gain, ever. Neither for myself, Loyola University Chicago, or for any person, school or business enterprise. More, I offer no documentation; only personal recollections. Please do not use this article to substantiate any clams of quantitative evidence of audience measurement. But after 25 years, and given the current college basketball success at Loyola, the time was right to share this very personal story.)
Whew. Did I cover all my bases? Did I have to?
Now let’s win this thing and bring home a National Championship.
Tony Compton holds two degrees from Loyola University Chicago: a 1987 B.A. in Communication and a 1995 MBA. Tony was on WLUW’s staff from 1983–1988 and served as the station’s General Manager from September 1990 until December 1993.
Follow Tony on Twitter: @tonycompton