April 17, 2024

USUE professors published in Sports Illustrated


It’s most sports photographer’s dream to get their photos printed in Sports Illustrated. This week, two professors from USU Eastern can check photos being published in Sports Illustrated off their bucket list now that their photos appeared in the Dec. 1 edition of SI.
Tyson Chappell, biology professor, and Kimball Johnson, former nursing instructor, followed the College of Eastern Utah’s Cinderella-esque basketball team in 2009-10 capturing each hard fought win during its regular season and at the Scenic West Athletic Tournament, Southern Regionals and National Junior College Athletic Conference Tournament in Hutchinson, Kan.
Names like Michael Glover, Jonathan Mills, Isiah Williams, Cliff Colimon, Tony Dalton and Aaron Hawk-Harris were leading the team in scoring and rebounding. Thousands of photos, documenting the magical season, were taken by Chappell and Johnson as the team’s chemistry and play continued to improve throughout the season.
Johnson, who has since moved to Ogden and teaches nursing at Weber State University, said he had two days to go through his archives to find photos of Coach Chris Craig for Sports Illustrated. He found 12 photos of the coach that he put on Google Drive. SI photographers selected one of his photos for the story on the former CEU coach.
Getting published, he said, “I feel like I just hit a home run in the majors…but my heart goes out to Chris Craig and his family.”
His favorite shot was of Coach Craig along with coaches Vando Becheli and Brad Barton in the background watching a last second shot. Johnson was in Hutchison, Kan., and CEU was behind by two-points with a few seconds remaining in regulation play. Sophomore guard, Leon Sutton, came off the bench and hit a two-pointer, sending the game into overtime. The Eagles won in OT and finished as the third best team in the nation that year.
Chappell found 120 shots of Craig in his archives after spending four hours going through two years of game shots. “This was my second year working at the school and I was just trying to get used to shooting intense games. Learning how to best prepare, focus and shoot the action at just the right moment took a lot of practice and was made much more difficult using the Canon 5D which only shot three frames a second.
“This forced me to have to time my shots just right. Nowadays I needn’t worry about timing so much as my latest camera shoots 12 frames a second. Now I can just hold down the shutter button and pick the image I like after the fact. It’s like going from a bolt-action rifle to a machine gun.
On being published, Chappell said, “I never considered that my photos would ever be used in SI. I shoot out of the joy, rush and pleasure, in and of itself. Capturing the best images possible and feeling happy and content with my own images is more than reward enough for me. Anything above and beyond my own satisfaction with my images is just icing on an already delectable and scrumptious visual chocolate cake. Any accolades regarding my photos are never expected, but always greatly appreciated.  
“Since being in SI was never on my own personal bucket list (as it always seemed to be such an impossibility), I guess I’ll be putting: “get published in National Geographic” on my bucket list to see what happens.”
His favorite photo is displayed in the hallway of the Bunnell-Dmitrich Athletic Center. “It shows the team immediately after winning the SWAC championship and they are holding the trophy. Such bliss in all of their faces. Such raw emotion and joy. It was a spectacular night to watch such an intense game and to come off as conquerors.”
 Although the notoriety of photos being published by two USU Eastern photographers is phenomenal, the story behind the photos tells the sad tale of Coach Craig’s bouts with mental illness.
Hired at 25, Craig was thought to be the youngest head coach in the country at the time. It took him three years at the Eagle helm to finish third in the nation and move onto an assistant coach at a Division-1 college: Northern Colorado. After a year, he sought a head coaching position and ended up in Midland, Texas, at Midland College, a coveted two-year college coaching job. While in Midland, he got married and had his second daughter.
However, after the death of his best friend and former assistant coach, Barton, at 31, plus a player striking him in the face and knocking him unconscious, Craig changed. He resigned his job at Midland in March 2013. A lifetime of on-and-off schizophrenia became forefront as Craig traveled the country and to Israel twice with his erratic behavior getting him in several skirmishes with the law. He spent time in a state hospital in Pueblo, Colo.
A threatening letter to USU Eastern Athletic Director Dave Paur last summer placed Craig in the state hospital in Provo, Utah, where he remains on medication and is receiving therapy.