History of Athletics at Oglethorpe
Varsity athletics at Oglethorpe University started with basketball in 1916. During the next three years, baseball and football teams were organized by Coach Frank Anderson.
His contemporaries called Coach Anderson the Dean of Southern Baseball Coaches. The Stormy Petrels were defeating the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, University of Alabama, University of South Carolina, Dartmouth, Furman and many other major universities, while winning the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship in 1924 and in 1925.
Anderson developed some great players such as : Luke Appling, L. N. Turk, Clay Parrish, Greek George, Lefty Willis to name a few that reached major league baseball teams.
Oglethorpe's President, Dr. Thornwell Jacobs, determined to go big time, added Coach Harry Robinson, an All-American from Syracuse, New York as his football coach in 1925. He felt he could get national attention for Oglethorpe University.
Robinson proved his genius in football. He developed a slick military shift and a most deceptive double wing offense on the football field. Immediate success came his way with the Petrels winning the SIAA championship in 1924 and in 1925. Some fine athletes like Nutty Campbell, John Knox, Adrian Maurer, Parker Bryant, Wendell Crowe, Curley Fulton, Ike Cousins, Cy Bell and others led the Petrels in victories over Clemson, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Florida, while losing close games to Syracuse and Alabama.
John Patrick succeeded his former football coach in 1933. Coach Pat was a tireless worker but was confronted with a depression budget. His teams, though not as successful as earlier teams, were typical Stormy Petrels. They were tough, conditioned, disciplined and well-coached. Their schedule was still tough with Kentucky, Miami, Georgia, Auburn, The Citadel and Chattanooga included in the opposition.
Some of Coach Pat's outstanding players were: Little All-American Jack Puryear, Frank Metrick, Kimsey Stewart, Ernie Sheffield, Bot Owens, Fred Kelley and Cecil Moon. World War II curtailed all sports in 1942.
During the early 1930's, Coach Don Overton developed a good basketball team. He took a team including Ed Copeland, Jimmy Sullivan, Cecil Moon, Ben Forkner and Buster Fisher on a trip to play Penn State, George Washington, Long Island University and several other eastern powerhouse teams.
In 1947, Coach Swede Phillips arrived at Oglethorpe. He mixed some war veterans with young players and developed an outstanding basketball program, reaching the national playoffs in Kansas City in 1948.
The next outstanding coach arrived in the person of Garland Pinholster in 1956. With no budget and very few athletes, Pinholster gathered a few old athletes and friends of Oglethorpe and the first Booster Club was organized. In four short years, with the help of the Boosters and a small budget, the Petrels were again playing basketball in national tournaments in Kansas City and Evansville with players like Bobby Nance, Morris Mitchell, Ray Thomas, Tom Norwood, Bill Carter, Wayne Dobbs and John Guthrie to name a few.
Coach Pinholster, with his great wheel offense and a super hard-nosed defense, defeated powers like Rhode Island, Southern Illinois, St. Peters, Tennessee State, Jacksonville, Georgia Southern, New Hampshire and many others to compile a record of 184 against only 62 losses. He developed many outstanding players and also authored four best sellers.
Coach Bill Carter and Coach Tom Norwood followed their coach with success and reached regional playoffs in Norfolk, VA. And Louisville, KY.
During the early 1970's as a member of the NAIA, the program fell on hard times. There was even talk of dropping athletics at Oglethorpe. Instead, Dr. Manning Pattillo arrived as President in 1974 with the aim of developing a non-scholarship program similar to the Ivy Leagues. He hired Coach Jack Berkshire as Director of Athletics and men's basketball coach, with the goal of developing a broad-based program to compete against small liberal arts colleges with strong academics. His basketball program, confronted with high academic entrance requirements and no basketball scholarships, progressed so well that by 1979, he had a 23-7 season. (Bob Wolfe, Tom Seitz, Dennis Bailey, Larry Broadnax and Richard Johnson led this group), and by 1984 he had won 100 games reaching the national playoffs several years.
Coach Berkshire's 1982-83 team sported three Academic All-Americans in basketball - Jay VanderHorst, John Marshall and Steve Oliphant , the first time three players on the same team were so honored.
In 1988, Oglethorpe's athletic program opened a new chapter in its history by joining the NCAA at the Division III level. The program expanded to meet Division III requirements and to enhance its chances to be accepted into a quality Division III conference. Adding five sports in one year, Oglethorpe soon attracted the attention of the College Athletic Conference, a conference of top small private liberal arts colleges in the South. Oglethorpe was invited to join the conference provided they also add baseball and women's basketball. In 1991, Oglethorpe became a member of the newly named Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference.
Under Berkshire's leadership, the program increased from six sports to the current 14 sports sponsored. Gender equity was achieved during this growth with seven women's sports currently offered.
The men's basketball team captured the University's first SCAC championship in 1994. This team earned a spot in the NCAA national playoffs, as did the 1995 team which finished second in the conference race. Berkshire's 22-year career as basketball coach saw him reach 315 wins in the 1997-98 season.
The women's basketball team enjoyed a historic four-year run from 2006-09, advancing to the school's first-ever NCAA Division III Final Four and securing its first-ever conference championship in women's basketball during the stretch. They advanced to the NCAA Tournament all four years and went to the Sweet 16 in back-to-back seasons (2008-09). After finishing as the SCAC runner-up in 2008, they went on an incredible run through the NCAA Tournament to advance to the semifinals. They went on to finish fourth in the nation. The next year, they captured the SCAC championship and advanced to the sectionals again before falling in the Sweet 16. The squad was led by two All-Americas, guards Katie Kulavic and Anna Findley, both of whom have their numbers retired in Dorough Field House.
Oglethorpe's baseball teams have consistently been a solid team in recent years, normally finishing in the middle of the conference standings.
For the 2012-13 season, the conference moved to the Southern Athletic Association (SAA) with several other former SCAC members and an in-state newcomer. The SAA is an eight-member league which includes: Berry College in Mount Berry, Georgia; Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Alabama; Centre College in Danville, Kentucky; Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas; Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi; Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee; and the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. Oglethorpe takes part in SAA competition for baseball, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's cross country, men's and women's golf, men's and women's lacrosse, men's and women's soccer, men's and women's tennis, men's and women's track and field, and women's volleyball.
The men's golf team, under the tutelage of Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA) Hall of Fame head coach Jim Owen, has turned into one of the best Division III programs in the country. They've won two national championships, the only two in any sport in the school's history. The first came in 2009, when the team rode an individual-medalist performance by Olafur Loftsson to the trophy. They followed that up with a 20-stroke victory in 2012 as freshman Anthony Maccaglia took home individual medalist honors and led the squad to its second title. In addition, the program has taken home a total of 12 conference championships spanning their time in the SCAC and SAA.
The men's soccer program, led by head coach Jon Akin, has reached prominence in recent years, winning conference championships in three of the last five seasons. They took home the last SCAC men's soccer championship that Oglethorpe competed for in 2011, marking the school's first soccer championship. With it, the team received an automatic bid to the program's first-ever NCAA Tournament. Then, the team came back with its first SAA championship in 2013, winning three games in less than 48 hours at the SAA Championship in Conway. They earned the outright SAA regular season title in 2015, compiling a 10-3-3 overall record and a 5-1-1 mark in conference play.
The Oglethorpe men's tennis team added to the conference title haul in 2015, as well, earning their first conference crown of any type when they earned a three-way share of the SAA regular season title by handing conference power Sewanee their first-ever SAA loss in the four-year history of the league. They finished 14-6 overall on the season and 6-1 in conference play.
The university's most outstanding contributors to its athletic history have been inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame. Over 100 individuals have been elected and plaques honoring these individuals are displayed in Dorough Field House.
From its beginning in 1916 to the current edition, the athletic teams of Oglethorpe have had to compete against teams with greater talent, stronger manpower, larger coaching staffs and larger student bodies, but like their mascot, "The Stormy Petrel" (pronounced Pea-trel), which can fly at sea against the fiercest storms and strongest winds, the Oglethorpe athletic teams fight hard to overcome these obstacles.