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A History of the Evolution of Marist College Athletics, 1961-1979


The history of Marist College athletics from1961-1979 is a very small span of time in which much growth, change, and expansion occurred. However, almost nothing pertaining to this topic had been compiled by historians prior to this project. This was the main reason why our group decided to study this area of Marist College history. We wanted to research and organize the early history of Marist athletics before the information could no longer be extracted or became misplaced. Men like Mr. Campili, Mr. Goldman, and Mr. Smith are valuable primary sources on the early history of athletics at Marist College, yet they will not be here forever. We decided it was necessary to document anything they could tell us pertaining to the evolution of athletics at Marist College from 1961-1979 before it was lost. It was also necessary to carefully examine the Marist newspapers for any information related to our topic before these became damaged, lost, or no longer readable. They were valuable sources in helping us complete our project.
We hope that in the future another group will write the history of Marist athletics after 1979 in order to make our effort more complete. It was an enjoyable and very interesting research project in which we learned a great deal about our school and its humble beginnings. We would like to thank Mr. Campili, Mr. Goldman, Mr. Smith, and the entire Marist library staff for helping us make our project a success.

In the spring of 1960, three confident, outgoing students got together and made an important decision to start a crew team for their school - Marist College. These students understood that Marist did not have any crew coaches, rowing equipment, or money to fund a crew team, however, as a result of their determination and dedication a crew team was formed. At first, the students had only one shell which was not in good condition, but they understood it was all the school could afford at the time. In a few years though, when the school began expanding and more students meant more money, the crew team saw itself transformed into a crew program. The students' hard work and effort paid off in the long run because the school recognized it and saw the team as a worthwhile investment. For the team, more money meant more success, and more success meant more exposure for the school. In a few short years, a rowing tradition had been established at Marist College, and the school became known throughout the Northeast.

This very brief description on the history of the crew team is a good example which can be helpful in trying to gain an understanding of how and why Marist athletics evolved in the ways that it did from 1961-1979.  First of all, the formation of the crew team occurred because an active group of students wanted to row, and they took the necessary steps to achieve their goal. Organizing other interested students, bringing their plans to the attention of the administration, and carefully explaining those plans were the initial steps. Upon approval by the president of the college, Dr. Linus Foy, the students created a team, worked to get used equipment from other schools, and got the team started (1). From that point on, sustained effort and dedication kept the team together, and demonstrated to the school that the crew team would be a good investment for Marist College. Without student interest, effort, or dedication, the crew team probably would not have continued, and Marist athletics also would have faltered. Understanding the tremendous amount of student interest, effort, and dedication put into sports is key to understanding the evolution of athletics at Marist College from 1961-1979.

A second parallel which can be drawn from this brief history on the formation of the crew team, and related to the evolution of athletics at Marist is growth. Once the crew team was formed it did not have much equipment, but it had to get by with what it had. Soon though, the school began to enroll more students, get more grants, and expand in new ways. This meant that old priorities could be satisfied and new ones, such as athletics, could be dealt with. The crew team could now ask for new shells, oars, and practice equipment. With more students being enrolled in Marist, the crew team could rely in having more talented rowers fill their boats. Growth brought success, and success brought growth. When this idea is related to other sports and the entire athletic program, one can come to fully understand and appreciate the history of athletics at Marist College from 1961-1979.

At the time of the creation of the very first varsity sport at Marist, the college was rather small and still quite young. According to Mr. Gary Smith who attended Marist College from 1959-1963, the class of 1961 consisted of nine students. With a class of this size, athletics at Marist College was almost non-existent. However, in the next couple of years, the college saw its classes begin to show signs of growth. The class of 1962 was around 16 students, and the following year, 1963, grew to 25 students (2).    So, even in the first three years after athletics had been established at Marist, growth in the student population occurred. This increase in the amount of students helped to stimulate the formation of more teams on campus. Basketball, wrestling, and weight­ lifting were soon established, with club football and sailing not far behind. All of these sports were developed before the spring of 1963 and can be thought of as making up the first stage in the evolutionary process of athletics from 1961-1979. This 18 year period in Marist College athletic history can be broken down into four stages, with the years making up each stage related and having common factors (see chart below).

The initial stage was very short - it only lasted from the fall of 1961 to the spring of 1963. As stated before, only six sports (crew, basketball, weight-lifting, wrestling, club football, and sailing) existed at that time. The first of these sports, crew, had very interesting beginnings. According to Mr. Gary Smith, he, John Milod, and Jim Callahan, all students at Marist College, formed the crew team in the spring of 1960. During that spring, those young men planned, organized, and created a crew team which would race the following fall. However, their plan had to be examined, and approved by the president of Marist, Dr. Linus Foy. After hearing what Smith, Milod, and Callahan had to say, Dr. Foy supported the idea of establishing a crew team at Marist. Once the students knew the administration was behind them, the wheels were set in motion. Dr. Foy contacted various colleges and universities and obtained a used shell from Columbia University which Marist could have if they drove and picked it up themselves. The team got the boat, carefully cleaned, repaired, greased, and sanded every inch so that come race day, Marist would look the part of a "real crew team (3).    Races began in the fall of 1961, and only one year later the team began to see success on the water. In 1962, Marist came in 7th out of 30 schools at a major regatta held at the end of the season (4). Only one year later in 1963, a fund raising drive was held to collect money for the boathouse (5). In the spring of 1964, the American Schoolboy Rowing Championships were held on the Hudson, and in a few years the President's Cup Regatta would be held (6). This dramatic development from a few, inexperienced students to a full fledged rowing program only served to help the school gain recognition and exposure, and aid in Marist's overall development.

Basketball at Marist College began only a few months after crew, however, it developed somewhat faster in comparison. In November 1961, Marist put together a basketball team and organized a 16-game schedule which would start on December 2nd. Marist applied for membership in the largest conference in the nation at that time, the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference. The ECAC boasted 115 member colleges and universities in 1961. The team's first head coach was Mr. George Strba who had previously coached at Poughkeepsie High School (7).

One last team to originate during this period was the sailing team. The sailing team began in the fall of 1962 with tremendous student interest. There were so many interested students that there were not enough boats or time to instruct all of them. Around 50 students and six borrowed boats from local residents made up the very first sailing team at Marist College (8).

The basketball, weight-lifting, and wrestling teams used the old gym, which was located on the present site of Marian Hall. According to Mr. Howard "Doc" Goldman who was the acting athletic director for 13 years from 1963 to 1975, the old gym was only one basketball court long, and one basketball court wide. There was almost no room for spectators, and any that did fit inside had to stand. Along with the court, the only other spaces within the gymnasium were an office and a washing machine to clean uniforms (9). This was the extent of Marist's facilities for many years before the completion of the McCann Center in April 1977. Student enrollment during this first period increased slightly, but not enough to influence the direction of athletics. Marist College was very small during this period, and athletics were not a major priority of the administration. With a yearly budget around $750,000, not much could be accomplished (10). Tuition at this time was around $200, so the school had to spend its money very carefully (11). Growth in athletics was slow, but there was growth. It was primarily due to student interest that some growth occurred, however it was not until the appointment of Doc Goldman as athletic director in 1963 that Marist athletics experienced dramatic expansion. Doc Goldman's first year as the director of athletics at Marist represents the beginning of the second stage in the evolution of athletics from 1961-1979.

When Doc Goldman first arrived in July 1963, the athletic program was according to him, "almost non-existent" (12). Very little had been done on the part of the administration and faculty in aiding in the development of athletics, but this was to be expected due to the small size of the school, and the amount of money available for the funding of athletic programs. In July 1963, despite difficult conditions, Doc Goldman made every effort to increase the number of teams at Marist, and gradually build up the athletic program. Doc Goldman was responsible for the formation of soccer, cross-country, track, golf, and junior varsity basketball during the second stage of development. Later on in January 1976, he would have a hand in the establishment of the women's basketball team, and most importantly, the creation of the McCann Center in April 1977 (13). Soccer, cross-country, golf, and junior varsity basketball were all functioning teams by the spring of 1964, while track did not begin until 1967 (14).

During its first season, the soccer team placed first in its division and set a precedent for successful seasons ahead. Doc Goldman also served as the head soccer coach, as well as the physical education director during his reign as the director of athletics (15). Most of the other teams performed fairly well while trying to gain respect from their opponents. However, this second period in the evolutionary process was most characterized by growth and change, not success.

Throughout the years 1966 and 1967, students began to get more involved and interested in what happened to Marist's athletic teams. Students expressed criticism, frustration, and sometimes offered suggestions to coaches. Five years before, students rarely talked about their teams at Marist, but once the student population grew and more teams became successful, Marist expected more from its athletes. One example is in the May 17, 1966 issue of The Circle in which there is an article that criticizes many aspects of the failing basketball team. The article discusses problems such as, not enough school spirit, a lack of athletic pride, and a lack of attendance to games. It also goes on to say that the players do not have enough discipline to cut down on beer and cigarette, and the athletic department schedules games poorly. This trend continues through 1967 in which there are numerous articles in The Circle criticizing Marist athletics. The articles complain about far away games, poor teams, and lack of student support. It is evident that athletics reached a new level during this second period, and the students demanded that those changes and improvements continue.

The next year, 1968, marks the third stage in the evolution of athletics, and can be characterized as a period of success for a number of Marist teams. It seems that the athletic program realized the school had been frustrated and turned off by past athletic performances, and made an effort to field more dedicated, successful teams. It was within this period that the basketball and cross-country teams first achieved successful seasons. In 1968, the Marist basketball team beat Bloomfield in overtime to win the ECAC Championship. The team ended its season with an 11-7 record (16). That same year, the cross-country team ended its season with a very impressive record of 20-5 (17). In 1969, the basketball team was 13-7, and in 1970, 15-9. 1970 was the first year in which the basketball team recruited players in an attempt to make themselves even better (18).

The 1970 season for the football team was one of their most successful ever. Head Coach Torn Levine led the Marist Vikings to a perfect 8-0 season and a post-season bowl game (19). Marist lost that game to St. John's, however, it was proof that Marist athletics was on the rise.

Also that same fall, the crew team enjoyed one of its better seasons when it won the annual Head-of-the-Charles Regatta. Marist defeated many well known colleges and universities such as Princeton, La Salle, and Rhode Island in its victory on October 25, 1970 (20).

In 1971, club football, soccer, and crew would follow basketball's lead and begin to recruit players (21). This shows that the Marist athletic program was serious about its sports and that it was not about to stagnate like it had in the mid-1960s. The formation of a recruiting policy demonstrates that the athletic department began to look beyond the next season and towards the future. The failure of the cross-country team in 1970 seemed to make the administration realize that without constant support, Marist's teams would fall. The cross-country team started its 1970 campaign with only seven members, and of these seven, four were seniors (22). Only two years before the team experienced one of its best seasons ever, but in 1970 the cross-country team faced possible cancellation. Neglect and a lack of recruiting had dramatically hurt the future of cross-country.

In the fall of 1971, the Vikings entered a new league, the Eastern Collegiate Club Football Conference, and played its first two home games under lights (23). That year, the football team would enjoy another great season, ending with a 6-1-1 record and the ECCFC Championship (24).

The next fall in 1972 begins the final period in the history of Marist athletics from 1961-1979. During this period, Marist experienced a time of growth, change, and success never before known. From the fall of 1972 until the spring of 1979, Marist saw many of its teams have exceptional seasons, the McCann Center constructed, and women's sports organized. All of this created a feeling of excitement and anticipation around campus for better things to come.

First of all, during this period Marist underwent many major changes. One of these was the acceptance of women into the college. Once this occurred, student enrollment substantially increased, the population became more diversified, and the school looked more modern. By accepting women into the college, Marist could look forward to having many new women's teams which would have a positive effect on the athletic program.

Another event which greatly changed the look of the school was the construction of the library and the renovation of the campus. This demonstrates that the college was looking to expand and keep itself in pace with other schools. The campus was going through much construction as many roads were built, pipe systems laid, and parking lots expanded. All of this was done to meet the needs of a rapidly expanding student population. This growing student population would greatly contribute to the evolving athletic program during this last period.

The greatest factor in the evolution of athletics during this last period was the construction of the McCann Center. Completed in April 1977, the McCann Center enabled the already existing teams to practice in a better location and improve, while allowing for the possibility of the creation of new teams at Marist. The athletic department would never be the same after moving into their new $2.7 million home.

As stated before, this final stage in Marist's athletic history from 1961-1979 began in the fall of 1972. In this first year the football team managed to put together another undefeated season, and ended up being ranked #1 in the nation in club football (25). It was during this time that the football team wanted lights to be constructed on Leonidoff Field, but due to the amount of money already planned for other building projects, lights were not put up (26).

Also during the fall of 1972, a rebuilt cross-country team ran to a second place finish in the CACC Championships, and the following week a third place finish in the NAIA Championships. This was their highest finish ever in the NAIA's. The cross-country team ended their season with a 10-4 record (27).

The following spring, in 1973, the lacrosse team was formed at Marist, and the basketball team experienced a good season even though it was supposed to be "a rebuilding year." At the end of the season, the basketball team went to the NAIA playoffs in Kansas City, and two men from the wrestling team went to the NAIA National Championships in Iowa, despite wrestling on a poor squad (28).

In the fall of 1973 the cross-country team had an excellent season in which their record was 16-0 (29). In an article in The Circle, Mike Malet, the defensive coach of the football team, discussed the Vikings incredible 25-4-1 record from 1969-1973 (30).

During the spring of 1974 the ice hockey team was added to the athletic program, however, the wrestling team was canceled due to poor support and lack of interest (31). It was during this year that the soccer team was invited to play in its second indoor tournarnent (32). One year later, in 1975, the expansion of athletics continued as women's crew was added to the increasing list of varsity sports offered at Marist College, and 1976 brought the formation of the women's basketball team (33).

The year of 1976 was an important one in the evolution of Marist athletics. It was during 1976 that much of the construction of the McCann Center was nearing completion. In the April 1, 1976 issue of The Circle there appeared a picture of the almost built sports complex. Also in that issue, the college expressed interests in building an outdoor track for the track team, and the desire in establishing an indoor track team once the McCann Center was completed.

As stated before, during this last period the college was going through a time of rebuilding in many ways. Marist was rebuilding the campus, constructing the McCann Center and the library. However, the school also wanted to rebuild internally. Evidence of this is in the previously mentioned issue of The Circle in which there was a sports survey designed to assess the needs and wants of Marist students in athletics. On the survey, one could check off which activities and sports appealed to them, or they wanted to see offered on campus. Another example of the college attempting to rebuild internally is in the appointment of a new athletic director. The head basketball coach, Ronald Petro took over as the director of athletics in the fall of 1976. He replaced Doc Goldman who acted as the athletic director for 13 years. Doc Goldman would still hold his positions as the soccer coach and the director of physical education (34).

During these last years of the final stage in the history of athletics at Marist from 1961-1979, students openly expressed criticism with the way in which their college was heading. Many articles in The Circle discussed problems with overcrowding, the new construction, Donnelly Hall library space, a new deli in Leo Hall, the use of the dark room, the security system, and living off campus (35). All of these issues and events being discussed by the students represent the fact that the school has dramatically increased in size, population, interests, and attitudes. The students in 1976 were much different from those a decade before, and this is easily demonstrated in the types and amount of articles written in The Circle. These changes which occurred over time and are noticeable in 1976 were closely connected to the changes in the athletic program. Without the many changes in Marist College in general, athletics at Marist would not have expanded in the ways that it did.

In the fall of 1976, the cross-country and soccer teams experienced successful seasons. The cross-country team ended up being ranked 8th in the state, and the soccer team ended with a record of 12-1-1. The ECAC soccer tournament was held at Marist, and Marist ended up winning the championship. Six members of Doc Goldman's team were chosen to the All-CACC team. This was the most members Marist ever put on the All-CACC team (36).

In November 1976, the Marist athletic department hired its first swimming and diving coach, Mr. Larry Van Wagner in anticipation of the completion of the new pool and the new McCann Center. Two months later, Doc Goldman was elected to a two-year term as president of the Intercollegiate Soccer Association of America, and Zenone Naitza was named to the first team All-State soccer team. This was the first time Marist ever had someone chosen to the All-State team (37).

Then in April of 1977, the McCann Center was finally opened, and the direction of Marist athletics was forever changed (38). With its completion, women's volleyball, and men's and women's swimming and diving teams could be formed. The basketball teams would have an excellent practice facility, and they could now host games and tournaments. Before the McCann Center, both basketball teams played their home games at nearby Lourdes High School (39). Marist could also begin to raise money by charging people who attend Marist games and tournaments. Indoor track was now a reality thanks to the building of the McCann Center with its indoor track and room for field events. Intramurals for Marist students could now expand and involve more of the population. With swinnning, diving, basketball, racquetball, squash, handball, and volleyball being offered, the intramural program could really grow. Almost overnight, the college and surrounding community embraced the new activities offered through the construction of the McCann Center.

The students knew what the McCann Center would mean for the school, and this is evident in the April 21, 1977 issue of The Circle in which a student in a letter to the editor wrote, "Now, with the new gymnasium, will come a new era for sports at Marist."

With the McCann Center completed in 1977, the athletic department and administration became more serious about the state of athletics at Marist. For the first time ever, the school began referring to those who played sports at Marist as "student-athletes." In the April 14, 1977 issue of The Circle there was an article which discussed the advantages of being a student-athlete, the type of funding available for those who played sports, and Marist's recruiting policy. Right after McCann's completion, Marist moved up to Division II, and began to award athletic scholarships to men and women basketball players (40). With better players, Marist could field better teams, and make more money. This money would help keep the McCann Center operating, and support other athletic teams.

In the fall of 1977, Marist began to rebuild the riverfront area by the boathouse, and construct new docks for the crew teams (41). In women's volleyball's first season, the team ended up 2-1, and expanded next season's schedule to 10 games (42). The cross-country team finished an impressive year at 10-5, but the football team continued to falter, ending its season with a 2-6-1 record (43).

In the spring of 1978, the athletic department discussed the possibility of moving the football team up from club status to Division III. The athletic director, Ron Petro, did not see a need to expand into Division III, however, the following fall, the football team competed at
that level (44). By 1978, most of Marist's teams were competing at the varsity level. All of the men's teams were in Division II, the football team was in Division III, and the women's teams were in Division I of the AIAW (45).

In the last year of the fourth stage in the history of sports at Marist College from 1961-1979, the football team competed at the varsity level for the first time and played poorly. The team ended its worst season ever with a 1-8 record. The soccer team, however, played very well and went to its first NCAA tournament. The cross-country team ran wonderfully on its way to a 14-3 season, and a fourth place finish in the IC4A College Division Championships (46). This completed one of its most successful seasons ever. The swim team, on the other hand, did not do so well. In their first varsity season, the swimmers did not win one match (47). However, the women's basketball team played brilliantly on its way to the EAIAW playoffs (48).

One last historic event which marks the end of the history of Marist athletics from 1961-1979 was the move by Ron Petro to establish a Division I basketball program at Marist. It was aimed to "increase revenue, improve 'esprit de corps' on campus, and put Marist on the map" (49).

The period from 1961-1979 was one in which Marist athletics experienced a great deal of change and evolution. For the most part, this evolution was not consciously planned. Most of the change took place due to the growth in the student population, the amount of money available to the athletic program, and as a result of the work of a few, important individuals. In his interview, Doc Goldman expressed some of his ideas and beliefs which described how and why the evolution of the athletic program occurred in ways that it did. While answering a question about specific events, he said, "It's not a [one] thing, we've had a tradition of trying to build eventually; evolution rather than revolution in terms of sport; that we grow piece by piece and in a rational manner." He went on to say, "In terms of our philosophy it fit, that we were what we were, and we tried to do things on a rational basis, [so that] the athletic tail didn't wag the academic dog." The school did not want to grow all of a sudden, or have athletics dictate school policy. This policy was adhered to as demonstrated throughout 1961-1979.

One of the individuals who had a tremendous impact on the evolution of Marist athletics was Doc Goldman. He was one of the driving forces behind Marist athletics for many years, according to Mr. Gary Smith. Mr. Campilii expressed similar ideas when he said that Doc Goldman was always looking to the future, always fighting for the athletes, and always moving to the next level. Doc Goldman was directly responsible for the establishment of many sports at Marist, the success of the soccer team, the organization of the athletic department in the early stages, and the refreshing image of Marist athletics. Doc Goldman's attitude towards athletics is what made Marist what it is, and is representative of the kind of spirit that founded the Marist athletic program.


Initial stage

Fall 1960 - Spring 1963:





Club Football





Second stage

Fall 1963 - Spring 1967:





Junior Varsity Basketball


No changes


No changes


Spring Track

Third Stage

Fall 1967 - Spring 1972:




No changes


No changes


No changes


No changes

Final stage

Fall 1972 - Spring 1979:




Ice Hockey


Women’s Crew


Women’s Basketball


No changes


Women’s Volleyball




No changes


  1. Interview with Mr. Smith.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Interview with Mr. Campilii.
  4. Ibid.
  5. January 13, 1963 issue of the Poughkeepsie Journal.
  6. January 27, 1963 issue of the Poughkeepsie Journal.
  7. November 19, 1961 issue of the Poughkeepsie Journal.
  8. November 4, 1962 issue of the Poughkeepsie Journal.
  9. Interview with Mr. Goldman.
  10. Interview with Mr. Campilii.
  11. Interview with Mr. Smith.
  12. Interview with Mr. Goiaman.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Reynards, 1964-1968.
  15. Interview with Mr. Goldman.
  16. March 14, 1968 issue of The Circle.
  17. November 15, 1968 issue of The Circle.
  18. March 12, 1970 issue of The Circle.
  19. December 10, 1970 issue of The Circle.
  20. November 5, 1970 issue of The Circle.
  21. September 9, 1971 issue of The Circle.
  22. September 17, 1970 issue of The Circle.
  23. September 9, 1971 issue of The Circle.
  24. November 20, 1971 issue of The Circle.
  25. November 16, 1972 issue of The Circle.
  26. October 26, 1972 issue of The Circle.
  27. November 9, 1972 issue of The Circle.
  28. March 8, 1973 issue of The Circle.
  29. November 8, 1973 issue of The Circle.
  30. October 18, 1973 issue of The Circle.
  31. Reynard, 1974.
  32. February 28, 1974 issue of The Circle.
  33. Reynard, 1976.
  34. September 16, 1976 issue of The Circle.
  35. September 23, 1976 issue of The Circle.
  36. November 17, 1976 issue of The Circle.
  37. Ibid.
  38. January 27, 1977 issue of The Circle.
  39. Interview with Mr. Goldman.
  40. April 28, 1977 issue of The Circle.
  41. September 22, 1977 issue of The Circle.
  42. October 13, 1977 issue of The Circle.
  43. November 17, 1977 issue of The Circle.
  44. April 13, 1978 issue of The Circle.
  45. May 4, 1978 issue of The Circle.
  46. November 16, 1978 issue of The Circle.
  47. February 15, 1979 issue of The Circle.
  48. March 1, 1979 issue of The Circle.
  49. April 26, 1979 issue of The Circle.


  1. Interviews with Mr. Campilii, Mr. Goldman, and Mr. Smith. @75 minutes. (recorded on videotape)
  2. Marist College newspaper, The Circle. 1965-1979.
  3. Poughkeepsie Journal. Sunday sports section, 1961-1979.
  4. Marist College yearbooks, Reynard. 1961-1979.

Source: A History of the Evolution of Marist College Athletics

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