Earle J. Holmes of Compton College (Calif.) retires from all duties in the NJCAA. Holmes played a vital role in the success of the Association from its foundation through the 1950’s. He is rightfully credited as creating the platform for a NJCAA Men’s Basketball Championship via his Western States College Basketball Tournament format. Holmes continued to serve the NJCAA in many varied roles, most notably as Director of the NJCAA Service Bureau from 1953-60, despite Compton’s withdrawing their NJCAA membership in 1951 when all California colleges left the organization.
The NJCAA also added wrestling to its championship platform in February 1960. The first wrestling championship was held in Farmingdale, N.Y.
Photo: Earle J. Holmes was a pioneer in the early days of the NJCAA. He long served as the director of athletics at Compton College (Calif.) and was the Director of the NJCAA Service Bureau from 1953-60. Photo courtesy of Ken Fagans and Michael Johnson.
Roger Staubach suits up for New Mexico Military Institute in the fall of 1961 and earns NJCAA All-American honors. He would later win the 1963 Heisman Trophy at the US Naval Academy and lead the Dallas Cowboys to two Super Bowl Championships.
National championship competition on an ‘invitational’ basis in rifle, soccer and swimming is approved in 1961 in response to President Dwight Eisenhower’s Committee on Youth Fitness, which called for more fitness activities to be available for the nation’s youth. The first rifle championship was held in Lawton, Okla., soccer’s first national tournament was held in Middleton, N.Y., while Flint, Mich., staged a swimming championship for the Association for the first time since 1950.
Photo: Roger Staubach played one season at New Mexico Military Institue before transfering to the US Naval Academy where he would win the Heisman Trophy in 1963. Photo courtesy of New Mexico Military Institute.
Reed K. Swenson relinquishes his presidency to Gerald D. Allard of Farmingdale Agricultural & Technical Institute (N.Y.), who was tabbed President-elect a year prior. Swenson was forced to step down due to his Weber College (Utah) shifting its status to a four-year degree-granting institution and taking membership in the NCAA. Swenson’s 13-year reign as NJCAA President is considered one of the most important and influential time periods for the Association. His leadership guided the Association through many trials, including the departure of its founding California members, while also strengthening policies and regulations and carefully overseeing the addition of many sports to the national championship platform.
Yet it was his leadership style that saved the Association from falling into chaos, according to Allard. “When Reed took over as president, dissension in the organization was a serious problem. Personality clashes and regional jealousy prevented real progress….his quiet and persuasive manner molded the group into a team which worked for the welfare of the whole NJCAA. If he had made no other contributions this would have warranted his being called an outstanding president.”
Swenson’s 13-year tenure from 1947-62 as president, along with Theo J. Heap’s run from 1973-86, stands as the longest run in the top office in NJCAA history. He was not only a leader for the NJCAA but also for Weber College (now Weber State University). From 1933-68 Swenson worked as the Wildcats’ athletic director and head coach for basketball and football. He was instrumental in helping formulate the Big Sky Conference (NCAA Division I), of which Weber State was a founding member in 1963. Today there are numerous buildings and facilities on the Weber State campus named in his honor and the WSU Athletics Hall of Fame includes a special Reed K. Swenson Award that is bestowed to individuals that have shown exceptional service to Weber State athletics.
Photo: Reed K. Swenson's vision for the NJCAA guided the Association through many challenges and helped it rise to prominence. Photo courtesy of Weber State University.
President Gerald D. Allard appoints Hobart Bolerjack of Benton Harbor Technical College, Mich., to the post of Commissioner of Eligibility in March 1963. The move, according to Allard, would provide stability and good-faith in the Association’s efforts to enforce rules. He wrote the following in the pages of the JUCO Review, “No longer will member colleges wonder to whom infractions should be reported and no longer should there be an unwarranted time lag between the report of the infraction and action against the college concerned.”
Bolerjack was no stranger to the NJCAA serving as Secretary from 1952-63. In 1960 he received a Citation of Merit from the NFSHSAA for his contributions on The National Alliance Rules Committee. As the Commissioner of Eligibility, Bolerjack served as the chair of the Association’s eligibility committee and was the final authority on all interpretations of the by-laws dealing with the subject.
He handled more than one controversial eligibility ruling during his time. The most notable came in his first year as the eligibility czar when the NJCAA disqualified Phoenix College (Ariz.) from the national basketball tournament after learning their leading scorer had previously played collegiate basketball and falsified information on an official eligibility sheet. To make matters worse, Phoenix had already played two games (winning both) in the tournament.
Bolerjack served as Commissioner of Eligibility until 1970.
Photo: Hobart Bolerjack courtesy of Lake Michigan College.
As a result of officials from Tyler Junior College (Texas) and Cameron State Agricultural College (Okla.) failing to come to agreeable terms, the 1960 NJCAA Football Championship Game was cancelled. Due to inadequate financial resources and the lack of a suitable event location the NJCAA fails to stage a national title game from 1961-63. Thus, a national champion was not crowned in the sport of football during those seasons.
The Alee Shrine Temple in Savannah, Ga., stepped in to underwrite the expenses for an annual NJCAA Football Championship Game in March 1964. On Thanksgiving Day later that year the NJCAA Football Championship Game (also called the NJCAA Shrine Bowl) was revived in Savannah with Phoenix College, Ariz., defeating Oklahoma Military Academy 41-13 for the national title. The Alee Shrine Temple would sponsor and host the NJCAA Football Championship Game until 1971.
Photo: Cover of the game program from the 1964 NJCAA Football Championship Game at the Shrine Bowl taken from NJCAA Archives.
After being dominated by teams from the west and midwest, Vincennes University (Ind.) becomes the first team east of the Mississippi River to win the NJCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament in Hutchinson, Kan. Vincennes was led by head coach Allen Bradfield who would led the program to two more national championships in 1970 and '72, becoming the first coach to win three NJCAA basketball national titles.
A significant contributer for the VU Trailblazers that season was center Dan Sparks who would later star at Weber State University (Utah). Sparks returned to Vincennes in 1972 as an assistant coach and helped the program win another national championship. He took over as head coach in 1979 and won over 700 games in his 27 seasons and guided VU to the national tournament 13 times, including a runner-up finish in 1986. He was inducted into the NJCAA Men's Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2000. In 2006 Sparks accepted the head coaching position at Wabash Valley College (Ill.) and has led the Warriors to 147 wins in six seasons, including two trips to the national tournament in Hutchinson.
NJCAA membership eclipses 300 colleges for the first time, surging from 289 in 1963-64 to 329 for the 1964-65 academic year.
Photo: 1965 Vincennes national championship basketball team. Dan Sparks stands in the middle of the back row (third from the left). Photo courtesy of Vincennes University.
After being run as an ‘invitational’ tournament since 1960, rapid growth in the sport of wrestling and the increase in the number of NJCAA colleges participating in the sport warrants the establishment of a true national championship tournament via qualification. The 1966 NJCAA Wrestling Championship was hosted by Worthington State Junior College (Minn.), which served as host for the event from 1964-83.
George E. Killian of Erie County Technical Institute, N.Y., is elected president, becoming the eighth person to lead the Association. At the time of his election to the office of NJCAA President, Killian was the athletic director and head men’s basketball coach at Erie while also serving as the editor of the JUCO Review.
Also in 1967, the NJCAA joined the NCAA, NAIA, AAHPER and NSA (National Student Association) in accepting charter membership in the United States Collegiate Sports Council – now known as the United States International University Sports Federation -, which serves as the official governing body for the United States in FISU (International University Sports Federation) and the World University Games.
Killian would later become president of FISU from 1999-2011.
Photo: 1967 Executive Committee of the United States Collegiate Sports Council. Top Row (left to right): George E. Killian (NJCAA), Chales M. Neinas (NCAA), Dr. Ross Merrick (AAHPER), Dr. Lucille Magnusson (AAHPER), Rachel Bryant (AAHPER). Seated (left to right): Cpt. Asbury Coward (VP of United States Collegiate Sports Council); Nick Rodis (President of United States Collegiate Sports Council), A.W. Buckingham (NAIA). Photo from National Education Association.
After proving himself to be the best player on the court at the U.S. Olympic basketball team trials, Spencer Haywood of Trinidad State Junior College (Colo.) is selected by head coach Hank Iba to compete for Team USA at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Haywood was just 19 years old at the time and became the youngest player to ever suit up for the U.S. Olympic basketball team. He led the United States to the gold medal, averaging a team-high 16.1 points per game. NJCAA President George E. Killian, who attended the Olympics in Mexico City, said Haywood’s selection and performance in the ’68 Olympics was the “best thing that ever happened to the NJCAA.”
Read more about Spencer Haywood’s impact on the NJCAA in the third installment of the NJCAA 75th Anniversary Feature Series: “GEORGE E. KILLIAN AND SPENCER HAYWOOD TAKE THE NJCAA TO NEW HEIGHTS IN THE 1960s” as well as a special 75th Anniversary Q&A with George E. Killian.
Photo: Spencer Haywood profile photo taken from the 1968 Junior College Basketball Olympic Trials program from NJCAA Archives.
By the end of the 1960s it was becoming clear that the day-to-day business of the NJCAA was so cumbersome that a full-time executive was needed. By 1968 support for such a post was approved by the NJCAA Board of Directors and the office of NJCAA Executive Director was established with an office that was to be based in the Hilton lnn in Hutchinson, Kansas – home of the NJCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. At the NJCAA board of directors meeting in March 1969, the membership recommended that George E. Killian be appointed as the first NJCAA Executive Director. This recommendation was approved and Killian took over his new post on August 1, 1969. He would go on to lead the organization as its chief executive for 35 years.
With Killian taking on the new role of Executive Director he relinquished his presidency to Homa S. Thomas of Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. Thomas had served previously as Vice-President since 1966. At NEO he was a man of many roles, holding posts as a professor, sports information director and varsity baseball coach.
Photo: NJCAA President Homa S. Thomas (left) and Executive Director George E. Killian (right) at the grand opening of the organization's first natioanl office in Hutchinson, Kan., on Aug. 1, 1969. NJCAA Photo.