Physical education was required of all students during the early years of Massachusetts Agricultural College (MAC), enforced through required courses in the Department of Military Science and Tactics. Although intermural competition began shortly thereafter with a loss by the Wilder Baseball Association (Mass Aggies) to Amherst College 57-38, athletics were slow to catch on, due largely to a lack of student interest and faculty opposition. By 1909, a formal department of Physical Education and Hygiene was established to provide fitness training and coordinate the sports teams, with a separate women’s program following in 1940, however unlike most other universities, athletics were de-emphasized at UMass for many years, remaining more or less stagnant until the post-1960 expansion of the University.
This record group consists of annual reports, Athletic Board records, committee meeting minutes, policies, financial statements (1911-1921), histories, handbooks, Varsity “M” Club records, Hall of Fame records, athletic field records, correspondence and memoranda, curriculum and teacher training courses, colloquia and conference materials, schedules and scores (1871-1923), newsletters and newsclippings, media programs and guides, brochures and catalogs, pamphlets and fliers, and related materials.
As early as 1867, the Massachusetts Agricultural College (MAC) offered physical education in conjunction with the Department of Military Science and Tactics under the instruction of an army officer. In addition, beginning in 1868, athletics characterized as “physical activities” were available to the students. One of the first recorded athletic events a local agricultural fair, at which Amherst College defeated MAC’s first team, the Wilder Baseball Association (Mass Aggies) by a score of 57-38. By 1871, a small group of students had banded together under the direction of Joshua Ward, the College’s first official coach, to expand this new, on-campus activity concept to include the Boating Organization and College Navy. However, the success of this newly instituted Intercollegiate Program was short-lived, as by 1875 low student moral, a lack of class spirit, and virtually non-existent funds forced the handful of interested students into a new idea, that of intra-class play or, as it is known today, Intramurals. As in the past sporadic student efforts and an unapproving faculty continued to hamper the general acceptance of any organized activity, but despite these obstacles, derivatives of what we know today as fencing, boxing, skiing, riflery, canoeing, bicycling, tennis, and football all made their modest emergence and meager impact on the quality of campus life.
By the turn of the century, the student body at MAC had increased to 668, and cries were being heard for coaching, facilities, equipment, and some form of athletic organization. Faculty opposition was lessening and concentrated efforts were under way by the newly created MAC Alumni Athletic Association to drain and grade the College’s first official playing field. The Drill Hall was converted to accommodate indoor activity, athletic training tables for pre-game meals were initiated, and the first “letter sweater’ was given.
By 1904, the athletic program was introduced to the Commonwealth when the Boston Globe recognized and hailed an Aggie athletic team, giving the program new life and inspiring the following year’s baseball and football teams on to winning seasons. Unfortunately, however, student efforts to solidify this newly initiated interest and growth was soon to be again undermined, as President Kenyon Butterfield took a strong stand against “overemphasis” and any alumni intervention. His fear of overemphasis led to very little emphasis, and his conception that alumni involvement would lead to corruption left the hapless program floundering and directionless.
It wasn’t until 1909 that a formal department of Physical Education and Hygiene was established under the leadership of Dr. Percy L. Reynolds. The physical education program on the Massachusetts campus was largely the result of the efforts of three people: Curry S. Hicks (who would eventually guide the Department of Athletics and Physical Education over the next 38 years), Mrs. Adeline Hicks, and Harold M. Gore. Hicks, who had taken over the department from Percy L. Reynolds in 1911, had built a program which stressed the promotion of physical fitness through exercise in group play. Instruction had aimed at the development of skills which would be employed not only during the days of college but also in the period of adulthood to follow.
After creating his policies of “no under-the-table antics” for coaches, alumni contributions with “no strings attached”, and Program growth by means of student fees, Curry Hicks developed the Joint Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics to employ his new commandments. By 1918, the first admission had been charged for a contest, $375,000 was raised for a new field house, and the concept of a full-time year-round teacher/coach was introduced.
According to a 1933 report by Curry S. Hicks, the activities of Physical Education Department were organized under five major branches; Health Program, Athletics, Required Class Exercise, Teacher-Training, and the Women’s Department. The Department of Physical Education and Hygiene became the Division of Physical Education in 1935. Expansion of the physical education program started slowly in the 1940s and moved ahead rapidly after World War II. In 1940 an administrative reorganization created four departments where only one had existed before. Harold M. Gore was made head of the Department of Physical Education for Men, and Ruth Totman, head of the department for women. Dr. Ernest J. Radcliffe, who had been the college physician since 1930, headed the new Department of Student Health, and Curry Hicks, division head, was also director of Athletics.
The lack of focus in athletics at UMass ran counter to the trend witnessed elsewhere in American academe. While other land grant colleges improved, Athletics here remained largely stagnant. In 1954 Sidney W. Kauffman was brought in as head of the program for men. The Board of Trustees approved new curriculum and a major in Physical Education for men in 1954. These changes modernized the program of teacher training and attracted a larger number of students. It wasn’t until 1958, however, that the Trustees approved a major in Physical Education for women, and a women’s physical education building was completed in 1959. Under the leadership of Ruth Totman a new major curriculum was introduced for women in physical education.
At its annual meeting in Boston, on February 23, 1960, the Board of Trustees of the University of Massachusetts, redesignated the Division of Physical Education as the School of Physical Education. In 1993 the Board of Trustees eliminated the School of Physical Education and placed the responsibility for General Physical Education under Special Programs. Today the Director of Athletics reports directly to the Chancellor.
This record group consists of annual reports, Athletic Board records, committee meeting minutes, policies, financial statements (1911-1921), histories, handbooks, Varsity “M” Club records, Hall of Fame records, athletic field records, correspondence and memoranda, curriculum and teacher training courses, colloquia and conference materials, schedules and scores (1871-1923), newsletters and newsclippings, media programs and guides, brochures and catalogs, pamphlets and flyers, and related materials.
|2. Athletic Department|
|Polo Team||ca. 1896|
|Ski Team||1936-2007 (bulk 1988-2007)|
|Swimming and Diving||1940s-2007|
|Track and Field||1993-2007|
|Volleyball||1967-2007 (bulk 1986-2007)|
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Sports
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Athletic Board
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. School of Physical Education