|The ISU Athletic Tradition is rich and full of spectacular moments from John Wooden’s great basketball teams of the late 1940s to Bruce Baumgartner’s Olympic wrestling heroics of the 1980s. And don’t forget Larry Bird! These three names along with hundreds of others have helped form the memorable tradition of Sycamore Athletics. |
The origins of the athletic department at ISU can be traced back to the turn of the century when the school was called Indiana State Normal School. Arthur Westphal (1912-17) and Birch Bayh (1917-23) have been given the majority of credit for establishing the administrative framework for athletic programs at ISU to emerge competitively on the intercollegiate level. Arthur Strum was appointed head of the Men’s Physical Training Department as well as “Coach” and Director of Athletics in 1923. His charge was to establish intercollegiate teams in football, basketball, baseball and track. Men’s tennis, golf and a women’s varsity basketball program were introduced at this time as well.
From these modest beginnings, the athletic program has grown to what we know it as today—an NCAA Division I program offering programs in men’s and women’s basketball, football, baseball, softball, volleyball, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s indoor/outdoor track and field, and women’s soccer.
The success of the ISU programs has been consistent, but perhaps the most memorable time period came about in the late 1970s and early 1980s when Sycamore athletics clearly reached its zenith. Nineteen seventy-nine will always be a year talked about in Sycamore athletic lore. But that year offered more than Larry Bird’s march to the Final Four and eventual runner-up finish in the NCAA basketball tournament. The Sycamores also boasted the leading hitter in Division I baseball in Wallace Johnson.
The Sycamore football team posted an 8-3 record, and Kurt Thomas was ranked Number 1 in the world among male gymnasts. The early 1980s brought about heavyweight Bruce Baumgartner’s reign as the number-one heavyweight wrestler in the country. The women’s basketball team boasted the high-scoring efforts of Barbara Graves, later a finalist for the Harlem Globetrotters.
The Sycamore baseball program was also churning out pro prospects like Zane Smith, Dick Grapenthin, Bill Hayes, Tim Barrett, Brian Dorsett and Greg Baker. The football program continued its success with back-to-back 9-4 and 9-3 seasons, consecutive trips to the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs, and a number-one regular season ranking in 1984.
The tradition is rich and deep-rooted as the Sycamores march into the 21st century.