TWIN FALLS • What took more than eight years to build was torn down in 20 minutes.
Routinely packed with more than 3,000 raucous fans, the College of Southern Idaho gymnasium sat in near silence as Brian Santiago and a Utah Valley men’s basketball team loaded with future NCAA Division I talent had CSI on ropes. The streak — a college hoops record 137 straight home victories — was slipping away.
No last-second heroics were needed for Utah Valley. Nor was there a flurry of lead changes. It was simply a decisive 84-68 drubbing handed out by the Wolverines.
CSI players and coaches would no longer have to talk about a record they’d established only five games prior. It now belonged to the record books and historians.
But 20 years later, what was undone on Jan. 31, 1992, is part of the rich hoops history of a Golden Eagles program that’s now defending its third national championship and an ongoing — albeit more modest — 27-game reign of home victory heading into Saturday’s game against North Idaho College.
On Wednesday Jan. 29, 1992, CSI head coach Fred Trenkle received a call from CSI president Gerald Meyerhoeffer.
“Fred, we might have a bomb on campus.”
“That’s what he tells me,” Trenkle said. “So, I’m thinking, ‘OK, well what do we do now?’”
That day someone found a bomb-like device in a bathroom of the Shields Building near the CSI gym with a note attached saying something about the safety of the weekend’s games with Utah Valley and Salt Lake coming to town.
“And so we talked. Do we cancel the games, or what do we do?” Trenkle said.
Twin Falls Police, with the help of a bomb squad and bomb sniffing dogs from the Mountain Home Air Force base destroyed a fake explosive device and combed the entire campus Friday before the games.
The public was warned to attend the games at their own risk. Police searched all bags and packages going into the gym that night and only three doors were opened, down from the usual six.
Despite the scare, capacity crowds still attended the evening’s games and the BYU Living Legends Dance Show in the nearby CSI Fine Arts Building.
Practices the two days before the game were disrupted and disjointed, Trenkle said.
“Guys with guard dogs were walking around campus all week. The campus was closed. We were distracted. You almost get patted down when you come to the game that night. Fans sat on their hands all night. It was just a different feel,” said Trenkle, who is now an assistant for the Wood River girls basketball team. “Then Utah Valley comes in and they have no idea what was going on.”
“I remember something weird. It’s kind of bizarre. We weren’t affected by it. We came in and played the game and it didn’t disrupt the game or anything,” said Santiago, Utah Valley’s star.
CSI, ranked No. 1 in the country and averaging more than 100 points a contest, came into the Friday game sitting first in the Scenic West Athletic Conference standings. Its players carried with them swagger, certain they’d avenge a December loss Utah Valley handed them in Orem, Utah.
“I just remember being kind of cocky. We were a cocky team,” said CSI guard Clayton Johnson. “We really underestimated how good those kids were.”
Utah Valley head coach Duke Reid — winless in his first 26 tries against CSI coach Fred Trenkle his Golden Eagles — had a high-scoring squad led by Santiago, who earned Utah Valley’s career record for 3-pointers made and would later star at Fresno State.
Santiago averaged 17 points per game. Teammate Chris Koford, who followed Santiago to Fresno State, averaged 15, Craig Wilcox (BYU) scored 12 and Doug Chapman (Utah) added 13.
Santiago came off a screen early in the game to hit his first 3-pointer of the night. That sparked him, he said, and the Wolverines trailed CSI only 35-31 at the half.
“At halftime, I literally remember walking into the locker room,” Santiago said. “I was separated from the team and on the other side of the set of lockers and I remember walking back and forth, thinking, ‘This is really going to happen. We’re going to beat these guys.’”
Against CSI, Utah Valley ditched its normal game plan to run ran a methodical four-corners offense, shooting with five seconds or less on the shot clock every time down the floor and running a full-court press to slow the high-flying Golden Eagles to a painful crawl.
Midway through the second half, Santiago’s second 3 of the night extended a mounting Utah Valley lead to 50-39.
“We played a completely different team that night. We weren’t prepared,” said CSI guard Trent Rose, now a professor at Brigham Young University-Idaho. “Coach had prepared us for the possibility of them doing something different, but it wasn’t their normal brand of basketball.”
CSI rallied to 52-48, but that’s as close as the Golden Eagles would get as the Wolverines iced the game at the free-throw line. CSI, some Scenic West coaches would say, had always benefited from favorable calls at home. Not this night.
“In that gym, even if you got out to a big lead, in the years previous and all the teams that came in there during that winning streak, if you got a lead, you weren’t going to win. You’ve just got a lead,” said Santiago, now a senior associate athletic director at BYU. “I remember that not very often in that league do you get a favorable whistle, especially from officials on the road and at CSI. But we got a good whistle that night.”
Utah Valley scored 19 of its final 27 points from the free-throw line.
“We didn’t get those loose balls, we didn’t get any calls, we didn’t get offensive rebounds, we didn’t get those things,” said Johnson, who later starred at UNLV. “We still felt though, we’re the College of Southern Idaho, you know? We knew we could make another run in a minute. The minute never happened.”
Reid, overcome with emotion of earning the regular season sweep of CSI, jumped in the air in jubilation with his team.
“He was jumping and going crazy. He didn’t know we still had a one-game lead in the conference. It didn’t matter to him,” Trenkle said. “I gave him a hug. I think he thought I was going to whip him. It was one of those unbelievable games and unbelievable moments.”
Reid has since passed away after getting hit by a car in October 2001.
“I remember before the game, Duke specifically saying in the locker room that it was going to be a special night. There was an incredible feeling and you came into that gym, thinking, ‘I think we can do it. We’re a really good team, but it’s probably not likely,’” Santiago said. “I just remember the confidence that he gave me and our other players before the game. I remember going onto the floor starting to believe, ‘All right we can do this.’”
CSI fans, stunned to see their Golden Eagles overwhelmed and about to lose, didn’t know what to do.
“Some of them were booing. I don’t know how you boo when you’ve won 100 or whatever games in a row,” Santiago said. “Some of them were just silent, just distraught, with their hands on their chins, like, ‘I can’t believe this is happening.’ Some of them were leaving.”
For the Golden Eagles, the postgame locker room was somber. The streak, which began Dec. 7, 1984, was over. The 1991-92 CSI team established the all-time, all-sport home winning streak only weeks earlier with a win against Ricks College.
“We thought we were going to run them off the gym,” said Johnson, who lives in Las Vegas. “It was a low point (in the season). We needed that though, in that particular time. Our heads were big.”
The Golden Eagles went on to finish third at that year’s NJCAA Division I National Tournament, with a 34-4 record.
Trenkle remembers the newspapers in Salt Lake all saying the same thing Saturday morning, the day of the Region 18 championship game between CSI and Utah Valley: “Utah Valley, This is Their Year.”
The newspapers read Sunday morning: “Same Old Story – Southern Idaho to Hutchinson.”
“That was a proud moment, reading that headline that day,” Trenkle said.
The Golden Eagles beat Utah Valley 65-63, with Johnson and Craig Tyson each hitting two huge shots in the final minute to send them to the national tournament in Hutchinson, Kan.
CSI didn’t let the four-corners offense beat it this time, as Trenkle employed a 1-3-1 defense throughout the game, before switching to man-to-man in the final 15 seconds.
“They swept us and they broke The Streak and whatever, so now we’ve got to go down there and beat them,” Trenkle said. “We weren’t going to let them do what they did to us in Twin.”
“I remember they made a great shot in the middle of the lane there at the end,” Santiago said. “It was two great teams going back and forth and they got us. I really believed we were going to win out, but they knocked us out that night.”
The Golden Eagles’ run in the national tournament fell short, however, losing to Vincennes (Ind.) and had to settle for a third-place showing.
“Oh we had a great team that year. We really should have won it all,” Trenkle said.
The streak started in the Golden Eagles’ first year under Trenkle, who coached CSI longer than any other man in the program’s history. It led to four national tournament appearances and a championship in 1987. But as the streak grew, so did expectations.
“Really, there was some relief once it was all over,” Trenkle said. “There was so much pressure. Unbelievable pressure.”
The coach wasn’t even aware of his team’s pursuit of history until the Times-News pointed it out to him as it neared 100 straight home victories.
“I had no idea. From there, it was a big deal. The TV station in Boise came down and broadcast No. 99 and 100 against Ricks and North Idaho,” Trenkle said. “And then it was Kentucky (129) and Trinidad at 132 games. The pressure just built up.”
And fans kept coming out.
As CSI drew nearer to the record of 132 games set by Trinidad Community College of Colorado in the 1960s, the gym became more and more packed.
“I’ve never seen a group of fans leading up to my time there that were so supportive of a program. It was somewhat easy to play hard for them,” said CSI guard David Cason, a freshman in the 1991-92 season. “They came and they supported every single game.”
Trenkle attributes much of the success at home to the fan base.
“We had fun teams that ran up and down the court. People loved to see it. People used to have to come early, hours before the game,” Trenkle said. “These kids would get radical. It was a distinct home advantage.”
The streak was nearly broken in 2001, but Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College’s women’s team snapped in-state rival Seward County’s 135-game roll of 135 games. Cason, now an assistant coach at Vanderbilt, doesn’t see CSI’s streak being topped any time soon.
“In basketball, it’s just so difficult. There’s so much parity now. It’s tough to do that, do what we did,” he said.
Said Rose: “It was bittersweet to be there. We broke the record, then a few games later it ends. It went on for a lot of years and we were lucky enough and I was lucky enough to be there for part of it.”
Timeline: CSI’s Streak
Dec. 3, 1984: Last home loss before the streak, 81-79 to Western Wyoming
Dec. 7, 1984: Streak begins with 81-71 win over Central Wyoming
Dec. 20, 1991: CSI beats Kentucky’s NCAA record of 129 games with 109-61 win over Highline (Wash.) Community College
Jan. 4, 1992: CSI beats Trinidad (Colo.) Community College’s record with a 71-58 win over Ricks College for its 133rd straight home victory.
Jan. 31, 1992: Streak ends with 84-68 loss to Utah Valley
Longest Home Winning Streaks
All-time Men’s Record (all divisions): CSI (1984-92) – 137 games
All-time Women’s Record: Seward County (Kan.) Women (1995-04) – 135
All-Time 4-year School Men’s: Kentucky (1943-55) – 129
All-Time 4-year School Women’s: Southern Nazarene (Okla.) University (1989-98) – 122
Utah Valley 84, CSI 68
UTAH VALLEY (84)
Barton 3 4-4 3 12. Dean 1 0-0 3 2. Wilcox 3 3-4 0 9. Santiago 4 15-18 25. Raiser 3 11-12 1 17. Chapman 1 0-0 5 2. Koford 6 2-3 5 14. Bryan 1 1-2 5 3. Totals 22 36-47 84.
Rose 2 4-7 4 9. Cason 1 0-1 5 2. Jackson 2 2-4 4 6. Harris 4 1-33 9. Johnson 3 2-4 3 8. Tyson 5 2-3 5 16. Valezi 0 4-4 1 4. A. Johnson 2 2-2 2 6. Shepard 3 1 2 3 7. Totals 22 18-30 68.
Three-point goals: Rose 3, Tyson 3. Barton 2, Santiago 2. Halftime: CSI 35. Utah Valley 31.