Titan Tradition

Although Westminster College was founded in 1852, varsity athletics at Westminster did not become prevalent until 1884.

According to History of Westminster College: 1852-1992 by Paul Gamble, "1884 saw the organization of a college band and a college baseball association. The baseball association might be considered the beginning of organized athletics at the College. In the early years of the organization many of the games were intramural contests between class and club teams, and the games played by the college nine were mostly against community or high school teams, with an occasional contest against Grove City or Geneva College."

A large article in a 1911 edition of Westminster's student newspaper, the Holcad, describes the first Westminster football game in the fall of 1891. According to the book Winning: 100 Years of Westminster Football by English professor Dr. William McTaggart, "those who saw the game decided then that football was the "most stupidest" game ever seen."

Fortunately, the campus' opinion of athletics grew steadily over the next century. Early records show the origins of the men's basketball program dating around the 1897-98 season. Athletic teams at Westminster began to be called the Titans in 1926, when Holcad sportswriter Irving L. "Bud" Mansell used the term to describe the basketball team. Coach John Lawther took a calculated risk and benched seven returning lettermen to build a young team around a new system. Using tall men and a new zone defense, Westminster finished 10-5, its best record in seven years. The tall players on that team were the original "Towering Titans."

While football, basketball and baseball have long been the most popular men's sports at the College, the athletic department has steadily grown in size over the years. Track & field, cross country, swimming and golf have all origins dating back over half a century. Soccer had a brief six-year stint at the school from 1946-51 (coached by future Titan gridiron coach Harold Burry), only to return in the 1980s.

Women's sports at Westminster, despite starting much later than men's sports, have grown at a considerable rate, particularly in the last two decades. Basketball, volleyball and tennis, although with origins dating back to the early 1900s, all became varsity sports in the 1970s, followed by softball, swimming and cross country in the 1980s. The addition of women's soccer as a varsity sport in 1998-99 and women's golf and track & field in 2001-02 gives Westminster 20 varsity teams (10 men, 10 women) heading into the 21st century.

The results have been spectacular, with the College claiming one of the top small college athletic departments in the nation. The Titan football program posted an unprecedented six NAIA Division II National Championshps from 1970-94, while basketball holds the title of the All-Time Winningest Program in NAIA history with over 1,300 wins. The men's and women's swimming programs have combined to produce four national champions. More recently, the women's soccer program was a big success in its recently completed inaugural varsity season.

Following is a look back at some of the most influential athletes, coaches and events at Westminster College since its athletic origins in the 1880s:

Athletic Timeline

1884 A baseball association is formed, the first organized sports activity at Westminster College.

1891 The first football game takes place, a 42-0 loss to Geneva College.

1897 The first basketball game is held, with Westminster posting a 21-4 win over Geneva.

1902 A track relay team consisting of Audley Stewart, Armour Veazey, Roland Deevers, Paul Yourd, Hugh Lambie and James Briceland captures the mile relay event at the National Intercollegiate Field Meet in Philadelphia.

1909 The basketball team is abolished at the College because it "interfered with scholastic work," according to History of Westminster College. It was reinstated in 1917.

1915 DeOrmand "Tuss" McLaughry named physical director and coach at the College. He went on to coach Westminster football for four seasons, then later coached at Amherst, Brown and Dartmouth while helping found the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA). The AFCA annually gives the Tuss McLaughry Award to members for the highest distinction of service to others.

1921 A new gymnasium (now known as Old 77) is dedicated on June 7. It provides a basketball court, track balcony, offices, locker rooms and a place for a swimming pool, which was added later. The gym was completed in a year's time at a cost of $145,000.

1926 John Lawther joins the College as basketball coach. He would lead the squad to a record of 167-34 over the next 10 seasons. Lawther would later become head coach at Penn State, among other places.

1926 The nickname "Titans" is applied to the varsity sports teams at the College, penned by Holcad writer Irving L. "Bud" Mansell in reference to the tall basketball team.

1934 Titan basketball star Wes Bennett finished the season as the top scorer in the nation.

1934 Westminster made basketball history by playing in the first-ever college basketball doubleheader at Madison Square Garden in New York City, upsetting highly-touted St. John's University 37-33.

1937 Grover Washabaugh joins the staff as physical education director and head football and basketball coach. Washabaugh would go on to lead the Titan basketball squad from 1937-56, posting a 296-129 record.

1941 The Titan basketball squad posted a 20-1 regular season and advanced to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) in New York City.

1943-45 The football program is suspended due to World War II. These are the only years the College has not sponsored a football program from 1891 to present day.

1946 Harold Burry joins the college as a coach, handling the new men's soccer team. A New Castle native and 1935 Westminster graduate, Burry would go on to leave an indelible mark on Titan athletics as football coach (1952-71), athletic director (1961-77) and as the coach of nearly every other sport at the College at one time or another.

1949 Another future Westminster coaching legend, C.G. "Buzz" Ridl joins the athletic staff as a coach. A 1942 graduate of the College, Ridl went on to serve as head basketball coach (1956-68) and athletic director (1977-85) at Westminster, in addition to other coaching duties which included baseball and golf.

1950 The basketball squad posts a 24-3 regular season mark and earns its first NAIA national tournament bid. The Titans fall in the second round of the tournament in Kansas City.

1950 Memorial Field, the current home of the Titan football squad, hosts its first season of games.

1951 Memorial Field House was completed at the south end of campus. Named to honor the College's war dead, the new Field House can seat up to 3,500 people for basketball games. The old gymnasium is rechristened "Old 77" because the basketball Titans had retired from it with 77 consecutive home victories. Old 77 is turned over to the women's physical education department.

1953 The Titan football team posts the first undefeated season in school history, as Coach Harold Burry led the squad to a perfect 8-0 record. It was the first of 11 undefeated seasons for the Titan gridders from 1953-92.

1954 Harold Davis becomes the first football All-American in school history. He would go on to capture All-America laurels in 1955-56, leading the squad to undefeated seasons (6-0-1 in 1955, 8-0 in 1956) both years.

1957 Lawrence County native Jim Riley becomes the only three-time basketball All-American at the College, earning the laurels each year from 1955-57.

1960 Westminster posts the best basketball season in school history to date, advancing to the NAIA National Championship game before falling to Southwest Texas 66-44. The Titans, led by All-American Chuckie Davis, posted a 24-3 overall record with four wins at the national tournament, including an upset of top-seeded Tennessee State in the national semifinals.

1961 The Titan cagers again make a national run, placing fourth in the nation. Westminster lost a heartbreaking 45-44 semifinal decision to eventual national champion Grambling, led by future Hall of Fame star Willis Reed. Stars include two-time All-Americans Ron Galbreath (a future Titan coach) and Warren Sallade.

1962 Coach Buzz Ridl's basketball squad finishes 26-3 and is voted the top small college basketball team in the nation by both AP and UPI, despite the squad falling to Prairie View A&M in the NAIA national title game. Ridl is named NAIA Coach of the Year. The Titans were chosen, along with Grambling University, for a six-week goodwill tour of South America sponsored by the U.S. State Department.

1964 Coach Harold Burry leads the Titan football team to an 8-0 mark, its fourth undefeated season since 1953. Lineman Larry Pugh earns All-Amertica honors.

1966 The Titan athletic department captured the West Penn Conference All-Sports trophy for the eighth consecutive year.

1967 John Fontanella sets a Titan basketball single-game scoring record with 51 points.

1968 After leading the basketball Titans to a 22-8 record and fourth-place finish at the NAIA National Tournament, Coach Buzz Ridl resigns to become head basketball coach at the University of Pittsburgh. He would return to Westminster in 1975. Ridl posted a 216-91 record in 12 seasons as head coach.

1968 Former Titan All-American Ron Galbreath is named head basketball coach. In 25 season at Westminster (1968-69, 1974-98), Galbreath led the Titan cagers to a 448-206 mark and three NAIA national playoff appearances.

1970 The Titan football team captures the inaugural NAIA Division II National Championship with a perfect 10-0 record, including a 21-16 win over Anderson (Ind.) College at Taggart Stadium in New Castle in the title game.

1970 The women's basketball program is elevated to varsity status under the direction of head coach S. Kipley Haas, who will coach the program for the next 22 seasons before moving to an assistant coach position prior to the 1992-93 season.

1971 In Harold Burry's final year as head coach, the Titan football squad advances to the NAIA National Championship game, falling to California Lutheran College. During his 20-year span as head football coach Burry posted a record of 127-31-1. Burry is replaced by former Titan standout lineman Joe Fusco, who had served as offensive line coach under Burry since 1968.

1972 After being censured by the NCAA for participating in the NAIA football playoffs, Westminster dropped its 30-year athletic affiliation with the NCAA in October, remaining a full-time NAIA member.

1976 The Westminster Natatorium is dedicated in February, providing a new home for the College swimming teams. The Natatorium is built as an addition to Memorial Field House.

1976 Coach Joe Fusco leads Westminster to its second NAIA Division II National Championship with a 20-13 win over Redlands (Calif.). Westminster finishes the season 10-1.

1976 The women's tennis and volleyball programs are upgraded to varsity status under the direction of Irene Walters and Marjorie Walker, respectively. Walters did not post a losing season as coach from 1976-84 and 1985-91, compiling a 102-60-4 record. Walker led the Lady Titan spikers to a 284-211 record from 1976-92.

1977 The Titan football team captured its second straight NAIA national crown and third overall, capping a perfect 11-0 season with a 17-9 victory over California Lutheran. Coach Joe Fusco's squad is awarded the Lambert Bowl trophy as the top small college team in the Eastern U.S.

1977 Buzz Ridl replaces Harold Burry as athletic director at Westminster.

1980 Under the direction of Coach Wayne Christy, softball is upgraded to varsity status by the College. The Lady Titan softball program goes on to post 14 conference/district titles and a pair of national tournament appearances over the next two decades.

1981 Myron Luthringer becomes Westminster's first NAIA National Champion in swimming, capturing the 100 breaststroke in 1:06.04. Luthringer is coached by Gene Nicholson.

1982 The Titan men's basketball squad makes its first appearance at the NAIA National Tournament in 14 years, as Ron Galbreath leads the cagers to a 21-7 record.

1985 Buzz Ridl retires as athletic director after nine years in the position and is replaced by football coach Joe Fusco.

1986 After a 33-year absence, men's soccer is reintroduced as a varsity sport at the College.

1988 The Titan football team completes an undefeated 14-0 season by capturing the fourth NAIA Division II National Championship in school history. The title is captured at Memorial Field on the most memorable play in Titan sports history, a 4th-and-10 touchdown pass through a blizzard from Joe Micchia to Dave Foley in the game's final minute, giving Westminster a 21-14 over Wisconsin-LaCrosse. Fusco is named NAIA National Coach of the Year.

1988 Women's cross country is instituted as a varsity sport under the direction of coach Paul Mallott.

1989 Westminster football runs its winning streak to a school-record 27 games, as the Titans close a 13-0 campaign with a 51-30 win over Wisconsin-LaCrosse in the NAIA national title game in Canton, Ohio. It is the fifth national crown in school history and Fusco's fourth as head coach. The national title squads were led by three-time All-American tailback Brad Tokar, who finished his career in 1990 as the school's all-time leading rusher with 5,269 yards.

1990 At the conclusion of the season, Joe Fusco steps down as head football coach with a career record of 154-34-3 from 1972-90. Gene Nicholson, who has served as defensive coordinator under both Burry and Fusco over the past 22 seasons, is named head coach.

1991 Kristen Zukowski becomes the only Lady Titan swimmer in school history to capture an NAIA National Championship, as she won the 100 butterfly in :58.37. Zukowski is coached by Rob Klamut.

1991 Titan men's basketball standout Mike Douds closes his career as the all-time leading scorer in school history with 1,629 points, a mark that will hold until 2008.

1992 Westminster football completes its most recent undefeated regular season (and the 11th in school history) with a 10-0 mark, before falling to Findlay in the NAIA playoffs.

1994 The Titan men's basketball team posts its best record in over 30 years, as Westminster finishes the campaign with a 25-3 record. Coach Ron Galbreath takes the squad to its first NAIA National Tournament appearance in 12 years, where the Titans fall in the second round.

1994 Westminster closes its 100th season of varsity football in perfect fashion, capturing the school's sixth NAIA Division II National Championship with a 27-7 win over Pacific Lutheran. Head coach Gene Nicholson, the only person to coach on all six national title coaching staffs, is named NAIA Coach of the Year. Tailback Andy Blatt sets a new single-season rushing mark with 1,982 yards.

1996 The Titan men's basketball team makes its second appearance at the NAIA National Tournament in three years, posting a 21-8 record that included three nip-and-tuck wins over archrival Geneva. The team is led by two-time All-American point guard Jim Delsandro.

1996 Dr. Harold Burry, who passed away in 1992, is inducted posthumously into the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind. The Memorial Field football complex is renamed "Harold Burry Stadium" during the 1997 season.

1997 The varsity gymnasium in Memorial Field House is renamed Buzz Ridl Gymnasium, in honor of the former Titan coach and athletic director who passed away in 1995.

1998 Westminster College ends a charter membership with the NAIA by joining NCAA Division II.

1998 Former Westminster football All-American lineman Larry Pugh becomes the second Titan to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

1998 Westminster swimmer David Gesacion becomes the fourth All-American swimmer in school history, as the sophomore wins the 200 butterfly in 1:54.89. Gesacion is coached by Rob Klamut.

1998 Ron Galbreath retires as men's basketball coach at Westminster after 25 seasons at the helm. He is replaced by longtime assistant coach Jim Dafler.

1998 Women's soccer is upgraded to varsity status under head coach Tom Keller. In its first season, the team finishes 15-3 in the NCAA Division II GLIAC Conference.

1999 Joe Fusco steps down as athletic director after 14 years in the position.

1999 Jim Dafler is promoted to athletic director and Tammy Swearingen is promoted to assistant athletic director.

1999 Westminster announces it is leaving the NCAA Division II Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) at the conclusion of the 1999-2000 academic year to join the NCAA Division III Presidents' Athletic Conference (PAC). Current PAC members include Bethany, Grove City, Thiel, Washington & Jefferson and Waynesburg.

1999 The Hoyt Foundation in New Castle, Pa., awards Westminster a $500,000 gift to construct a new track complex at Burry Stadium. The track is expected to be completed prior to the Fall of 2001.

2000 Gene Nicholson retires as head football coach at Westminster. A member of the Titan coaching staff since 1969, Nicholson served as defensive coordinator for 22 years (1969-90) before posting a 64-25-1 record as head coach from 1991-98.

2000 Jerry Schmitt is named head football coach at Westminster. Schmitt, a 1982 Westminster graduate, has served on the football staff at Duquesne University for 11 years. He was an offensive lineman on the undefeated 1981 Titan football team under head coach Joe Fusco.

2001 Westminster dedicates both the new Burry Stadium track and the James F. Edwards Wing of Memorial Field House in seperate dedication ceremonies.

2001 The Westminster women's volleyball team captures the school's first-ever Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) championship in any sport, as the Lady Titans defeat the top two seeds to capture the ECAC Division II Volleyball title.

2002 Westminster is granted active membership in NCAA Division III for the 2002-03 academic year. All 20 Titan varsity teams are now eligible for Presidents' Athletic Conference (PAC) and NCAA Division III championships.

2002 The Grover Washabaugh lobby is dedicated at Memorial Field House on Sept. 28 with several members of the Washabaugh family in attendance. Washabaugh was a long-time basketball coach (1937-56) and athletic director at Westminster.

2002 Westminster ranks among the Top 10 NCAA Division II schools nationally in student-athlete graduation rate in 2001-02 by USA Today.

2003 Westminster captures the 2002-03 PAC Men's All-Sports Trophy in its first year of competition, while placing a close second to Grove City in the women's trophy race. Six Titan varsity teams captured PAC titles.
2004 Harold Davis becomes the fourth Titan in nine years inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Davis, a quarterback for the Titans from 1953-56, is the only Titan gridder to be selected as a first-team All-American for three seasons.

The Westminster men’s basketball, women’s swimming, women’s soccer and men’s and women’s golf teams win PAC titles.

2004 Westminster wins the PAC All-Sports Trophy in both men’s and women’s. It is the second straight year for the men and the first for the women since Westminster became eligible in 2003.
2005 Jeff Hand is named head football coach at Westminster, succeeding Jerry Schmitt who coached the Titans the previous five years.
2005 The Westminster women’s soccer, softball, women’s golf, women’s basketball and men’s swimming teams win PAC titles.
2005 Westminster women’s teams win the PAC All-Sports Trophy for a consecutive season.
2006 The Westminster men’s and women’s swimming teams win PAC titles.
2007 The Westminster men’s and women’s basketball teams qualify for the NCAA tournament. It was the first time that the men qualified for the NCAA tournament and the second time in three years for the women. The women’s basketball also sets a team record for wins with a 22-7 record.
2007 The men’s and women’s soccer and men’s and women’s swimming teams win PAC titles. Both swim teams claim their second straight titles and their fourth titles in five years.
2007 Westminster women’s teams win the PAC All-Sports Trophy for the third time in four years.
2007 Former football and track star Tim McNeil, class of 1996, is hired to become the first full-time head coach of the men's and women's cross country and men's and women's track and field teams.
2007 The volleyball and women's soccer teams win PAC titles and become the first Westminster teams to make the NCAA Tournament as an automatic qualifier in the first year that the PAC champions earn AQ status.
2008 Emilee Ackerman becomes the Westminster women's basketball team's all-time leading scorer with 1,483 career points. Ackerman became the first player in team history to receive an honorable mention for the All-America team after ranking third in the nation in scoring (23.5 points per game).
2008 Craig Hannon becomes the Westminster men's basketball team's all-time leading scorer with 1,717 career points.
2008 Westminster women’s teams win the PAC All-Sports Trophy for the second straight year and the fourth time in five years.
2008 Westminster women's track and field team wins its first-ever PAC Championship and five members of the team qualify for nationals.
2009 Harold Burry Stadium undergoes a $1.7 million renovation that includes artificial turf (FieldTurf), lighting, the Joseph B. Fusco Plaza and an entranceway named in memory of Jerry C. Neff. The football team goes 5-0 -- it's first undefeated home season since 1996 -- and the soccer teams begin playing some night games at the stadium.
2009 Westminster women’s teams win the PAC All-Sports Trophy for the third straight year and the fifth time in six years.
2009 The men's soccer, women's track and field and volleyball teams win PAC Championships.

Westminster reinstates diving as a component of the varsity swimming program for the 2009-10 season. Westminster exclusively competed in swimming since the last year of diving in 1992-93.

2010 Highlighted by the women's track and field team winning its third straight PAC title, the Westminster women’s teams win the PAC All-Sports Trophy for the fourth straight year and the sixth time in seven years.
2011 The men's track and field team wins its first-ever PAC Championship.

NOTE: Information taken from History of Westminster College: 1852-1992 by Paul Gamble and Winning: 100 Years of Westminster Football by Dr. William McTaggart.

Titan Sports Hall of Fame

Click below for the Class of 2013 bios and a listing of the All-Time Hall of Fame Inductees.
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