Basketball was invented by Dr. James Naismith in 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts. By 1892, it was quickly adapted for women by Senda Berenson, the director of physical education at Smith College. From the start, the game was popular among girls and women; however, the rules were often modified so that the game was different from that played by boys and men. The first official intercollegiate women's game was played between Stanford and Berkley in 1896, and by 1901 the first official rule book was published with a standard set of rules for women. While there are early records of women's games being played between colleges, the majority of schools did not play outside competition. Instead, they formed class teams that competed against each other and were organzied and managed by the students themselves.
Basketball appears to have been introduced to men at the college by Harry C. Meyer, the Director of Gymnasium at Wooster, during the winter of 1893-1894. By December of 1901, the first university basketball team was formed and began to play games with outside competition.
For women, an early reference in the 1897 Index indicated that Alice Jones had made herself known as a champion of basket-ball. A small drawing of a basket and a figure in what appear to be bloomers accompanied that piece. On March 20, 1903, the girls gave an exhibition basket ball game at the old gymnasium. The Wooster Girls beat the Hoover Cottage Girls 30-4. The Index mentioned that the girl's teams began practicing in the fall term and that they "enjoyed their contest as much as the limited facilities would permit..." The drawing above illustrating that contest was in the Calendar of Events. Individual head shots of many of the women who played in that exhibition can be found in the digital collection. The teams are named on p.97 of the Index (1904).
By the 1904-05 class year, the women had begun to organize class teams to play one another. In particular, this Junior class team (1906) were victorious in a tournament against the Freshman and the Preps, as the sophomores and seniors were unable to organize teams for their classes. Photos of all three class teams appear in the Index (1906) with identifying names and positions. What is most interesting about this section is that the women were playing an unmodified five player game and that they were being coached by male classmates, both very unusual factors at this time. Class basket ball teams continued to be formed for the next couple years, but seem to disappear until the new gymnasium is built in 1912. Shortly thereafter, class teams begin to be formed again.
Sports for women during the 1920's were run by students for students and overseen by the Women's Physical Education Department. This photo shows the first Athletic Council pictured in the 1920 Index. The six women pictured were responsible for the six sports offered to the Wooster women during this era: hockey, track, hiking, basketball, swimming and tennis. Of these sports, basketball and hockey were seen as major sports and the other four were seen as minor sports. Each member of the Athletic Council served as the overall manager for one of the sports, and under that manager were four managers representing each of the class years. That manager's job was to organize tryouts, select the class team, and run practices for her team. Class teams continued to be the major form of competition for women's basketball well into the 1930's. Women could earn chevrons for participation in a specific sport or a "W" for their overall participation in sports.
For the first time, during the 1923-1924 class year, the women chose two All Star basketball teams from the sophomore, junior and senior class teams. They divided those women into the Black Team and the Gold Team and played an All Star game. From that game, they further selected the best basketball players and named them to an Honorary Varsity. While this team never played a game, this was the highest honor that a young women could achieve in athletics at the College of Wooster during this era. The Black and Gold Teams and Honorary Varsity continued through the 1930's. Intramural teams did expand to include not only class teams but also dorm teams as the college moved ito the 1930's.
By the 1940's, social clubs began to provide intramural teams for the team sports and dominated many of those competitions. In addition, for the first time, playdays and sport days began to be mentioned. Playdays were when players from several colleges got together and mixed with each other to form teams to compete in one or more sports. Sport days allowed members from the same school to play together on a team representing their college. These often consisted of All Star teams made up of players from different intramural teams, or a club team in a particular sport. The sport team often played only one or two games a year. The earliest contest mentioned for women's basektball was against Akron College in March of 1941 (Index, 1941). This photo was the first featuring the Wooster women playing in a game against another school. A Wooster All Star team took on Lake Erie College at home, winning 46-42 (Index, 1944).
Club Teams, Varsity Program (1960's)
Formation of Conferences and NCAA Play
Highlights, Top Players, HOF