Feb. 26, 2014
By John Hirn
Ram Alumni Athletes Association
As the Rams’ women’s basketball team continues to lead the Mountain West Conference during the 2013-14 season, it is interesting to look back on the earliest days of CSU basketball and the first women’s basketball team.
In the fall of 1899, the students of Colorado Agricultural College formed a new athletic association to expand athletics at the school, bring back football and build a new athletic field. There were four sports added to the school’s register that fall with football, track and field and baseball for the men to play. The fourth sport was for the college women; the new game of basketball.
Invented in 1891 by James Naismith for women to play, basketball made its way to Fort Collins just eight years later as the Aggie women formed the first basketball team in school history in December of 1899. Although they had little time to practice, they did find the college armory the only place suitable to learn the basics of the game.
On January 3, 1900, the first basketball game in school history was played between the Colorado Aggie Women and the University of Colorado Women; known in the Collegian as the “Boulder Girls”. Although the CAC team lost in Boulder, it marked the first time in school history that women had played a sanctioned intercollegiate sport against another school. Professor McLain and Mrs. Killgore of the college accompanied the team to Boulder where they were treated “very cordially” according to the February 1900 Collegian.
The sport had taken on so much interest that the February Collegian also stated that Theodosia Ammons had become the first director of Women’s Athletics and thus the team’s mentor.
On March 30, 1900, the basketball team defeated the Greeley Normals (University of Northern Colorado today) by a score of 4-2. That was no mis-print, the score of the game really ended 4-2. It is believed to be the first basketball win in school history.
The largest problem faced by the Aggies Women’s Basketball team was that the school had no gymnasium to play their games. They typically practiced on the dirt of Durkee Field or on the south lawn of Old Main as seen in a 1902 photo. Although they enjoyed basketball, it became difficult to find the best places to play without a gym.
By December of 1900, the women continued to play basketball, but an illness among the women prevented them from having enough players to scrimmage one another. In January 1901, the men had been watching the women play this new game at Loomis Hall and decided to join them so that they could practice. Although they only practiced together, the enjoyment of this 10-year-old game prompted the men to form their own team for intramural play in the fall of 1901. It would not be until February of 1903 that the first men’s team would play in an intercollegiate game.
With their enjoyment of the game and athletics continuing to gain popularity at CAC, it was decided that the second expansion of Old Main would have a gymnasium built in its basement. The original classroom building of CSU built in 1878 received its first expansion in 1889 and finally its last expansion in 1903. The new gym was located in the basement of the second addition and remained as the school’s main gym for women until 1923 and men until 1926.
With the new gym came success for the women on the court. The 1902-03 team went 4-0-1 in basketball, winning the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of Colorado championship for basketball. It would be the first athletic championship in school history for men or women. The 1905 baseball team would be the first to win a championship for the men.
Now that CAC had both a men’s and women’s basketball team playing in the new addition of Old Main, there was excitement among the students and pride in their five athletic sports. (Football, Track, Baseball and men’s and women’s basketball.) Athletic director John McIntosh becomes the first men’s basketball coach in January of 1905.
That excitement turned to disappointment in 1909 when the faculty refused to allow both the men and women time to practice basketball. This forced the students and athletic department to cancel the 1908-09 season. When they canceled the season and could only play practice games, interest was lost in the game and the women did not reform their basketball team until 1974-75. From 1909 to 1974, women at CSU only played intramural basketball.
So as the 2013-14 Women’s basketball team strives for continued success, the history of the earliest women’s basketball teams lives on at CSU.
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