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Creighton and the cover story

March 21, 2014 Columns No Comments
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NEW YORK – On first thought, it was Photoshopped. Had to be. Looking over the Creighton White and Blue Review site led a link to a Big East “Holy Land” site that showed a Sports Illustrated cover of Creighton’s Doug McDermott with two dance team members and the headline “college basketball’s best kept secret.” On closer inspection the cover was accurate, not a replica.

In 1978 SI produced a similar cover with Larry Bird and two Indiana State cheerleaders and the same headline. The background and photo are remarkable similar.

Alynne Wize remembers getting the call. The Creighton dance team coach was contacted by the school’s sports information office, explaining Sports Illustrated’s intention of recreating the 1978 cover. Wize, as requested, emailed the SID pictures of the squad of the dance team to choose the two closest in looks and features of the Indiana State girls. They came up with a match.

Kelsey and Kaylee , the young ladies from the Creighton squad were called into Wize’s office and the project was explained. They were both excited and enthusiastic. The shooting was set for midterm examination week, but at a time both of the ladies were free.
The SI instructions were very explicit. What to wear, how to wear their hair, the extent of the makeup, virtually every minute detail was covered.

Despite the passing of 36 years since the Indiana State cover, the Creighton dance team representatives had uniforms of a modern nature extremely similar to those worn in the photo over three decades ago. The shooting of the photos was set near a courtyard by the old gym on the Creighton campus in early March. Naturally, McDermott joined them.

“Our (dance) team members do not interact with the (basketball) team,” Wize said. “But Doug McDermott was just fantastic. Very cooperative and friendly.” The shooting of the cover lasted all of twenty minutes. “The girls were equal part nervous and excited,” Wize said, “but handled it well. The attention to detail was ridiculous,” Wize added. She meant that “ridiculous” to be construed as a positive, not a criticism of SI’s technique. “One of the girls had a slight chip in her nail polish on one finger,” she continued. “The Sports Illustrated people noted in the original the Indian State girls had no such chip in their polish so our girls was instructed to turn her hand ever so slightly so you could not see the finger with the chip.”

If there was a single a word to describe the SI approach to the shoot it was “efficient.” “They were very efficient through the whole process,” Wize said of the magazine. Following the session, the agreement was the project would be kept under wraps until the release of the issue. Kelsey and Kaylee both wanted to share the excitement with family and friends. Finally they got the OK. “I think less than an hour after we were able to publicize the issue,” Wize said, “it was up and being spread on Facebook.”

Now, the young ladies are enjoying somewhat of a celebrity status. “The contacts or desire to contact are out there,” Wize said. “Some want to meet them, some want autographs, there is a lot going on.” Back in 1978 there was no internet or social media. Today the technology explosion can place a news item front and center. “I screen a lot of requests (to meet the ladies and/or get autographs),” said Wize. “But that’s my job, I am their coach.”

We spoke at halftime of the Xavier-Creighton Big East semifinal at Madison Square Garden. Wize had a limit on how many of the dance team members could travel. Kelsey and Kaylee were not among them. “Kelsey decided to go to Florida because we are on spring break,” Wize said. “Kaylee had to have wisdom teeth extracted and decided to do it now during break rather than later with the possibility of missing class. It might have been just as well they decided not to come. After being on the cover and getting the attention, being in New York with more people wanting to meet them… it would have been too much.”

Wize is especially proud of the featured duo. That is a pride extending to her entire group. “If we had a full squad here,” she said, “we would put a knockout of a show on.” Still, there is the satisfaction and fond recollection of organizing and directing from her end and watching the SI project from her end. As Wize summed up, “it was so much fun for all of us to be a part of.”

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