I very much appreciated reading [President Ralph Kuncl’s] thoughts on sports in the last Och Tamale and his interview with Mike Maynard [“‘Extreme desire, mental toughness,’” page 16]. Connected in the same issue with the “Bridging the Racial Divide with the Help of Sports” article [page 14], all three [articles] made a powerful statement for sports at the University of Redlands and sports on the Division III level in general.
They brought together much of what I have been feeling since my 50th reunion this past spring, where I was reunited with some of my basketball teammates. A lot of who I am today came from those friendships and the mentorship of our coach, Lee Fulmer. The “Bridging the Racial Divide” article made the point that racial differences can be bridged in athletics as described in the “intergroup contact theory.” This theory suggests that “positive feelings result from contact among members of different groups if four conditions are met: members have equal status; a sense of interdependence; cooperative interactions; and support for their activities from authority figures.”
These conditions were certainly part of my experience with my teammates under Coach Fulmer. While our differences in that era were not significantly racial, we did come from different communities, religions, and families. I believe the experience would have even been richer if race was a larger part, but nonetheless, we did learn and grow from the experiences.
We learned we all benefited from working together, minimizing individual goals for team goals, and treating each other with respect and appreciation no matter our individual skills. We learned the value of focus on our team goals, self-sacrifice, and hard work toward those goals.
These values have served me well over the past 50 years. Unfortunately, they are often lost in Division I sports, especially football and basketball, where the financial aspect overwhelms everything else. I am grateful for my Redlands experience and appreciate these values are still alive and well at the “dear ol’
U of R.”
—Peter Konrad ’68
The fall edition of the Och Tamale featuring the wonderfully written exchange between President Ralph Kuncl and Head Football Coach Mike Maynard [‟‛Extreme desire, mental toughness,’” page 16] reminded me again, of how fortunate I was to be a part of the U of R football heritage. That, combined with our class coming together this spring for our 65th anniversary reunion, triggered some thoughts.
First, as freshmen, our class of 1954 played on a frosh football team coached by Ashel Cunningham. His career started at the U of R in 1916 and finished with our team of about 20 young Bulldogs in 1950, his 44th year of coaching.
In 1951 and 1952, we played varsity football under the legendary Cecil Cushman (a coach from 1934 to 1952) in his final two years of coaching. We were the last to use the famous “Y formation,” with the quarterback looking back (rather than forward), butt to butt with the center. We got lots of laughs, but we won lots of games as well.
In 1953, Stanford All-American Jim Verdieck took over the program with Ted Runner as his assistant. The success of that team took us to the Silver Bowl in Mexico City to play the University of Mexico. Combined, the two teams scored more than 100 points, with the University of Mexico narrowly defeating the Bulldogs.
In my fifth year (graduate school), I was asked to join Coach Verdieck and Runner as the varsity line coach—in those days the team had only three coaches: the head, backfield, and line coach. Adding to that honor was my student teaching assignment at Redlands Junior High School under the supervision of a physical education teacher there, Frank Serrao. As we know now, Coach Serrao eventually took over the football program at the U of R and became a Bulldog legend unto himself.
I played a lot of football, winning no special honors other than having very special coaches in my young life and learning the lessons they taught. Yes, the game of football has changed, but it appears the lessons taught by Coach Maynard and his staff have not. Therefore, like so many others, we have reason to remain very proud of our university and its athletic programs under the direction of its longtime athletic director Jeff Martinez. The educational mission via athletics has been and still remains important to each and every athlete involved. So, speaking on behalf all of us, a sincere thank you!
—Don Ruh ’54
In the fall edition of Och Tamale [“Game time,” page 26], you note that in the 1970s, “Following the 1972 enactment of Title IX,” Redlands established women’s teams. And, in the “1971-1974” paragraph, you give well-earned credit to Janice Metcalf Cromer for playing on the men’s tennis team.
I would remind you three women started a women’s tennis team at the U of R in 1958-59, under the auspices of Coach Jim Verdieck. This team not only won the Southern California Women’s Collegiate Championship, beating UCLA in the finals, but also played in the Tucson Tournament (traveling with the men’s team), as well as Ojai’s College Tournament. Those were no powder-puff tourneys. At both Tucson and Redlands, I played Darlene Hard (Pomona), former U.S. women’s champion, and then at Ojai lost to Jackie Tegland, the reigning U.S. junior girls champion.
—Caroline (Brigham) Vassallo ’62
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