BOWLING GREEN — The name “Joplin” isn’t hard to find in the annals of the University of Toledo men’s basketball program.
As a player, Stan Joplin is best known for making the buzzer-beating shot in the two-point win over Iowa in the 1979 NCAA tournament, easily the program’s biggest moment in more than 30 years.
Joplin also coached the Rockets for 12 seasons, posting the second-most wins in UT history with a 203-155 mark.
And yet the son of this Toledo alum will be on the opposite sideline when the Rockets face their archrivals from Bowling Green State University this Saturday at Doyt Perry Stadium with kickoff set for 2:30 p.m.
“Trust me, I hear about this game all the time,” said Shaun Joplin, a senior wide receiver for the Falcons. “It’s because I’m a local guy, from Toledo. But I chose BG for a reason. I love it here, I love the coaching staff.”
The connection between Toledo and the family was broken by the acrimonious dismissal of Stan as basketball coach after an 11-19 mark in 2007-08. One year earlier Joplin had been named Mid-American Conference coach of the year after an 14-2 league record, but that was followed by a losing season and four UT players eventually were charged in a point-shaving scandal.
“My dad told me, ‘When somebody doesn’t want you, they find a way to get rid of you,’ ” the younger Joplin said. “That’s what [UT athletics director Mike] O’Brien did. He didn’t want him anymore, so he got rid of him. Now we’re Falcons.”
But Shaun Joplin’s rout to Bowling Green, and his role as one of the Falcons’ top receivers, wasn’t that simple.
Shaun Joplin was a three-sport standout at Southview High School who received scholarship offers in football, basketball, and track as a high jumper — “I only had scholarship offers in basketball, so Shaun told me all the time he was one up on me,” Stan Joplin said — but began to focus on football and eventually committed to BG.
“When I chose Toledo, part of the reason was I wanted to stay close to home,” said Stan Joplin, who hailed from Milan, Mich. “Shaun made the school decision on his own, but I think he valued staying close to home.”
That decision was tested, though, when Shaun Joplin played well in the Big 33 Game, the Pennsylvania-Ohio all-star game.
“I told him he needed to be a man of his word,” Stan Joplin said. “You committed to BG, you have to stand beside it. And he did.”
Shaun Joplin redshirted in 2009, then saw limited action as a freshman. Father thought son might not be putting full effort into being a college athlete.
“He couldn’t pull the wool over my eyes, because I had either done it as a player or seen it as a coach,” Stan Joplin said. “There wasn’t a lot of wiggle room. I thought there may have been a few too many things like video games in his life, so I talked to his roommates — good guys like Matt Schilz and Alex Bayer and Paul Swan. I said, ‘Fellas, you have to help me out on this.’
“I think Shaun had to learn to appreciate the game, to respect the game. He’s had to learn to work hard at everything.”
BG coach Dave Clawson noticed the improvement, and Shaun Joplin’s time on the field increased as a result. This year he leads the Falcons with 29 catches for 453 yards, and 24 of those catches have resulted in first downs.
“The third-and-14 that we converted [against Akron] was as big a play as there was in the football game,” Clawson said. “That one play sort of shows Shaun’s development: Three years ago he would have run the wrong route, two years ago he would have run the right route but wouldn’t have gotten to the sticks, and a year ago he may have done all that but not caught [the ball].”
Joplin looks forward to making more of those catches Saturday.
“My redshirt freshman year I got a taste of this rivalry when Freddie Barnes and those seniors were here,” Shaun Joplin said. “We just want to have that feeling, and take that trophy out of Toledo’s hands. “We don’t like them, and they don’t like us.”
While father and son chose different colleges, Schilz sees the similarities. “They both are great with people,” Schilz said. “They can relate to people, no matter who they are.”
Last season, when Shaun Joplin was asked what colors his father would wear to the game, he cleverly responded that his father would wear blue — the same color he wears as basketball coach at Springfield High School.
Schilz, who served an internship with Stan Joplin at that school last spring, realized Joplin’s wardrobe decision may not be that easy.
“I’m sure [Stan Joplin] has still got some Toledo in his blood,” Schilz said. “But I’m sure he’s rooting for Shaun as well.”