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Sports through the years: A look back at COCC’s athletic activities 1950s – 1960s

William James

The Broadside

 

Central Oregon Community College has a long, storied and colorful sports history dating all the way back to the 1950s, when the Broadside was first being published on a mimeograph.

Back then, there were no Bobcats, there was no Intramural Sports Program, not even COCC Club Sports and Intramural Director Bill Douglass.

In this, part one of a three part series, I will be covering the decades from 1950 until present day, thanks are due to the COCC library for allowing me to look through old Broadside newspapers, which they have carefully archived, for the information I’m about to share. I hope you enjoy it!

1950s

The 1950’s at COCC, which also saw the debut of the Broadside and the organization of a sports dance at the Armory, which cost 50 cents a couple, was dominated chiefly by basketball which saw the rise of the COCC Nitehawks.

They were first organized in 1953, and was considered equal to one P.E. class credit.

In late 1954, Claude Cook, who was the sports director at the time, began to pit the COCC freshmen in basketball games against local high school teams as sort of a ‘test run’ for an eventual basketball league he intended to organize.

1955 saw the formation of a ping pong tournament and a tennis league in lieu of basketball as enrollment slipped slightly and enthusiasm for basketball did as well.

However in late 1955, along with the introduction of bowling as part of the sports program, basketball enjoyed a resurgence thanks to heightened enrollment.

As many as 28 people signed up for the basketball team, which eventually named Jim Nau, from Oregon State College, as its head coach.

Finally in 1955 COCC crushed the Air Force 43-6 in Flag Football, a sport they dominated until the end of the 50’s.

In 1956, basketball player Jim Crowe set the individual scoring record for COCC by lighting up the Oregon Technical Institute, scoring 34 points in the game and obliterating the record previously held by Tom May.

Also, COCC stunned junior varsity rivals Portland State in back-to-back basketball games, capping off a winning season.

In 1957, the legendary Harlem Globetrotters visited Bend to play against the Honolulu Surfriders at a local high school gymnasium.

The Nitehawks also had another fantastic start, winning four straight games.

1957 also saw a full page profile story being dedicated to many sports stars who were departing COCC to transfer to other schools.

Coach Frank Conte introduced a fastbreak offense, the first of it’s kind in collegiate play.

1958 – Rough times for the Nitehawks as they suffered a 4-16 season, which included a 110-60 beat down by Southern Oregon.

On the lighter side, a basketball game played entirely by donkeys was showcased at the junior high school.

Talk about making an ass out of yourself.

Later on in ‘58, an editorial called for the organization of an intercollegiate sports program calling for a varied sports approach, rather than just an emphasis on basketball.

This is countered by an editorial later in the year suggesting overwhelming support for the squad.

In 1959, basketball slipped again, this time suffering from low attendance.

An editorial slams students that voted for the basketball team to be formed, but did not show up to their games.

In that year, an amateur mountain climbing group forms, thanks to Professor of Literature Ralph May.

And finally, the Intramural Sports program was first formed at the end of 1959, at the behest of student government.

1960s

Starting in 1960, the Intramural Sports program began to gain steam as the funding for the group was renewed by student government.

The golfing team immediately benefited as they were covered in early March, participating in a practice session lead by local golf pro Dick Geser.

The following year, Dick Hoge revives the COCC bowling program, and the Intramural club organizes a ping pong tournament played by most of the student body.

In 1962, bowler Tom Powell throws a perfect game in a non-league match making it another historic year for COCC sports.

It was pointed out by the Broadside in this issue that had Powell bowled 300 in a league game, he would have brought home a whopping $200.

Also in 1962, COCC planned to add a team to the citywide basketball league.

The Ski and Wrestling teams formed in the early part of 1963, with the summer seeing a rise in popularity from the swimming team, headed by Mr. Speth.

The next year, the wrestling team suffered a setback as the season got cancelled due to lack of interest.

However, in basketball, the newly christened COCC Bobcats lost a classic to Oakridge Academy, losing 70-68.

Finally in 1965, the ski team also suffered a slump as the summer months set on, starting to suffer from a lack of interest that seemed to plague most of the intramural sports at the time.

On the flip-side, six exemplary student athletes travelled to Seattle to represent COCC at the Intramural Games Conference.

At the end of the year the girls showed they could play ball with the boys as they defeated the COCC faculty 8-6 in a wildly entertaining game that saw two of the men’s basketball players don wigs to help the female side even the odds.

With the amount of historic happenings in the 1950s and 60s at COCC, it is plain to see that sports on this campus started off with the loudest bang possible. Keep an eye out for the second part of this three part series, where the 1970s and the 1980s will be covered.

You may contact William James at wjames@cocc.edu

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