“It just seemed like the right thing to do,” Jim Laub said, with his suggestion that the Aggies’ new $9.5 million basketball-volleyball facility bear the name of Wayne Estes.
Good call Jim.
It’s natural, and it is appropriate. There are too many blank stares around here anymore at the mention of Estes’ name. It’s time to reintroduce him to all who care about Utah State athletics.
It was Aggie Director of Athletics Scott Barnes who asked Jim’s suggestion and that was his response. So, the Aggies’ new facility, announced Thursday and to be built directly west of the Smith Spectrum, will take the name of the man most longtime Aggie fans regard as the school’s best basketball player ever.
“Wayne, for a lot of reasons, has never been very far from my thoughts over the years,” Laub said Thursday. “It makes perfect sense that he be recognized in this way. Our younger fans don’t know who Wayne is.”
Once newer Aggies hear the story, they will adopt him as their own. There will be a visual tribute in the foyer of the new Wayne Estes Center, detailing his life and tragic death late in his senior year at Utah State, following his greatest game.
Late in 1965, Estes and Rick Barry of Miami were locked in a neck-and-neck race for the national scoring title when Wayne scored 48 points in early February against Denver.
After the game at the scene of a car accident, the 6-foot-6 Estes brushed a downed high power line and was fatally electrocuted.
Posthumously, he was named a first team All-American, and the Lakers said later they had planned to make him their first round draft choice.
Jim and Carol Laub committed $5.25 million toward the Estes Center, and he said when they make such donations it is done with hope of creating a positive experience for current and future Aggie student athletes.
“We think that kind of experience translates into more wins and more competitiveness on the field,” Jim said.
Jim regards the Laubs’ continuing support as an investment in the university and in the community.
He doesn’t deny it’s all worth it watching from the Laub Center in the north end zone on nights when the students and fans storm the field. Beating Utah last fall was one of those nights.
“Seeing the excitement it brings to the community it makes it all worth it to me,” Jim said. “We never have a second thought about it.”
Jim grew up an Aggie fan in Logan. Later, traveling the country on business and sometimes with USU teams, he has noticed facilities at other schools.
“You realize the Aggies, going into the Mountain West Conference now, can’t stand still,” Jim said. “We have got to keep developing our facilities.
“When the strength and training facility is finished here in another month or so, and when this basketball facility is complete, from a student-athlete’s perspective, everything will be first class.”
He said he wouldn’t be ashamed to put these facilities up against any in the country.
“There might be schools with more bells and whistles,” Jim said. “But judging the quality and classiness of ours, they are built for our student athletes. That is huge and I am proud to be a small part of what we are doing to improve Utah State.
“If it wasn’t for the great confidence we have in (university president) Stan Albrecht and Scott Barnes and where they have taken Utah State and where they’ll continue to take us, Carol and I wouldn’t be doing this.”
Craig Hislop is a longtime Cache Valley broadcaster, who can now be heard weekday mornings on KVNU. He is among a number of Cache Valley freelance writers whose columns appear in The Herald Journal as a part of an effort to expose readers to a variety of community voices. He is not an employee of the newspaper. He can be reached at email@example.com.