May 30, 2018 WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.
-- As soon as Drew Brees found out that an authentic John Wooden Purdue basketball jersey was going to auction, the former Purdue All-American quarterback wanted to win it for his alma mater.
The auction closed in the early-morning hours May 18, and bidding was serious among several interested parties. Purdue memorabilia guru Orlando Itin made Brees aware of the jersey - at the suggestion of senior associate athletics director Tom Schott
- and bid on his behalf.
Brees is a collector himself, but from the onset, his intention was to loan the circa-1930s Wooden jersey to Purdue for display at Mackey Arena. Schott will work with memorabilia experts and curators to determine an appropriate presentation location and to have it insured.
"This jersey clearly belongs at Purdue, and I am excited we will have it on display for Boilermaker fans to see," said Brees, who announced the acquisition at a John Purdue Club event Tuesday in Jeffersonville, Indiana. "I told Orlando we had to get it, and we did."
Brees won with a total purchase price of $264,000 to ensure that the jersey would be coming home to Purdue. That amount is in addition to the more than $3 million that Drew and his wife, Brittany, have contributed to Purdue since 2007.
The consigner of the museum-quality item, John Neff of Guerneville, California, received the jersey following the death of his grandfather, Frank, who attended Purdue at the same time as Wooden, and the two remained in touch through the years. According to the Neff family, Wooden gave Frank the jersey.
Memorabilia Evaluation and Research Services (MEARS), a leading sports memorabilia evaluation company, authenticated the jersey, which experts believe is the only one of its kind.
"I believe it is the rarest piece of college basketball memorabilia in existence," Itin said.
A standout player at Purdue from 1930 to 1932, Wooden was a three-time All-American and the 1932 National Player of the Year. As a senior, he averaged 12.2 points per game in leading the Boilermakers to a 17-1 record and the Big Ten Championship. Purdue was named national champions by the Helms Athletic Foundation.
Wooden went on to be the head coach at UCLA from 1948 to 1975, amassing a 620-147 record, an extraordinary .808 winning percentage. The Bruins captured 10 national championships, including seven in a row from 1966 to 1973, and 19 Pac-10 titles. They put together unfathomable winning streaks of 88 games and 38 NCAA Tournament contests.
A native of Martinsville, Indiana, Wooden is one of just three individuals enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as a player (1961) and a coach (1973).