From numerous championship sports teams to an extensive intramural program, sports are a significant part of campus life at Elizabethtown College. However, there was a time in Etown’s history when sports did not have a place on campus.
According to the College’s website, for 29 years after the College was founded, athletic programs were resisted because at Etown, sports “were not simply assumed to be an essential part of the life of a college.”
Additionally, it was thought any form of aggressive competition did not align with the Brethren value of peace upon which the College was founded.
It was not until the 1920s that sports found their place at Etown. The College participated in its first intercollegiate competitions in the 1928-1929 season after Ira R. Herr was hired as the first coach and athletic director.
In addition to Herr, students were a driving force in the inception of a sports program at the College. The first intercollegiate sports team to play for Etown was a football team formed by students which was not sanctioned by the college. The team lost all of its games and ceased to exist after its first season.
Later that year, Etown’s first men’s basketball team, led by Coach Herr, went 5-12, becoming the first official sports team at the College.
A women’s basketball team was also formed that season and competed under the guidance of Coach Harry Bower. It was uncommon for colleges to support women’s teams during this time, so the team had a limited number of opponents to play. Despite this, the College remained generally supportive of the women.
Men’s tennis and men’s track and field were both introduced in the spring of 1929. The tennis team played for a few seasons before ending the program and the track team competed in a handful of meets but did finish the its first season.
It was a slow and difficult start, but thanks to the persistence of Coach Herr and his athletes, the 1920s were essential in building the foundation for Etown’s currently thriving sports program.
Over the following decade, Etown expanded its sports program and exhibited improved and, eventually, winning records in various sports.