73-Year Old College Basketball Player Benched

At age 73, Ken Mink became the oldest person ever to score in a college basketball game last fall. He sank two free throws for Roane State Community College. But now, he's been benched — and deemed academically ineligible. Mink speaks to host Jacki Lyden just days before the final game of the regular season.

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JACKI LYDEN, host:

We're still a week away from March, but in the college basketball world, the madness has already begun. In the past few days, each of the three, highest ranked NCAA men's teams lost. It started Monday night when number one, Connecticut, fell to Pittsburgh. It got even wilder yesterday. In the afternoon, third-ranked North Carolina got caught in an overtime thriller against a struggling Maryland team. Here's ABC's Brent Musburger.

(Soundbite of basketball game)

Mr. BRENT MUSBURGER (Sportscaster, ABC): Down he goes, no, it wont' shoot. (Unintelligible). Maryland upset the number three team, the North Carolina Tar Heels. The stampede is underway.

LYDEN: Then, last night, second-ranked Oklahoma completed the trifecta getting decked by Texas. Even worse, Oklahoma's best player, Blake Griffin, got decked, too.

The leading candidate for national player of the year left the game in the first half with a concussion, and he didn't return. This muddled up picture won't clear until at least three weeks from today when the NCAA unveils the 65-team field for its annual tournament. Then, the real madness begins.

(Soundbite of music)

LYDEN: Earlier in today's show, we heard from several people who made radical career changes. Well, Ken Mink's second act involved going back to his first love, college basketball.

Ken spent 38 years as a journalist then settled into retirement back in 1998. But it wasn't long before an old urge came over him. At age 73, Ken Mink wanted to suit up again.

(Soundbite of basketball practice)

LYDEN: Last fall, he enrolled as a full-time student at Roane State Community College in Harriman, Tennessee and made the basketball team 52 years after he was kicked off his last college squad.

(Soundbite of basketball practice)

LYDEN: You're listening to one of Ken Mink's practices with the Roane State Raiders, recorded by the Knoxville News courier. In November, Ken Mink became the oldest person ever to score in a college basketball game, sinking two free throws against King College, and now that dream may be over.

I spoke with Ken Mink earlier. He says he got the idea to play again early in his retirement.

Mr. KEN MINK (Basketball Player, Roane State Community College): I found out I could still shoot the ball quite well. I could dribble it. I could pass it. I could do everything except jump as well as I used to. So I thought with all these other assets that I have, it's possible that I could actually go out and compete.

LYDEN: I'm curious, how did it feel to sink that first free throw last fall?

Mr. MINK: Well, it was the height of ecstasy. I guess it was probably one of the most exciting moments in my life. I realized when I was standing there and shot that free throw, and it went in, it was like man, I can't believe you did this.

LYDEN: Wow. So I just thought to bring up, you're almost twice as old as the school itself. When you joined the Roane State Raiders, how did the other players react?

Mr. MINK: Well, at first they were a little dubious, like you know, what's this old guy doing out here? But after I competed against them for a while, they realized that I could actually play, and they had to take me seriously, so as the season went along, why I'm just one of the guys.

LYDEN: Now Ken Mink, you seem to perhaps always have been something of a maverick. You were expelled in 1956 for a prank. Give me the explanation on that.

Mr. MINK: Well, it was a silly little thing. Somebody took some shaving cream and sprayed in our coach's shoes and some other areas of his office, and I was accused of doing the prank. And I told him that I didn't do it. But nonetheless, they said someone had seen me in that area, and so they ruled that I was guilty and they expelled me.

LYDEN: Now, in a basketball career that's seen a couple ups and downs, I understand you were just informed that you are ineligible again. What were you told?

Mr. MINK: This is really an administrative glitch. The National Junior College Athletic Association, they discovered I've taken an online course and they question whether it was completed. And we sent them evidence that show that it was actually completed as part of my transcript.

I did flunk one course, but I was still enrolled, and I never fell below the 12-hour minimum. So, it's an administrative error. That's a very tragic situation.

LYDEN: The Raiders' last home game is this Wednesday. Will you be there?

Mr. MINK: Well, I'm certainly going to be there. I'm going to debut a little rap song that I wrote for the team. But the question of whether I'm going to be in uniform to play or not is still up in the air.

LYDEN: So, Mr. Mink, you have to give me a little of that rap song.

Mr. MINK: (Rapping) We must be up by 20 because here comes Kenny. He's old and slow, but he can still go. Here comes Rick as the high-flying freak. (Unintelligible) of the '52 (unintelligible) chocolate thunder.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LYDEN: Well, I really hope that you get to be in the game on Wednesday. 73-year-old Ken Mink played basketball this season for the Roane State Community College, the Roane Raiders in Harriman, Tennessee. Mr. Mink, good luck to you.

Mr. MINK: Thank you, and I hope I do have a little good luck.

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