Part of the Pack

Juggling Multiple Roles

As sports at Oregon were shaping up during the early 20th century, prominent coaches such as Bill Hayward, Hugo Bezdek and Janet Woodruff juggled many duties. The luxury of leading one sport was not a possibility. The roles these leaders played reflected the position of athletics throughout the country. In these early days, education was the first priority, giving sports less importance.

Managing Multiple Duties

Best known for his legendary track and field leadership, Bill Hayward also served as an athletic trainer, assisted the football team, and coached the basketball team (1909-1913, 1917-1918). Hugo Bezdek served in a variety of duties as well. He assumed the head coaching duties in baseball from 1914-1917, in football from 1913-1917, and in basketball from 1906-1907 and 1913-1917. Howard “Hobby” Hobson, worked at the University from 1936 to 1947, and led both the baseball and basketball teams during his tenure. In his 11 years of coaching, Hobson earned eight Northern Division baseball titles, and guided the men’s basketball team to its first and only NCAA Championship Title, compiling a 212-124 (.631) record during his career.

A few select leaders, such as Ruth Guppy, Dean of Women, and Janet Woodruff, Head of the Service Program, handled the women’s coaching roles during the early days. They juggled their secondary roles as coaches with their primary duties of overseeing the educational side of the collegiate experience. These women were constant advocates for women’s athletics, fighting for funding, and “inventing” new streams of revenue to support their causes. For instance, Woodruff charged swim cap rental fees at Gerlinger Hall and used the proceeds to buy uniforms and equipment and to cover travel expenses for the field hockey team. Creativity was a key trait in leading the women’s athletic endeavors.

Inching toward Change

Leo Harris greeting Len Casanova, 1951
Leo Harris greeting Len Casanova, 1951

The trend of coaches leading multiple areas continued well into the mid-1900s. For instance, University of Oregon’s John Warren assumed coaching duties for football, basketball, and track and field during his time at Oregon during the late 1940s. Prior to World War II, the major sports, such as football and basketball, were designated a faculty and/or staff person to serve as the coach, while the minor sports were led by the team captains.

In 1936 an Athletic Board was formed to take control of sports from the ailing, bankrupt Associated Students Organization. Although the board made ample progress in the next decade, it dissolved in 1947, turning over its administrative duties to Leo Harris, the first official Athletic Director on campus, in 1948. This shift in authority inevitability led to an increase in the support staff required to maintain intercollegiate athletics.

Fun Fact

In 1942, the Pacific Coach Conference (PCC) ruled that first-year freshmen could be permitted to play varsity intercollegiate athletics upon the discretion of the coach(es), giving coaches the ability to dictate their team structures. The PCC had made the rule to ban first-year students from varsity teams in 1915.