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Throwback Thursday: Getting in the Game

The New York State College for Teachers 1921 varsity basketball squad, at left, and one of the first intercollegiate softball teams of the late 1960s. (Photos courtesy of UAlbany Archives

ALBANY, N.Y. (October 12, 2017) — As with the majority of colleges and universities, it took a long time at the University at Albany for women’s athletic competition to reach full flower.

The student body was 90 percent female from the institution’s founding in 1844 into the 1930s, but intercollegiate sports through the nation was an all-male club, and the Normal School (1844-90), Normal College (1890-1914) and State College for Teachers reflected that. Still, photos show that young aspiring female educators got out on the fields of play with enthusiasm.

When the institution formed its first “athletic association” in 1909, it was for both men and women, and basketball teams for both were born (only men on the intercollegiate level). School sports “letters” were awarded to both sexes.

Yet, while women did get respect for their competitiveness, sexism wasn't completely absent. When the association divided by gender in 1911, the new names were the “Men’s” and “Girl’s” athletic associations, the latter title remaining until 1937, when some no-doubt insulted women had it changed to “Women’s."

Intramural or “inter-class” competition for women grew, soccer becoming a woman’s sport in 1922, swimming in 1925. The varsity basketball team played two games in 1924 against Russell Sage College, winning one, losing one. The next intercollegiate matches on record were by the swimming team in 1945, versus Vassar and Skidmore. Volleyball first became an intramural sport that year and a bowling league also began. A fencing team even existed for one year, 1946.

True intercollegiate schedules began a year after the five-year-old State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) started offering women’s sports in 1963. Basketball took the court first in 1964-65, coached by Claudette Delamater followed in the spring by field hockey, under Coach Lee Rhenish. Softball arrived in '67.

Much success in NCAA Division III and, after 1999, Division I sports, followed. It would no doubt bring some surprise but great delight to UAlbany's competitive ladies of the early 1900s.

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A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.