The high school basketball season opens this week. The Butte Bulldogs tipped off their season last night against Belgrade. Butte Central gets underway this Friday in the Tip-Off tournament at the Civic Center and Maroon Activity Center.
The start of the new basketball season always sends my mind back in time to the Central Roundtable Tournament. It was the event every year that tipped off a new year for the high schools.
The Roundtable event was hosted by the Butte Central Roundtable. It was a local booster group that served for many years as the financial arm of Maroon Athletics.
The first Central Roundtable tournament was held in 1945. Butte Central hosted Idaho Falls, Anaconda and O’Dea High School from Seattle in the first tournament.
O’Dea High School, like Boys’ Central was run by the Irish Christian Brothers.
The Maroons beat O’Dea in the tournament behind legendary player “Jumpin” Joe Kelly.
In future years, the Central Roundtable tournament took place between Christmas and New Year’s when teams were allowed to play games rather than just practice. After some rule changes, the event was move to the first weekend of the new basketball season.
The Roundtable tournament had Butte Central and at least one other local school entered in the event. Butte High started to become a regular participate in 1952 after Swede Dahlberg resigned at the Bulldogs’ head coach.
On a regular basis either Anaconda or Anaconda Central was also in the tournament. Other teams that played in the Roundtable included Billings Senior,
Hamilton, Glendive, Bozeman and Helena.
It was two days of tournament atmosphere with an actual championship game.
There were a number of times when the two Butte schools won their first game and would battle each other for the title. Later, they played a couple of league games against each other during the season and once in a while played in a divisional tournament against one another. So the Maroons and Bulldogs could play against each other as many as four times in a season.
All that changed with the advent of Title 9 in the early 1970s. Girls basketball came to be with the Butte squads fielding teams starting in the decade. The new sport for girls changed the scheduling map of high school basketball.
The Roundtable event lived on until the early 1980s, but then went away. Butte Central did not offer a Girls Roundtable tournament so therefore the long standing boys event had to be eliminated.
The Maroons went to a format of just playing games against various opponents.
That all changed in 2006 when the Maroon Activities was completed. It allowed Butte Central to host a tip- off tournament for both boys and girls.
Now, seven other schools bring their boys and girls teams to town for a the two-day event. There is no tournament atmosphere with the absence of a championship game. Yet it does give young people a chance to showcase their talents.
The tip-off tournament gives a lot of teams a chance to look at each other to see what it will take to be good for the season. It is all a good thing, but it still does not have the charm of the two-day Roundtable tournament that produced a renewed excitement at the start of a new basketball season.