Four generations: The Nicoson legacy

By Jacob Musselman

Angus Nicoson coaches the Indiana Central University basketball team during a game. (Photo provided by University of Indianapolis Athletics)

Going back to the head football coach’s house and eating pizza with the coaching staff after football games isn’t something most kids get to experience. Brent Nicoson, the University of Indianapolis men’s and women’s golf coach, recalls riding with his dad, Dan Nicoson, who served as the assistant coach, to pick up physical game film after games and heading over to Greyhounds longtime football coach Bill Bless’s house and reviewing film. Brent and the Bless children would play together while their parents reviewed that night’s game until the late hours of the morning.

The legacy of the Nicoson family, and its relationship with UIndy athletics doesn’t start at post-game pizza parties. It starts back in 1938, when Angus Nicoson was a freshman basketball and baseball player at Indiana Central University, now UIndy. Angus was a letter-winner all four years of school at ICU and helped lead his 1941-42 team on a 30-game win streak. After graduating, he returned to campus to serve as the athletic director and coach. 

In his 30 years as a coach, he amassed nearly 500 wins, making him the winningest coach in Greyhounds history. Angus is also a member of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, former president of the NAIA from 1966-1967, a member of the United States Olympic Committee and most notable, the arena the Greyhounds battle in is named after him.

In 1977, “The Gym” was dubbed Nicoson Hall, in honor of Angus’s accomplishments at the university. Prior to the renaming, Nicoson Hall had no name. Since the rebrand, Nicoson Hall has hosted a plethora of events. It served as the wrestling venue for the 1987 Pan-American Games as well as a training camp site for the Indiana Pacers. The hall has also been the host for several practices for the Big Ten Tournament and Final Four. 

Angus was inducted into the UIndy Athletics hall of fame in 1986.

His son Dan was a quarterback for the Greyhounds in the mid to late 1960s and still holds the record for the longest touchdown pass in a game, throwing for 89 yards. After his playing career was over, Dan was an assistant to Bless, hence the pizza parties.

The third generation of Nicoson to make an impact on UIndy was Brent, the third generation of Nicoson to attend the university. Brent, a graduate of Beech Grove High School remembers being on campus, even at a young age.

“My earliest memory is going to some of the locker rooms while my grandfather was coaching,” Brent explained. “I got to know a lot of the players and they would always mess with me because I was a little kid. I would go into the locker room and wad up cups and put a trashcan in the corner while they were playing.”

After high school, Brent went to college in Illinois for one semester before returning to UIndy to finish college. Brent has been with the men’s women’s golf program for eleven years and in his time, he has a combined 12 GLVC Coach of the Year honors, 13 conference titles, 10 regional crowns and two national championships.

Although it would seem like it, Brents family history wasn’t the main deciding factor in his decision to play collegially there. He said being around the campus for so long, he just felt comfortable there.

Brent’s son, Ben, now a sophomore guard at UIndy became the fourth generation of Nicoson to don a Greyhounds uniform when he committed in November of 2018.

Greyhounds junior forward Ben Nicoson crosses up a Lake Erie defender at halfcourt during the second half of UIndy’s home-opener Nov. 12, 2021, at Nicoson Hall.

For Ben, being the fourth-generation of his family is special. The 4.0 GPA Center Grove High School graduate had two main schools recruiting him coming out of high school. Wabash and UIndy. Although Wabash was recruiting him heavily, similar to his dad, he felt more ‘at home’ on Hanna Avenue.

“Just to have my name on a gym is hard to comprehend,” Ben said. “I really don’t think about it too much. It’s a weird experience that many don’t come close to.

Ben said from an outside perspective, having your last name being on a gym you play in would come with an immense amount of pressure. 

“The only pressure I put on comes from myself and not really thinking about if my great-grandfather would approve of how I’m playing,” he said.

Thinking about the legacy, Brent says having the Nicoson name on the gymnasium isn’t any of his work, it’s his great-grandfathers.

“For me, it’s my grandfather’s name,” Brent said. “He did all the work to deserve that, not me.”