“Who in the heck is Jim Toupal,” mused one younger selection committee member when the Trinidad native was initially nominated for the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 2005, “and why does he merit induction? What makes him so special?”
Toupal is special because the Colorado native has lived a majority of his life in the Southern Colorado community near the New Mexico border where he was a standout player in football, basketball, baseball and golf at Trinidad High School before graduating in 1964.
As one of Colorado’s premier prep athletes, Toupal earned a football scholarship to Boston College.
“The school expanded my life in many ways,” said Toupal, who chose the college since his brother (John) lived and practiced law in the area. A 1968 BC graduate with an accounting and economics degree, Toupal played only two seasons for the Eagles when two shoulder surgeries cut short his collegiate career as a running back.
After graduation and marriage, Toupal spent one year at Utah State as a football graduate assistant before joining Marvin Wetzel’s staff at Trinidad State Junior College in 1969. “I learned so many things from him,” Toupal said about Wetzel. “Especially how to interact with student athletes.”
When the school dropped football in the early 1970s, Toupal was named coach of TSJC’s basketball program for the 1973-1974 campaign and for the next 32 seasons he guided the Trojans to a 678-333 hoop record. It ranks 23rd among the top 25 all-time marks among National Junior College Athletic Association coaches.
During his basketball tenure in Trinidad, Toupal coached 12 All-Americans and was named four times as the regional coach of the year. He led TSJC to the 1986 national tournament where the Trojans placed seventh. Toupal’s teams set a record for home court wins with 132-straight victories (1980-1990).
One of seven individuals with Colorado ties in the National Junior College Basketball Hall of Fame, Toupal also coached baseball, golf and women’s volleyball at TSJC and served as athletic director. He taught physical education and business at the school before retiring in May 2004. Toupal also was a Trinidad City Council and school board member.
“Going to the national tournament in 1986 is a treasured memory,” Toupal said, “along with breaking the national record in 1990 for the most consecutive home victories. I always think of the endless miles driving throughout Region IX (junior colleges in Colorado, Montana, Nebraska and Montana) and beyond — snow, ice, wind and buses breaking down.”
Toupal said the “success of the athletes themselves gives me great satisfaction. Many have called to thank me for helping them become successful men. Basketball at Trinidad State became a big part of my family’s life and the lives of our friends.”
As for spending a majority of his life in his hometown where he and his wife Nancy raised two children, Toupal said, “Trinidad State is a great institution and has been the perfect stepping stone for students. Trinidad is a beautiful town. I sincerely appreciate being inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame and hope that it gives positive recognition back to my hometown.”
One of seven individuals with Colorado ties in the National Junior College Basketball Hall of Fame, Toupal also coached baseball, golf and women’s volleyball at TSJC and served as athletic director.