The GCI Great Alaska Shoot­out began as a dream of Bob Rachal, who coached the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves during the 1977-78 season. Rachal, who died of cancer in 1985, wanted to put a fledgling UAA basketball program on the map and do it in style. With a personality reminiscent of a 19th century riverboat gambler, he parlayed an NCAA rule that said games outside the contiguous 48 states ­didn’t count against your normal allotment of 28, plus the lure of Alaska itself, into a winning hand.

The big gamble was whether the UAA and the community could attract big-name schools to the new tournament, in Alaska of all places. The gamble paid off. Coaches jumped at the chance to squeeze in three “free” games against top-flight competition, not to mention the recruiting possibilities a trip to Alaska afforded.

The first Sea Wolf Classic was played in November of 1978 in the 4,000-seat Buckner Field House at Fort Richardson near Anchorage. Each two-game session drew a disappointing average of only 2,500 people, until fans filled the gym to capacity on Sunday night to see the Wolfpack from North Carolina State defeat Louisville to win the tournament’s first championship.

The inaugural event received national press attention and portions of the tournament were televised live to regional markets of the teams involved – a first for the state of Alaska. Most important, however, was the reaction of the visiting coaches, who praised the hospitality, the officiating and most of all, the level of competition.

Even as the first Sea Wolf Classic ended, plans were being made for hosting the second tournament, pending a review of the three-day event by UAA officials. In the end, they declared that the Classic was a success and should continue.

And in 1979 it did. Only it wasn’t the Sea Wolf Classic anymore. It was now called the Great Alaska Shootout ­– a name reportedly coined by television commentator Billy Packer during regional television broadcasts of the initial tourney. Kentucky, led by guard Kyle Macy, defeated Jeff Ruland-led Iona for the 1979 title.

Regardless of the name, this holiday event was now well on its way to acceptance both at home and among the nation’s top hoops teams. Soon it was called “the best kept secret in basketball.” But the secret is out, and UAA’s sports program, the state of Alaska and major college basketball are all the better for it.

In 1983, the Shootout moved from its original confines at Buckner into a newly constructed municipal sports facility in midtown Anchorage, the Sullivan Arena, where it resided until 2013. In 2014, the Shootout premieres at the brand-new, on-campus Alaska Airlines Arena.

In the early 1990s the Shootout faced an obstacle that couldn’t be solved through local help alone. The NCAA passed legislation to push the start of the basketball season back to December 1, threatening the existence of the Thanksgiving tournament. But then-coach Harry Larrabee and former athletic director Ron Petro went to work, crisscrossing the country to gain support for an exemption for the Shootout. Fortunately for Anchorage basketball fans, their efforts were not in vain and the Great Alaska Shootout was granted the exemption it needed to continue as the premier in-season basketball tournament in the nation.

In 1994 the event became the Carrs Great Alaska Shootout when Carr Gottstein Food, Inc., became the original title sponsor of the event. With the purchase of Carrs by Safeway in 1999, the event was known as the Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout through the 2013 tournament. In April 2014, statewide telecommunications company GCI took over title sponsorship.

All told, 26 NCAA champions have taken part in the Shootout. The defending national champion has taken part in the tournament five times, most recently Kentucky in 1996. North Carolina State was the first, starting the defense of its 1983 title in Anchorage. Two years later, Villanova played in the 1985 Shootout after winning a national title earlier that spring. Louisville (1986) and Kansas (1988) have also played in the Shootout after winning national titles.

Duke, the 1998 Shootout runner-up team featuring Anchorage’s own Trajan Langdon, began its run to the 1999 Final Four here. In 1997-98 North Carolina started its trek to the Final Four at the Shootout as did Kentucky in 1996-97 and Duke in 2003-04.

In 2000s, the Shootout again served as a springboard to success. The entire 2003 Final Four field featured teams who had made Shootout appearances in the previous four seasons – Kansas (1999 champion), Syracuse (2000 champion), Marquette (2001 champion) and Texas (2001, 5th place). Indiana made the 2002 NCAA Final after placing third at the Shootout.

The 2004 Shootout saw one of the strongest fields ever, producing five NCAA Tournament teams – Alabama, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Utah and Washington. Both Oklahoma and Utah – featuring future NBA No. 1 pick Andrew Bogut – went on to win their leagues, while Washington earned a No. 1 seed for March Madness.

In 2007, the Shootout featured eventual top 10-ranked Butler, NCAA Tournament darling Western Kentucky, and all-time college basketball wins leader Bob Knight in his last go-round with Texas Tech. In fact, the freshman class of that Butler '07 Butler squad went on to be the nucleus of the squad that took the Bulldogs within a whisker of the 2010 NCAA title.

Of the 69 NCAA schools that have won the NCAA men’s basketball title, only six– Wisconsin, Holy Cross, CCNY, LaSalle, Loyola (Ill.) and Texas-El Paso – have not played in the Shootout at one time or another. With Connecticut’s 2014 coronation, the last 48 NCAA champions have appeared in the Shootout.

From the beginning, the Shootout has attracted the attention of the nation’s sports press. Nearly every major daily newspaper and sports magazine has at one time or another staffed the event. Televised from its inception on a regional basis, the Shootout went live nationwide via the ESPN from 1985 to 2007, and in 2012 CBS Sports Network returned the tournament to a nationwide audience.

Indeed, the GCI Great Alaska Shootout is no secret anymore, but rather an event eagerly awaited annually by millions of basketball fans.


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Men's All-Time Champions / Runners-Up / MOPs

Year Champion              Runner-up            Score    Most Outstanding Player
1978 North Carolina State  Louisville           72-66    Clyde Austin (N.C. State)
1979 Kentucky              Iona                 57-50    Jeff Ruland (Iona)
1980 North Carolina        Arkansas             64-58    Scott Hastings (Arkansas)
1981 SW Louisiana          Marquette            81-64    Steve Burtt (Iona)
1982 Louisville            Vanderbilt           80-70    Lancaster Gordon (Louisville)
1983 North Carolina State  Arkansas             65-60    Joe Kleine (Arkansas)
1984 Alabama-Birmingham    Kansas               50-46    Steve Mitchell (UAB)
1985 North Carolina        UNLV                 65-60    Brad Daugherty (North Carolina)
1986 Iowa                  Northeastern        103-80    Roy Marble (Iowa)
1987 Arizona               Syracuse             80-69    Sean Elliott (Arizona)
1988 Seton Hall            Kansas               92-81    Chris Mills (Kentucky)
1989 Michigan State        Kansas State         73-68    Steve Smith (Michigan State)
1990 UCLA                  Virginia             89-74    Don MacLean (UCLA)
1991 Massachusetts         New Orleans          68-56    Jim McCoy (Massachusetts)
1992 New Mexico State      Illinois             95-94    Sam Crawford (New Mexico State)
1993 Purdue                Portland             88-73    Glenn Robinson (Purdue)
1994 Minnesota             Brigham Young        79-74    Townsend Orr (Minnesota)
1995 Duke                  Iowa                 88-81    Ray Allen (Connecticut)
1996 Kentucky              Coll. of Charleston  92-65    Ron Mercer (Kentucky)
1997 North Carolina        Purdue               73-69    Antawn Jamison (North Carolina)
1998 Cincinnati            Duke                 77-75    William Avery (Duke)
1999 Kansas                Georgia Tech         84-70    Drew Gooden (Kansas)
2000 Syracuse              Missouri             84-62    Preston Shumpert (Syracuse)
2001 Marquette             Gonzaga              72-63    Dwyane Wade (Marquette)
2002 Coll. of Charleston   Villanova            71-69    Troy Wheless (C of C)
2003 Purdue                Duke                 78-68    Kenneth Lowe (Purdue)
2004 Washington            Alabama              79-76    Nate Robinson (Washington)
2005 Marquette             South Carolina       92-89 OT Steve Novak (Marquette)
2006 California            Loyola Marymount     78-70    Ryan Anderson (California)
2007 Butler                Texas Tech           81-71    Mike Green (Butler)
2008 San Diego State       Hampton              76-47    Kyle Spain (San Diego State)
2009 Washington State      San Diego            93-56    Klay Thompson (Washington State)
2010 St. John's            Arizona State        67-58    Justin Brownlee (St. John's)

2011 Murray State          Southern Mississippi 90-81 OT Isaiah Canaan (Murray State)
2012 Charlotte             Northeastern         83-77    Pierria Henry (Charlotte)
2013 Harvard               TCU                  71-50    Wesley Saunders (Harvard)

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Men's All-Time Participants

Alabama               2-1 (2004)
Alabama Birmingham    7-5 (1984, 87, 92, 97)
Alaska Anchorage    35-73 (All)
Arizona               6-3 (1985, 87, 94)
Arizona State         3-3 (1996, 2010)
Arkansas              4-2 (1980, 83)
Auburn                0-3 (1989)

Ball State            1-2 (2010)
Belmont               2-1 (2012)
Bradley               2-1 (1979)
Brigham Young         2-1 (1994)
Butler                3-0 (2007)

California            4-2 (1988, 2006)
UC Irvine             1-2 (1990)
Canisius              1-2 (2003)
Central Michigan      2-1 (2011)
Charlotte             3-0 (2012)
Cincinnati            3-0 (1998)
Clemson               1-2 (1982)
Coastal Carolina      0-3 (1991)
Colgate               1-2 (1980)
College of Charleston 5-1 (1996, 2002)
Connecticut           4-2 (1989, 95)

Dartmouth             1-2 (2011)
Dayton                0-3 (1992)
DePaul                2-1 (2000)
Denver                1-2 (2013)
Drake                 1-2 (2010)
Duke                  7-2 (1995, 98, 2003)
Duquesne              0-3 (1987)

Eastern Michigan      1-2 (1991)
Eastern Washington    1-5 (2005, 07)

Florida               3-3 (1982, 88)
Florida State         2-4 (1989, 2000)
Fordham               2-1 (1983)
Fresno State          1-2 (1998)
Furman                1-2 (2004)

Georgetown            2-4 (1980, 81)
Georgia               1-2 (1999)
Georgia Tech          2-1 (1999)
Gonzaga               4-2 (2001, 07)
Grambling State       0-3 (1999)
Green Bay             3-3 (1993, 2013)

Hampton               2-1 (2008)
Harvard               3-0 (2013)
Hawaii                4-5 (1989, 93, 2006)
High Point            0-3 (2004)
Hofstra               2-1 (2006)
Houston               2-1 (2009)
Houston Baptist       0-3 (2010)

Idaho                 1-2 (1991)
Idaho State           1-2 (1984)
Illinois              6-3 (1982, 84, 92)
Indiana               4-5 (1978, 95, 2001)
Indiana State         2-1 (2013)
Iona                  4-5 (1979, 81, 88)
Iowa                  5-1 (1986, 95)
Iowa State            2-1 (1998)

Jackson State         0-3 (1994)

Kansas                7-2 (1984, 88, 99)
Kansas State          2-1 (1989)
Kentucky              8-1 (1979, 88, 96)

Lamar                 2-4 (1978, 79)
Liberty               1-2 (2003)
Long Beach State      2-1 (1979)
Louisiana-Lafayette   4-2 (1981, 97)
Louisiana State       2-1 (1980)
Louisiana Tech        0-3 (2008)
Louisville            8-7 (1978, 82, 86, 94, 99)
Loyola Marymount      4-5 (2002, 06, 12)

Maine                 0-3 (1996)
Marquette             8-1 (1981, 2001, 05)
Marshall              0-3 (2006)
Maryland              2-1 (1984)
Massachusetts         5-1 (1991, 97)
McNeese State         1-2 (1981)
Miami (Fla.)          1-2 (1987)
Michigan              3-3 (1987, 07)
Michigan State        4-2 (1989, 2002)
Minnesota             4-2 (1994, 2004)
Missouri              5-4 (1980, 85, 2000)
Missouri-Kansas City  1-2 (2006)
Monmouth              1-2 (2005)
Montana               0-3 (2002)
Murray State          3-0 (2011)

Nevada                0-3 (1990)
Nevada-Las Vegas      2-1 (1985)
New Mexico            1-2 (1983)
New Mexico State      5-1 (1992, 2011)
New Orleans           2-1 (1991)
Nicholls State        0-6 (1980, 2009)
North Carolina        9-0 (1980, 85, 97)
UNC Greensboro        1-2 (1996)
North Carolina State  9-3 (1978, 83, 86, 93)
Northeastern          4-2 (1986, 2012)
Northern Illinois     1-2 (2008)
Notre Dame            1-2 (1998)

Ohio                  2-1 (1995)
Ohio State            3-3 (1981, 2000)
Oklahoma              5-4 (1983, 2004, 2009)
Oklahoma State        3-3 (1994, 2002)
Old Dominion          1-2 (1995)
Oral Roberts          3-3 (2005, 12)
Oregon                2-4 (1984, 92)
Oregon State          3-3 (1991, 2001)

Pacific               2-7 (1979, 2003, 06)
Penn State            0-3 (1978)
Pepperdine            3-3 (1978, 2013)
Portland              2-1 (1993)
Portland State        2-1 (2008)
Purdue                10-2 (1985, 93, 97, 2003)

Rhode Island          0-3 (2000)

St. John's            5-1 (2001, 10)
Saint Mary’s          2-1 (1998)
San Diego             2-1 (2009)
San Diego State       3-0 (2008)
San Francisco         1-2 (2011)
Santa Clara           2-4 (1983, 91)
Seattle               1-2 (2008)
Seton Hall            6-3 (1988, 97, 2003)
Siena                 2-1 (1990)
South Carolina        4-2 (1990, 2005)
Southern Cal          2-4 (1983, 2005)
Southern Illinois     1-2 (2005)
Southern Mississippi  2-1 (2011)
Southern Utah         1-5 (1998, 2010)
Stanford              2-1 (1996)
Syracuse              7-2 (1987, 96, 2000)

TCU                   2-4 (1995, 2013)
Tennessee             2-4 (1984, 2001)
Tennessee-Chattanooga 1-2 (1992)
Texas                 2-4 (1986, 2001)
Texas A&M             5-7 (1978, 79, 82, 89)
Texas-San Antonio     0-3 (1985)
Texas State           2-7 (1987, 2003, 12)
Texas Tech            3-3 (1990, 07)
Tulsa                 1-2 (2013)

UC Irvine             0-3 (2011)
UC Riverside          0-3 (2012)
UCLA                  5-1 (1990, 97)
Utah                  3-3 (1988, 2004)
Utah State            1-2 (1986)

Valparaiso            2-1 (2000)
Vanderbilt            4-2 (1982, 92)
Villanova             6-3 (1985, 94, 2002)
Virginia              2-1 (1990)
Virginia Tech         1-2 (2007)

Wake Forest           2-1 (1993)
Washington            7-5 (1982, 86, 99, 2004)
Washington State      4-2 (1981, 2009)
Weber State           4-2 (1993, 2010)
Western Carolina      2-1 (2008)
Western Kentucky      2-1 (2007)
Wyoming               2-1 (2002)

Xavier                2-1 (1999)

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Shootout Teams that qualified that year for NCAA Tournament
1978-79 (3) - Lamar, Louisville, Pepperdine
1979-80 (5) - Bradley, Iona, Lamar, Kentucky, Texas A&M
1980-81 (5) - Arkansas, Georgetown, Louisiana State, Missouri, North Carolina
1981-82 (5) - Alaska Anchorage, Georgetown, Marquette, Ohio State, Southwestern Louisiana
1982-83 (2) - Illinois, Louisville
1983-84 (2) - Arkansas, Oklahoma
1984-85 (4) - Alabama-Birmingham, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland
1985-86 (7) - Alaska Anchorage, Arizona, Missouri, North Carolina, Purdue, UNLV, Villanova
1986-87 (4) - Alaska Anchorage, Iowa, North Carolina State, Northeastern
1987-88 (4) - Alaska Anchorage, Arizona, Michigan, Syracuse
1988-89 (2) - Florida, Seton Hall
1989-90 (4) - Alaska Anchorage, Connecticut, Kansas State, Michigan State
1990-91 (5) - Alaska Anchorage, Siena, South Carolina, UCLA, Virginia
1991-92 (1) - Massachusetts
1992-93 (5) - Alaska Anchorage, New Mexico State, Tennessee-Chattanooga, Vanderbilt, Illinois
1993-94 (5) - Alaska Anchorage, Hawaii, Purdue, Wake Forest, Wisconsin-Green Bay
1994-95 (6) - Oklahoma State, Brigham Young, Minnesota, Villanova, Louisville, Arizona
1995-96 (5) - Alaska Anchorage, Iowa, Duke, Indiana, Connecticut
1996-97 (5) - Alaska Anchorage, College of Charleston, Kentucky, Stanford, Syracuse
1997-98 (4) - Massachusetts, Purdue, North Carolina, UCLA
1998-99 (2) - Cincinnati, Duke
1999-00 (2) - Kansas, Louisville
2000-01 (3) - Missouri, Ohio State, Syracuse
2001-02 (5) - Gonzaga, Indiana, Marquette, St. John's, Texas
2002-03 (2) - Michigan State, Oklahoma State
2003-04 (5) - Alaska Anchorage, Duke, Liberty, Pacific, Seton Hall
2004-05 (5) - Alabama, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Utah, Washington
2005-06 (5) - Alaska Anchorage, Marquette, Monmouth, Oral Roberts, Southern Illinois
2006-07 (1) - Alaska Anchorage
2007-08 (4) - Alaska Anchorage, Butler, Gonzaga, Western Kentucky
2008-09 (1) - Portland State
2009-10 (1) - Houston
2010-11 (2) - Alaska Anchorage, St. John's
2011-12 (4) - Alaska Anchorage, Murray State, New Mexico State, Southern Mississippi
2012-13 (1) - Belmont
2013-14 (2) - Harvard, Tulsa