Light on the Hill, Volume II

Miller, Russell


ATHLETICS. In the realm of intercollegiate football as well as in other sports, Tufts always belonged to what Sports Illustrated referred to in a brief article on the institution as the "Little Ivy" or small college circuit. It never achieved the national glamor of the larger schools, but nonetheless attracted a consistently loyal local following and produced a goodly share of winning teams and individuals. Typical were the wrestling teams under Samuel Ruggeri, coach for forty consecutive years until his retirement in 1964. His teams produced forty-eight individual New England champions in all weight classifications.

It was under the leadership of Clarence ("Pop") Houston who, in addition to teaching duties, was director of athletics for twenty-five years, beginning in 1920, that the pattern of athletic activities was set. He insisted that sports should not be overemphasized at Tufts and that in intercollegiate competition, no one sport should be considered more important than another. There should be "athletics for all" in the intramural program. "We do not need big crowds or big gate receipts." Athletics should be strictly amateur in approach and philosophy, and the athletic department was to be run both sensibly and economically, on a modest budget and with a minimum of fanfare. Houston insisted that Tufts should not attempt to compete with Ivy League schools, and he fought vigorously against what he conceived to be the excesses of big-time collegiate sports. He was the author of the so-called "sanity code" of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) which attempted to curb the subsidization and recruitment of athletes. He was head of its enforcement committee as well as president of the Association itself in 1955 and 1956.

During his long tenure at Tufts, Houston saw to it that freshmen did not serve on varsity teams and that the institution played a representative small college schedule.


The Tufts community was obviously disappointed when the football team experienced a losing season (which it frequently did), such as the one in 1951-52. It was the school's worst record in sixty-five years, and included a 60-0 loss at the hands of the University of New Hampshire. But there was no wholesale demand for the mass resignation of the coaching staff and very few howls of protest from anguished alumni. The football coach received a spontaneous round of applause from the faculty in 1976 when it was announced that Tufts had had the first winning football season in seven years.

Lewis F. Manly, who had been a prominent athlete during his undergraduate days at Tufts, began his sixteen-year term as head football coach in 1930, serving simultaneously as a member (and later, chairman) of the Department of Economics. Houston relinquished his position as head of the Department of Physical Education in 1946 and was succeeded by Frederick M. ("Fish") Ellis, who became at first the head coach in football (succeeding Manly), basketball, and golf. He had accumulated an outstanding record at Tufts as an undergraduate athlete, as had Houston. Ellis had the unique distinction of having earned varsity letters in four sports (football, basketball, baseball, and track). After retiring as head football coach in 1954 and after having expanded the intramural program begun by Houston, he was followed by Harry Arlanson. Like his predecessors, he was an alumnus, prominent as an undergraduate athlete, and extremely popular as a coach and director of athletics. During his twenty years as head coach the football teams compiled a 57-35-2 record, including nine straight winning seasons. He retired from coaching in 1966 to devote more time to his post as director of athletics, and retired from Tufts in 1974. He was honored as New England Coach of the Year in 1959 and NCAA District I Coach of the Year in 1960. During the year in which he retired he was elected to the Hall of Fame of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics. Rocco ("Rocky") J. Carzo, who had been appointed as head coach of football in 1966, was appointed Director of Programs in Physical Education, Athletics, and Recreation in 1975.

Tufts students had a varied sports menu from which to choose in the 1950s and thereafter. There were fourteen varsity sports in which to engage in 1954-55 and the same number of sports were available in the intramural program. During 1955-56, the indoor track team was undefeated, and the one-mile relay team earned the New England championship, having been first out of twenty teams. It was during this era of Tufts athletic history that it could boast of no less than six NCAA championships — from track to baseball —



as in 1979 they could boast of an undefeated and untied varsity football team.

The number of both varsity and intramural sports available to Tufts students varied slightly from year to year. An appointed faculty standing committee (with student membership after 1967) established general policies. It voted in 1956, for example, against establishing rifle and skiing as varsity sports, but in 1957-58, skiing was made a varsity sport and won a trophy that year awarded by the New England Intercollegiate Ski Conference. In the same year the varsity baseball team won the Greater Boston League title. Ice hockey, which was previously an intercollegiate sport, was dropped in 1959 because of insufficient interest and the lack of a campus skating rink, although one was proposed adjacent to the Hamilton Pool. The New England championship was won by Tufts for the first time in 1961, and sailing (on the Mystic Lakes) became from 1962 onward not only a popular intramural sport in which Tufts and Jackson students excelled, but a varsity sport for the first time in 1965-66. The Tufts team established an enviable record that year by defeating thirty-four teams and tying four, with no losses.

Both athletic teams and physical facilities for men and women were completely separate until after 1967, when coeducational physical education was first considered, partly because there was wasteful duplication of facilities in many sports. A visiting committee recommended in 1968 that the separate departments should be integrated under a chairman of physical education and athletics. Coeducational classes were begun in 1969 but were limited for almost a decade by inadequate facilities for women in Cousens Gymnasium, which had been limited previously to use by males.

One of the casualties of student activism in the late 1960s had been interest in athletics. As student ferment subsided there was a revival in traditional sports activity, but in somewhat different form than earlier. Player participation became much greater than spectator participation. The sports in which Tufts excelled were soccer, sailing, and track. Tufts teams in 1971-72 were New England champions in soccer, number one in the country in sailing (according to the national sailing magazine), and the winner of the Eastern indoor championship in track, having been unbeaten in dual and cross-country meets.

The "Oval," named for the contour of the wooden fence which once enclosed it, had been laid out and completed in 1894 and continued to be used primarily for football games. Its capacity was greatly enlarged in 1954, when 4,080 seats, purchased second-hand and used previously at a Medford speedway, were added. The playing field was designated at Homecoming in 1969 as the Frederick M.


Ellis Oval, in honor of the football hero and coach, on recommendation of the Tufts Jumbo Club and the Alumni Council.

Funds were raised and ground broken in 1985 for the construction of a new field house, named in honor of John Baronian, an alumnus of the Class of 1950, preeminent in football as an undergraduate, an alumni trustee for ten years (1972-1982), and one of the most enthusiastic supporters of both Tufts and undergraduate athletics. The Jumbo Club had been formed in the spring of 1969 by a group of former Tufts athletes and other supporters of the athletic program, led by Baronian. He was a member of its first executive committee. One of the club's first activities was the holding of a banquet in honor of Clarence ("Ding") Dussault, nationally recognized as a coach for many years of the winning Tufts track team.

In 1970 Tufts entered into an agreement with the New England Small College Athletic Conference, an informal organization of eleven schools which had been created in 1955 by Amherst, Bowdoin, Wesleyan, and Williams. The agreement placed stringent controls on recruiting, out-of-season practice, and the number of contests each


year. It expressed in general the philosophy enunciated by Carzo in 1975; namely, that athletics at Tufts were intended to be "an educational experience where improvement and effort are valued as highly as instant success, [and] where self-motivation is the main reason for participation." This was, in turn, a reflection of the low-keyed approach that both President Hallowell and his predecessors had taken as to the role of athletics at Tufts. Soon after his arrival in 1967, Hallowell had expressed the conviction that "student and alumni morale and pride in alma mater are properly built on the success which the university achieves in moving towards all of its educational goals and not only those in athletics. Thus to measure the success of a university in terms of the Sunday morning football scores is to base our judgment on an incomplete picture." Tufts' share of victories should come "with the respect of our opponents for our academic standards as well as our sportsmanship."


[] Sports Illustrated, 11 November 1957, pp. 27-28.

  • Light on the Hill, the second volume of the history of Tufts University, was published in 1986, covering the years from 1952 to 1986. This doucument was created from the 1986 edition of Light on the Hill, Volume II.
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 Title Page
1. Setting the Stage for the Second Century
2. Long-Range Planning
3. Bricks and Mortar 1952-1967
4. The End of Theological Education at Tufts
5. Ever-Widening Curricula for Liberal Arts and Engineering
6. Jackson College: A Search for Identity
7. Defining the Role of the College of Special Studies
8. The Arts and Sciences Faculty I
9. The Arts and Sciences Faculty II
10. The Central Library
11. The Changing Character of the Student Body
12. Fraternities and Sororities at Tufts: A Cyclical History
13. A Beehive of Activity: From Trustees to Students
14. From Wessell to Hallowell
15. The Hallowell Administration: Years of Trial and Tribulation
16. The Hallowell Administration: Continued Trial and Tribulation
17. Educational Ventures, Successful and Otherwise
18. The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy
19. Medical and Dental Education I
20. Medical and Dental Education II
21. Taking Stock of the University in the 1960s and 1970s
22. The Mayer Administration: A Preliminary View
23. The Mayer Administration: Consolidation and Expansion