Cattle Classic

St. John Lutheran School held its Cattle Classic food drive early this year because the shelves at Christ's Cupboard, the food pantry at St. John, were bare. The 178 students collected 548 items.

Basketballs plus Blue Valley Community Action. Cattle Bank plus cans of food.

For 20 years, the math has equalled the Cattle Classic, a basketball tournament at Concordia University.

Ryne Seaman of Cattle Bank remembered meeting with Brian Friedrich, then the development officer at Concordia, and Grant Schmidt, then the athletic director at CU, in 1999 to talk about the idea. At the time, the University of Nebraska hosted the Emeritus Classic, which was the model for the Cattle Classic.

“It’s grown from humble beginnings,” Seaman said.

In the early years, the tournament featured four women’s teams playing over two days. After the Walz Human Performance Complex was completed, the tournament was able to grow, adding men’s teams.

This year’s tournament includes Concordia, Doane University, University of St. Francis in Illinois and Simpson University in California in the women’s competition and Benedictine College of Kansas, Hastings College, Dickinson State University of North Dakota and Concordia in the men’s bracket.

“They come from all over,” Seaman said. “That’s a credit to the facility, the event and the community.”

Seaman said organizers try not to put Concordia against conference foes like Doane and Hastings in this tournament.

“It’s grown every year,” he said.

When it began, Seaman said, they wanted to do more than just a basketball tournament.

“We wanted to do something to give back,” he said, pointing to Concordia’s servant-leadership model.

For admission, then, the founders decided to use cans, collecting non-perishable items for Blue Valley Community Action’s food pantry.

“This is still Blue Valley’s largest event fundraiser annually,” he said.

Since the first Classic in 1999, the event has raised over 82,700 cans of food and $26,000. Seaman expects this year’s two-day event to collect at least 8,000 cans and $2,000. Pac ‘N’ Save has been a partner since the beginning, as well, matching all the canned food donations.

In recent years, the Classic has challenged elementary and middle school classes at Seward Elementary, Seward Middle, St. John, St. Vincent and Our Redeemer with a pizza party. The class that collects the most food wins.

Seaman said food collected at St. John and St. Vincent stays with those churches’ food pantries because Blue Valley has limited storage.

Not only does the bank sponsor the pizza party, it pays for the visiting teams to stay in local hotels and provides T-shirts for the athletes.

The weekend also includes the culmination of kids’ basketball clinics. The clinics teach basic basketball skills and allow the Concordia players to be involved in coaching. This year’s clinic has 66 athletes in third through fifth grades. Trying to play their exhibition games at halftime could be a challenge, Seaman said.

Looking back, Seaman said, he can’t believe how far the Cattle Classic has come.

“The community and fans have embraced it,” he said. “It’s a great event to demonstrate the partnership between Concordia and Cattle Bank.”

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