EMU: Convocation Center changes name to George Gervin GameAbove Center
GameAbove's $2.7 million donation to EMU puts both George Gervin and GameAbove's name on the, now, old Convocation Center.
Welcome to The Ypsilanti Eleven! Big news around campus: EMU legend George Gervin will have his name properly placed on the front of the EMU basketball’s home arena. Say goodbye to the Convocation Center, and say hello to the George Gervin GameAbove Center.
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George ‘The Iceman’ Gervin honored with Convo Center’s name change
Big news from Eastern Michigan on Saturday. At halftime of the men’s basketball game against Florida International, which turned out to be a thrilling, 4-OT winner (92-88), George “The Iceman” Gervin was honored with the news that his name will be on the name of the venue would have his name on the front of it. The name of the building is no longer The Convocation Center; it is now the George Gervin GameAbove Center.
Gervin, 69, is one of the greatest basketball players of all time. His #24 uniform that he wore at EMU (1970-1972) was the first basketball number retired by the school in 1986. In the 1971-1972 season, he helped lead EMU to the Final Four with an average 29.5 points per game scored in the season. He earned All-American honors that season, and eventually landed him in the College Basketball Hall of Fame (2006). Gervin had a stellar professional career between the ABA and NBA, and was named to the NBA Hall of Fame in 1996. Recently, the NBA named placed Gervin on its list of 75 of its greatest basketball players of all time.
“I always say that everybody needs a somebody. And today, ya’ll are my somebody,” Gervin said as he addressed the home crowd during Saturday’s halftime ceremony. Gervin made a good case for his new nickname to be Open Micman with a few specific acknowledgments of Eastern grads that were in attendance.
“I got a special friend here who played with me, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Gary Tyson. That’s my mans right there. Gary is the guy who passed me the ball all the time.
“Something else really special for me that I want you all to know: Eastern Michigan is where I met my wife. I met my wife her first day in college. I was a sophomore, she was a freshman. She put her eyes on me and could never take them off. But my wife’s with me, and we just celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary.”
Gervin also introduced fellow GameAbove board member Dr. Robert Sims out onto the court to share the moment. Sims was a two-sport athlete at EMU (basketball, track) from 1949-1952, named EMU’s Most Distinguished Alumni in 1993, and is EMU’s first Black basketball player in its history.
The mic was then handed over to university president Dr. James Smith for the big news reveal.
“It’s so fitting that we have this day who really is a legend. We’ve celebrated him before when we retired his number, you saw him receive an honorary degree, but all of that is really small potatoes compared to the things that he’s done for young people in his retirement career. And George, this is the 24th year of this building, 24 years in The Convocation Center — does that 24 number ring a bell with you?
“I think all of you 24 was George’s number as an athlete and still carries great semblance for George and I want to say that for the next 24 years this building’s going to have a little bit of a different name to it, it’s going to have a little different ring to it. It’s going to have a name that’s not corporate, that doesn’t say a big industrial name. It’s going to say an outstanding athlete. In partnership with GameAbove, we as Eastern Michigan University, I as president, regent [Michelle] Crumm as one of our regents, have great pleasure to dedicate the naming of this arena to Mr. George Gervin.
Right then and there, Gervin was standing at halfcourt of the basketball stadium that’s named after him, and will be for the next 24 years.
GameAbove’s a group of Eastern graduates with different backgrounds that collectively raise funds to make improvements on and around the school’s community. The group officially launched in November 2019 — exactly 25 months before it put Gervin’s name on the building — with a $3.5 million gift that went to make improvements for the school’s faculty, the five academic colleges, resources for the library, and student life organizations.
Here are some other imprints GameAbove has made on and around EMU’s campus in its short life:
Group donated $500k to Ozone House.
Group gifted $8M to build new on-campus golf facility: The GameAbove Golf Performance Center.
Group gifted $1M to EMU to rename the school’s Student-Athlete Performance Center’s main entrance after the late Brian Clouse, a former standout football player at EMU: The Clouse Family Atrium. They’ve also renamed the room that athletes use to hangout and study in the Brian Clouse Players’ Lounge.
Group collaborated with Mr. October Foundation and donated $500K in annual funding to expand EMU’s tech-based STEM learning programs. The 2020 donation was matched in 2021.
Group donated $150k to Gamers Outreach’s Gamers for Giving event, providing the software and equipment for kids to be entertained when they receive treatment at hospitals. Group matched its 2020 donation in 2021.
At the beginning of the pandemic, group donated money to schools, hospitals, food banks, and purchased PPE tools and equipment for hospital staff. Group also reallocated $68k from low-priority initiatives into the EMU Student Emergency Fund.
Group donated $2M to EMU for its April 2020 graduates and incoming fall freshmen (~$600/graduate, ~$400/new student).
Group partnered with EMU, gifted school $5M, and renamed engineering college to GameAbove College of Engineering and Technology. Group also funded the college’s research engineer position to focus on autonomous vehicle technologies.
George Gervin’s name on the building will only be a temporary 24 years, but GameAbove’s name all over campus is already poised to be forever, and it only took two years to get here. The recent news meant GameAbove’s committing another $2.7M to EMU athletics, and the group, to date, has donated over $25M for improvements to the school and its community.
Stamping GameAbove’s name on a third on-campus building in just two years of existence shows the potential for this EMU-alumni-led board to grow even more throughout campus isn’t unfathomable. It also shows the potential for EMU students that they haven’t seen before. Many stadiums and venues have a corporate sponsor in the name of buildings. But at EMU, it’s a group of EMU alumni putting their name, GameAbove, where you might otherwise find the name of a bank, or a donut company. A decade ago, big financial efforts like this — a multi-million adventure that finally ended up putting one of the best EMU athletes to ever play his sport on the name of the basketball arena, as funded by [the efforts of] fellow EMU alumni — seemed damn near impossible. But impossible doesn’t mean the same thing as it used to, now does it?
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Truly remarkable. What a group.