Back in 1951, a group of University of Colorado greats was asked to name the greatest athletes the school had produced in its first 75 years.
As you might expect, the list was impressive. However, just five athletes were unanimous selections: Byron “Whizzer” White, Bob Doll, Don Campbell, Gene Moore and Jack Harvey.
“Harvey may have been the greatest basketball player in CU history. He earned more recognition for the basketball program and more personal accolades than any Buff.
He was the outstanding college player of that era,” said former teammate Bob Kirchner.
Harvey, who grew up in Frankfort, Kansas, was so good he did the unthinkable: while on the basketball court, he overshadowed White, his teammate who many consider the greatest athlete the state has ever produced.
“Surely he was one of Colorado’s finest players,” said White, the retired Supreme Court Justice who was a charter member of the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.
A wily center with outstanding offensive and defensive skills, Harvey led CU to Big Seven titles in the first three years of the league’s existence from 1938-40. He was a three-time all conference pick, leading the Buffs to second place in the 1938 NIT.
Harvey, though, saved his best for his junior and senior seasons.
He led CU to its first undisputed Big Seven title and was named to thee All-America teams as a junior. As a senior, he led the Buffs to the championship of the 1940 NIT, which was considered more prestigious than the NCAA Tournament at the time. The Buffs also were ranked No. 1 in the nation that year, a feat which has not been repeated in nearly 50 years.
The Buffs were 31-8 during his last two years, and he remains the only two-time All-American in Colorado basketball history. Modest to a fault, Harvey rarely talked about his accomplishments, crediting his success to his opponents’ distraction with the size of his ears.
Following his CU career, he enjoyed continued success on the AAU level with the Denver American Legion team and the Denver Nuggets. He earned All-America honors in both 1941 and 1942.
Good as he was on the court, though, Harvey had a more lasting impact off it. He served his country, his state and his chosen home city of Fort Collins.
After serving as a pilot in World War II, flying missions to support Patton’s march to Berlin, he settled in Fort Collins. He was a highly respected member of the business community and was the president of the Chamber of Commerce.
In 1959, Harvey joined the Fort Collins City Council and was chosen as mayor for the next two years. During that time, he helped establish some of the guidelines that have made modern Fort Collins one of the fastest-growing cities in America.
In 1962, he and a small group of golf enthusiasts helped found and build the Fort Collins Country Club. Their modest 9-hole lay out eventually became a classic 18-hole course that has played host to several qualifying rounds for he U.S. Open.
In his later years, Harvey became an avid outdoorsman. He often hunted and fished with longtime friend White and many others, and his skill as a fly fisherman was widely admired. He was also a longtime board member for the National Western Stock Show.
Harvey died in 1981 at the age of 63 following a battle with emphysema.
Harvey may have been the greatest basketball player in CU history. He earned more recognition for the basketball program and more personal accolades than any Buff.