Eastern Connecticut State University's 125th Anniversary Celebration resumed Monday, March 10, for "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," a tribute to athletics at Eastern. The lunchtime event held in the Betty R. Tipton Room featured a spread of hotdogs, baked beans, vegetarian chili, cupcakes decorated as baseballs and Cracker Jacks, as well as presentations about Eastern's athletic history, a panel discussion and a special cheerleading demonstration.
"Take Me Out to the Ball Game" kicked off with a short video about Eastern Hall of Fame Women's Basketball Coach Bob Miller, who lead the team from 1974-'93. Miller is among the most successful women's basketball coaches in New England, with 332 career victories, but is also noteworthy for his standards of integrity and excellence, and his support of women's rights and athletics in the Title IX era of the early '70s.
"Eastern was ahead of the curve when it came to the acceptance and involvement of women in athletics," said Beth Regan, 1979 graduate and basketball player under Coach Miller. "I am grateful to have had the opportunity to play basketball here."
Following was a slideshow recapping the history of Eastern athletics, from the early 1900s when there were just a few all-women's teams to now, with 17 NCAA intercollegiate teams.
A panel discussion of past and present Eastern athletic affiliates batted third in the event. Don Beerworth, a 1961 graduate, reflected on his time on campus when much of Eastern's athletic success was due to the participation of veterans. "In the '50s and '60s a lot of veterans were making their way into college because of the GI Bill, and many were great athletes."
Panelists were asked to compare and contrast the expectations of student-athletes then and now. "When I was a student-athlete, there was not as much emphasis on community service or extracurricular activities," said Interim Athletic Director Cynthia Washburne ''85. "The NCAA and certain student-athlete requirements had not yet been established at Eastern."
Two current student-athletes were also on the panel. "A lot is expected of student-athletes nowadays," said Ashley Wolk, tri-captain of the women's lacrosse team and a senior majoring in communication. "In addition to hours of practice and games, we are expected to be involved in the community and campus, and of course to maintain good grades."
"Studies show, as do our own records, that student-athletes perform better in the classroom and are more involved," said President Elsa Núñez. "Athletics are an integral part of the Eastern experience."
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