UAlbany MagazineUniversity at Albany

Ask Geoff

By Geoff Williams,
University at Albany Archivist

y the mid-1960s, the State University of New York at Albany had embraced a new mission – and the mascot, the “Pedwin” and the “Peds” nickname for SUNYA’s sports teams had to evolve to reflect the school’s new focus on liberal arts and graduate education. In 1965, Kathy Earle (now Kathleen Earle Fox, B.A.’67, M.S.W.’76, Ph.D.’96) submitted the winning entry to Albany’s mascot-naming contest, and the Great Dane – which represented “the grace, distinction and ‘strength’ of the new university campus” – became both the nickname of the sports teams and their symbol.

The new campus, designed by noted architect Edward Durell Stone, finally gave the school a Health and Physical Education Building, which opened in 1968. It included basketball, squash and handball courts; a swimming pool; weight rooms; and numerous other athletic facilities. Nearby were fields specifically designed for soccer, track, football, baseball and tennis.

The winds of change also brought a major expansion of athletics. In 1966 and ’67, respectively, field hockey and swimming joined women’s tennis, basketball and softball as SUNYA sports. All were established well before the passage of Title IX in 1972.

Frederick Brewington, B.A.’79, left, and Ray Gay were co-captains of the University football team in 1977.

In 1970, the new major sport at Albany was football, reintroduced as a club sport after an absence of 46 years. Football and basketball became mainstays of the school’s athletics program.

he 1990s saw dramatic changes to University athletics. The Recreation and Convocation Center – now called the SEFCU Arena – opened in 1992, giving UAlbany impressive new basketball facilities; a seating capacity of 4,800; an indoor track; and new weight rooms and training rooms. As a result of the move to Division II in 1995, wrestling, men’s tennis, and men’s and women’s swimming were eliminated from the University’s sports programs. Still, the move brought gains, too. The Great Danes won the Eastern Football Conference championship in 1997 – their first year in the conference – with a 27-20 victory over American International, then followed up the next year with another championship win. Division II play also saw victories in men’s cross country (consecutive New England Collegiate Conference championships and the ECAC in 1999), women’s field hockey (division title in 1998), women’s tennis (titles in ’96, ’97 and ’98) and women’s track and field (three NECC championships and two ECAC championships). Men’s track and field won NEC championships in ’97 and ’98, while the softball team won the conference championship in ’98.

As I wrap up this look back at University athletics, I’d like to thank Paul Kirsch ’51; Tom Clingan ’73, ’75; and UAlbany Sports Information Director Brian DePasquale for their research assistance.

Thank you, too, for reading. I hope you have enjoyed this review of athletics at UAlbany and its predecessor institutions over the past 150-plus years. See you at the game!