Drew Athletics and academics merged for me in my first week as a student in 1935. Skipping my 4 pm biology lab, I jogged towards the gym to get my spikes, glove, and someone to hit me a few grounders. Fate tripped me immediately. Walking briskly toward me on the narrow path was Sherman P. "Doc" Young, professor of Greek and Latin and baseball coach. Doc blocked the path, clutched the front of my sweater roughly and asked: "Sonny, aren't you supposed to be in Dr. Green's lab?" I could not deny it. I couldn't even gulp affirmation. "Get back there," Doc ordered, "and if I ever hear you are skipping classes I will kick you from here to Hoboken." I accepted his implicit advice that if I expected to play baseball I had to attend classes. Cutting up a frog was infinitely preferred to another eloquent Greco-Roman motivational talk.
Sports for undergraduates were thin on campus in 1935; while the seminary had intramural football, only baseball, basketball, fencing, and tennis intercollegiate sports were offered to undergraduates, all student inspired and partially student coached. In 1935, young Harry Simester arrived to become athletic director, basketball coach, and physical education instructor. Athletics were about to mature in a gymnasium redolent of pre World War I.
There are now 18 Drew athletic teams, equally divided between meen and women. Each has its own coach, and I am assured that every team has equal access to practice areas, budgets, and respect. There are neither major nor minor sports. Could any sport be minor if a program lives up to the drew philosophy that athletics are meant to provide physical outlets for hardworking minds rather than glory for athletes or sneaker endorsements for coaches?
Doc Young's brusquely equivocating philosophy dominated my mind when I met last November with Athletic Director Connee Zotos and about a dozen Drew coaches to explore whether rigid academic standards and on-the-field honor still meant anything in a time when "win at any cost" thinking dominates national big-time intercollegiate athletics.
We gathered in the Drew Athletic Hall of Fame in marvelous Simon Forum, monumental evidence of how far athletics have come at Drew. On the way to the Hall of Fame, I peeked in on the Olympic-sized swimming pool, refurbished Baldwin Gym, the squash courts, the exercise room filled with exotic machinery, the huge field house, indoor running track, and the generous office space afforded to the coaching staff.
Hall of Fame sketches of past Drew University athletes and coaches gazed down on us. Doc Young's portrait looked at me, as did the clear eyes of classmate Joe Behrman C'38, who was, and is, for me the quintessential Drew scholar-athlete, graduating with honors and signing a contract to pitch for the St. Louis Browns in the American League.
I asked the exploratory question: Did every coach fully understand Drew's academic/athletic philosophy before he or she applied here? All did, or thought they did. All knew it was a "tough" school to get into, with a reputation for believing students attend this college to learn across a broad spectrum.
Drew's coaches are first and foremost teachers; athletics at Drew are thus an extension of classroom teaching. Lessons are to be learned on the playing field- and if athletics and physical training are not learning experiences, what are they doing in a college catalog? Could anything be more logical?
Drew athletic traditions date almost to the founding of the University in 1867. Theologians first played tennis, croquet, and quoits, then football and basketball as they were invented- football in 1869 and basketball in 1891. In the fall of 1888, students hailed the University's first gymnasium, a small two-story wooden building just south of Embury Hall, equipped with "the most approved apparatus recommended by professional gymnasts to develop every part of the body."
In 1910, trustees opened red brick Bowne Gymnasium (*still revealed in the north wall of F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theater). The seminary's 1914 handbook preached: every man should be regarded as a grind who does not appear in the gymnasium at least three days a week, and grinds, we might add, do not possess the Drew idea that every man should strive for uniform self-developement...
Bowne gym, the cow pasture-cum-baseball field, and the student built tennis courts become for all practical purposes the college athletics facilities after 1928. Far more important, the first College catalog contained the bedrock philosophy of undergraduate athletics. Written by 28 year old acting dean William Pearson Tolley, the credo admitted that "social and extra-curricular activities have some place in student life." But, Tolley wrote, "Brothers College would prefer not to attract the student whose chief purpose in attending college is social enjoyment or participating in intercollegiate sports."
Time brought increading numbers of women to campus. They shared (more or less) all facilities, including wretchedly small and hopelessly outdated Bowne gym. Only a misogynist would have deemed it fit for women students or adequate for even a de-emphasized athletic program for either sex. The athletics program increased slowly during the last half of the 20th century. Men's soccer became autumn's sport in 1954, and the $900,000 Donald R. Baldwin gymnasium-natatorium opened in 1958. Drew recruiters for the first time could suggest to prospective athletes that they would be competing in reasonably up-to-date style.
There were women;s sports up through the 1960s, of course, but to say women equally shared facilities, coaching, and budgets at Drew or anywhere els, verged on the worst of academic hypocrisy. Then, in 1972, Title IX exploded all traditional thinking about a comprehensive women's sports program. Title IX, part of a clarification of the Civil Rights Law of 1964, was simple, terse, and direct: No persons in the United States shall on the basis of sex be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal funds.
Accepting Title IX was relatively easy in The Forest, where undergraduate athletics were tolerated if they advanced or under girded the academic process. Full implementation of Title IX would require a huge upgrading of facilities and athletics coaching staff. Drew was about to leave behind forever its trappings of mediocre facilities.
With strong backing from then President Paul Hardin and Director of Athletics Richard Szlasa, the initiative for the $2.1 million field hockey complex came from Maureen Horan, Drew's vigorously successful field hockey coach in the 1980s and currently. She brought together the University and the United States Field Hockey Association. The Association gave $500,000; Drew contributed the rest for the $2.1 million lightedm synthetic surfaced field and grandstand.
Drew's 10th president, Thomas H. Kean, completed the cycle by dedicating the field hockey (soccer and lacrosse) field and helping to raise the funds to build the Simon Forum and Athletic Center. With facilities dramatically in place, Drew needed to maintain the tradition of a forceful, accomplished athletic director to keep the program on track. A nationwide search in 1994 for that person found the new director, not at a huge national university, but at modestly small Hobart and William Smith College in Geneva, New York.
Connee Zotos, Drew's tall, slender, and intense athletic director since 1994, rides hard on the athletic program as if she were still close to the open ranges of Texas, where in 1988 she earned her Ph.D. in educational administration from the University of Texas. Zotos knows that she "missed out" as a student athlete in the increasing amenities under Title IX. She was awarded her B.S. degree in physical education and health at Glassboro (now Rowan) State University in 1975, received her master's degree at the University of Colorado (intending to be a college coach), and turned to broader goals with her doctorate.
Drew hired Zotos after three interviews. She was asked if she would coach as well as assume the duties of director of athletics. "I said, 'Absolutely not!' " Zotos recollects. "There are too many opportunities for conflicts of interest, perceived or actual." Convinced that she and Drew made a good fit, Zotos left an attractive post as director of athletics at William Smith and recreation and wellness coordinator at Hobart to accept the challenge of stabilizing an established athletics program in a splendidly equipped, academically oriented university.
Drew's athletic program was in a "growth stage," Zotos recalls, "with little predisposition for what it should or could be." That had nothing to do with academic standards: "I am comfortable in a school with high standards and at ease in a university where athletes are an integral part of the student body life rather than set off as idols." Her first move was to encourage team equity, meaning equal team treatment in everything, including budgets. To facilitate parity, each team has its own coach who is an expert in his or hew own field, with responsibilities for the team in season and out of season.
Each coach is evaluated annually, by Zotos, by their peers, and by the team members who are their charges. Coaches are expected to recruit young men and women who must meet the university's exceptionally high admissions standards. Each recruit is urged to visit the campus, stay overnight, go to classes, see "the whole drew." Coaches are also expected to keep track of athletes to ward off academic or personal problems.
Mark Coleman, who became Drew's basketball coach in 1995, had experienced 11 years if Division I ethics, most at the highest college basketball level. He talks frankly, if guardedly, about the despairs of Division I. "Most of the basketball players I met in Division I had little desire to attend classes or to do anything but play basketball," Coleman says. "Most of them hoped to become professionals. One year, I had a student player whom I personally walked to class to make sure he stayed the whole hour. That's when I said enough is enough."
Drew provides ample opportunity to teach and to coach. Coleman believes Division III athletes "play for the love of the sport. They won't be in the pros. They play for camaraderie and to win as a team." Trhee other coaches, Christa Racine (women's soccer). Lenny Armuth (men's soccer), and Ira Miller (men's and women's tennis)recount varied Division I experiences that make them pleased to be in a university situation where there is no equivocation about academics.
Racine played soccer at a Northeastern state university, where, shesays, "many players went to class only to stay eligible. Out of the five membrs of my senior class, I was the only one to graduate in four years." She continues: "I am not saying that all my players have their priorities perfectly straight, but they all value the education they are receiving. Over seven years, my players have varied in many ways, academically, athletically, economically, and socially. The one common thread is that each of them is focused on where she wants to be going."
Armuth has essentially the same memories of casual attention to academics in his men's soccer career at the same university as Racine. At Drew, he recognizes that the University must compete for but may not get vaunted "athletes with high skills and speed. But I know those who do enroll here are likely to be here for all four years." His attitude brings success: Armuth's soccer team earned invitations to the '98 and '99 NCAA Tournaments.
Miller found on another Division I campus that very few academic policies, except for eligibility standards, filtered down to the coaches. "Certainly the university has a concern for academics, but each of us had to place the emphasis. At Drew, you always hear about academics. The message is always there."
Maureen Horan, as close to being a modern sports icon as anyone at the University, came to Drew in 1980, fresh out of Trenton State College (now The College of New Jersey). There she had helped lead TSC to national titles in field hockey and lacrosse. She would coach Drew's existing field hockey team and start a women's lacrosse program.
She built powerful teams, but none more dominant than her 1985 women's lacrosse team. It finished undefeated in 14 games and went to the final four in national Division III competition. If nothing else entitles her to special attention, it must always be remembered that on April 26, 1985, her lacrosse team earned a 6-5 win over Trenton State. the appalled Trenton players, according to Horan, "broke their sticks and threw them away."
Horan is in a position to compare the past (as in the early 1980s) with the present. "When I came here," she jokes, "Drew's colors were still green and gold." She left coaching for nearly a decade and returned in 1998 to resume coaching field hockey. If asked to cite then and now differences, the facilities stand out in hew view point, but she also believes that the academic emphasis is not different from what it was in the 1980s. Woman are important in the Drew athletic scheme. They represent 58 percent of the entire student body and 52 percent of all students participating in athletics. Most women's teams were spawned by the urgency of Title IX in the 1970s and 1980s.
Student athletes at Drew are warned from day one that failure in class means suspension and possible expulsion from the team. Zotos tells them, their coaches tell them, and upperclassmen members impress recruits with the need to budget their time and efforts to prove to student-athletes that the Drew academic experience is preparation for life after college.
There is attrition at Drew, but it surprised me to learn that in the class of 1998, 24 percent of those who entered as freshmen did not graduate with their class. Against that, only 12 percent of athletes did not graduate. (Nearly all of those who left transfered to other colleges, a not unusual happening at any university.) Drew has a strong program of guidance and aid to students who are bewildered by college life or overwhelmed by studies. That mechanism is buttressed for athletes by coaches and teammates who become a strong backup.
Tammy Evans, a young coach who has completed two seasons as softball coach, has caught on to the system. She holds individual meetings with the players every other week to discuss exams, papers, time management, and strategies for finals. "I believe," she says, "that the goals we set off the field will help us obtain individual goals in the field."
each year since Zotos became athletics director, a crowd of several hundred people- the athletes, the coaches, some administrators, and a few old grads- gather in early May at the Hilton Hotel in Parsippany to celebrate the seasons just past. Bill Hosking, the beloved equipment manager, beams to thunderous applause, long-time supporters like Helen Simester and the late Larry Horner present awards in their names (or in Helen's case, her husband's name), and Connee Zotos and the coaches extoll Drew athletes and academic traditions.
It is an evening of celebration of the Drew student-athlete, partially summarized in wins and losses, but more observed in the long lists of academic All-Americans, confrence awards, and the other things that victory brings. It comes as no surprise that year after year, Drew's athlete population maintains a grade point average as good or better than Drew's entire undergraduate student averages, generally between a 3.1 znc 3.3 grade points.
Does it really matter whether you win or lose? Zotos and her staff are concerned with wins and losses; one of Zotos' first acts as athletic director was to tell coaches that she expected every team to strive to be "more than .500 in wins and losses." That was achieved once, in 1995, when every "head-to-head" team (cross country and equestriam meets are individual, not head-to-head competition), surmounted the break even point. In all other years, about three-quarters of the teams reach the coveted mark.
It all adds up to the following ideal set down in 1928 before the first undergraduates set foot on campus. Drew athletes from the start expected neither special attention nor exclusive privileges. They also expected to win at every opportunity. Nothing has changed, really, in the 72 years since sports at the College begam. The academic rigors are just as difficult. Coaches then cared as much about their players as coaches now do. Doc Young showed me that. The major difference is now that there are about 20 clones of Doc, making sure that all students study first and play later.
Courtesy of Drew Magazine. Article originally appeared in the Winter 2000 edition, by John T. Cunningham C;38