Celebrating A Century Of Ricks College Athletics



Viking Stadium and the Hart Gymnasium lie in quiet repose like ships that have completed a grand, adventurous journey and await new assignments. The announcement in June 2000 that the intercollegiate athletic program would be phased out as part of the transition to BYU-Idaho sent understandable shock waves through loyal fans. Rather than abandon the Viking ship, the players and coaches put together a final year of exciting competition--a fitting conclusion to a prestigious Ricks College athletic history that produced nearly 100 first team All Americans, 61 individual national champions, 17 team national champions, and three gold medalists (in the Olympics, the World Master's Games, and the Senior Olympics).

The final chapter for the intercollegiate athletic program continued under the name of Ricks College in tribute to the athletes and coaches of the past. A look back at some of the milestones brings memories of coaches, athletes, and fans who exemplify strength, character, sacrifice, teamwork, and good sportsmanship.

Ricks Academy--the early years of competition (1888-1919)
From the school's founding in 1888, there was undoubtedly diversion from books through friendly competitions involving physical skill. A photo of the 1903 Ricks Academy girls' basketball team is included in Dave Crowder's The Spirit of Ricks. The first printed mention of organized sports was recorded in a 1906 issue of Student Rays.

1907 Graduation day, May 16, included a field sports day which was interrupted by a storm.

1908-1909 A vigorous campaign and election resulted with new school colors of purple and white which "had a better effect when made up into athletic suits." The 1908-1909 school year can be considered the first of any sustained inter-school competition in basketball.

1909 The first mail-order football arrived in Rexburg. Few had previously seen the game played, but a group of enthusiasts started practicing, coached by James Anderson of the Academy. The sport was considered too rough by some and was not yet sanctioned at Church-owned schools.

1911 The auditorium on the third floor of the Academy (Spori) received a new maple floor and a basketball hoop. Plans were announced to construct dressing rooms and showers to further aid athletic teams, but they were never realized.

1912 "Ricks has just awakened to the fact that she has a place in the athletic world and the prospects for future years are even brighter than at present. We enter the field of combat with the leading schools of Utah and Idaho, sometimes gaining victories and occasionally meeting defeat." (Student Rays, Nov. 1912).

1913 An early spring allowed the building of a circular track and ground preparation for baseball.

1915 Using the auditorium in the Academy Building as a gymnasium was deemed disruptive to good discipline. Authorization was granted to expand to accommodate first-year college courses and to build a new gymnasium building. By screwing several seats into the auditorium floor, Principal Andrew B. Christenson facilitated more room for a library and expedited plans for the gym building. In the interim, Woodvine Hall in Rexburg was rented for basketball.

The Clyde P. Packer Years (1917-1939)
Enthusiasm for basketball was high. Coach Clyde P. Packer, an All American in basketball from the University of Utah, was hired in the fall of 1917. He stayed 22 years and had a significant impact on Ricks athletics. He started the football program and coached for 15 years. He coached basketball 21 years, track and field 13 years, and was involved in coaching tennis.

1918 The newly completed gym building included a swimming pool, kitchen, dining room, and domestic science department classrooms on the first floor. The second floor was the auditorium. The gymnasium was on the third floor. The gym building served as the hub of indoor athletic activity for nearly 50 years. On the day the building first opened to the public, the announcement was made that the Academy would be known as Ricks Normal College.

1919 In its first year of competition, the Ricks football team claimed the Idaho and northern Utah league championship.

1928 The Viking became the school mascot and the school hired its first full-time football coach, Robert Gibbons who had trained with the great Knute Rockne of Notre Dame. Gibbons was assisted by Coach Packer.

1930 President Hyrum Manwaring received approval from Ricks' Board of Education to purchase a plot of ground west of the college for an athletic field for his purple-shirted warriors. While this was seen as consensus to grow, the Church was in the process of closing many of its academies and rumors were that Ricks would be included. (From 1931-1937, there were biennial attempts by the Church to give Ricks to the state of Idaho.)

1931 Some local people felt it foolish to purchase ground for an athletic field if the school would be given to the state or closed due to lack of financial support. John W. Hart, president of the Ricks College Board of Education (total service 1912-1935) and a prominent state legislator, encouraged students and teachers to dispel rumors and instead build a momentum of support. Funds were raised to purchase eight acres of land in the block west of the college. The field began to be used within three weeks of the purchase.

1933 Ingenious Coach Packer built enthusiasm for football while arranging for the longest road game in the history of Ricks College athletics. In cooperation with the Rexburg Chamber of Commerce, the Shriners, and McKinley High School, the McKinley team first came from Honolulu to Rexburg for a game held at the fairgrounds before 5,500 spectators.

1934 On November 19, 1934, Coach Packer took twelve team members by train to San Francisco and then by ship to Los Angeles and Honolulu for a rematch on December 8. (Six additional players traveled as far as San Francisco but did not qualify for the game in Hawaii.) An estimated 19,000 fans turned out to see the game. McKinley "decisively outplayed the visitors, who were hampered by 78 degree weather and a shortage of reserves." (The Purple Flash, 11 Dec. 1934, p. 4) The final score was 24 to 6 in the Shriners benefit game.

1937 As Ricks College entered the fiftieth year of the school, students encouraged each other to become true Vikings.
"Vikings---that's what we are or are trying to become. It is courage that makes the team put up a strong fight in the face of terrific opposition; it is the loyalty to the ideals set up and maintained by former students; it is the development of character in the participation in music, debating, or dramatics. Those who get the most out of the school are those who have the courage, the loyalty, the strength of character, the determination to be real Vikings!" (Viking Flash, Homecoming Edition 1937, p. 2. The Viking Flash became the Viking Scroll in 1938.)

The War years and beyond (1939-1949)
A new football, basketball, and track coach, Lowell C. Biddulph, began in 1939 what turned out to be a long and successful coaching and administrative career at Ricks, finishing as athletic director in the early 1970s.

1939 Without receiving advance notice, the now blue-and-white clad warriors played their first night football game under the lights in Helena, Montana. Although winning 13-0, the Ricks team had gone unprepared for an overnight stay. Carroll College laid out cots for the team on the roof of one of their buildings. None had brought money for breakfast, so Coach Biddulph bought a box of oranges and a box of apples for the bus journey home.

1940 The third-floor gym was remodeled by taking out the circular staircase that had been detrimental to play at the end of the court. Seating increased to accommodate 1,000 people.

1941 Because of a lack of young men due to the national defense program, football was canceled. Intramural programs were designed to keep everyone in good health. Founder's Day included intramural contests as homecoming attractions.

1944 There were not enough men attending Ricks for a basketball team. Intramurals provided an opportunity for the few boys attending to compete. (Total male enrollment dropped to 14 at one point.)
"School spirit does not refer alone to cheering crowds at a college football game, or stamping of feet and clapping of hands as the college band plays 'Happy Ties.'
A shattered flag flying from a tree in Okinawa would inspire as much spirit of Americanism as would a beautiful silk flag flying from the Capitol dome. We here at Ricks can have just as much school spirit ... without the bands and ball teams....
This year will be one of the most unusual years at Ricks. Perhaps it will be a little harder for us to keep the school spirit going but we CANNOT let it die. We must make it grow and mature. It rests in our hands, so let's do our part in lifting it up and speeding it onward to live and inspire for many years to come."
(Viking Scroll, 2 Nov., 1945)

1946 The intramural tournament had eight teams from which Coach Biddulph was able to select a basketball team. The team won 22 of 29 games.

1947 Coach Biddulph restarted football. He was assisted by Dr. L. Eugene Petersen.

1948 Ricks began competing in the newly formed Intermountain Collegiate Athletic Conference (ICAC). Nine teams made up the league, including four-year schools Southern Idaho College of Education (SICE) in Albion, and Westminster of Salt Lake City; three-year school Branch Agricultural College (now Southern Utah University) in Cedar City; and junior colleges Boise, Weber, Snow, Dixie, and Carbon (College of Eastern Utah) in Price.

Athletics at Ricks as a four-year school (1949-1956)
The transition to a four-year school was a short-lived yet interesting time. Ricks continued playing junior college opponents with only a few four-year colleges added to the schedule, primarily in basketball. Students participated in many ways. There were quick half-time uniform changes for some football team members who were also members of the marching band. Women's athletics were not yet sanctioned nationally so their games were scheduled with high schools and other club teams.

1951 Ricks College Development Association in cooperation with the Ricks Alumni Association began a drive to collect funds for a new stadium. The Bleacher Athletic Club, the predecessor to the Viking Club, was organized to promote athlete scholarships, secure part-time work for athletes, and build Ricks College athletic programs generally.

1953 The school's first appearance at a national basketball final was earned by Coach Brick Parkinson's team. Finals for the N.A.I.A., the national small college athletic association, were held in Kansas City. Ricks lost their first game in the single-elimination tournament.

Years of Uncertainty and Struggling for Respectability (1956-1968)
After seven years of four-year status, the enrollment at Ricks College increased by only 325 students to 1,081. As the school reverted back to junior college status in 1956, there were few returning athletes. It took several years for the athletic programs to recover from the change.

1959 Rodeo started as a club sport with George Patterson as the advisor. Evan Goulding participated in the national college finals and won first place in calf roping.

1962 Don Rydalch began his 35-year Ricks College career as a coach, teacher, administrator and finally athletic director.
The huge letter "R" located on the North Menan Butte was developed by Mathletes, the college math club, as part of the homecoming activities.

1963-64 The Vikings regained momentum and once again had a winning season in men's basketball after a seven-year drought that included only one break-even season.

1964 After struggling for eight years, football had its first winning season since reverting back to junior college status.
Bob Christensen was Ricks' first national wrestling champion.

1965 The first-ever national team title was won by the men's cross country team in their first year of competition with Don Rydalch as coach. The team later reclaimed the title in 1966, 1986, 1999, 2000, and 2001.
The football season started with a new assistant coach, Charles "Tiny" Grant, who would leave a lasting legacy of 32 years of service at the college as coach, administrator and athletic director.

1966-Football's John Huntsman became the first athlete to be given the Clyde P. Packer Ideal Male Athlete Award at the end of the season. The award was established to recognize ability, scholarship, sportsmanship, morality, and service to school, church, and community.

1967-68 Women's sports teams were organized under direction of coaches Jan Harrop and Judee MacNeil. Unbudgeted, they started with volleyball, then basketball and softball. Women athletes provided their own T-shirts, transportation, and lodging when traveling to games.

Reach for the Sky (1968-1983)
Revisions and changes in the athletic program were made to emphasize the major sports. The sports dropped were women's softball, gymnastics, and field hockey as well as co-ed tennis, skiing, swimming, and rodeo. (Rodeo continued as a club sport advised by Mel Griffeth.) The remaining sports were football, wrestling, men's and women's basketball, women's volleyball, and men's cross country and track. Doing more with less, the athletic department soon gained momentum. Conference, regional, and national honors were achieved by numerous teams, individuals, athletes, and several coaches.

1969 On September 25, an open house was held for the new John W. Hart Physical Education Building which contained a main gym, auxiliary gym, swimming pool, handball courts, physical therapy rooms, stage, press boxes, locker rooms, classrooms, offices, and a large field house for indoor practice of tennis, football, baseball, track, etc.

1971 The college hired its first athletic trainer, Nate Yearsley. Previously student trainers had assisted athletes.

1971-72 Men's basketball team, coached by Glenn Dalling, closed the season with a perfect home court record, 15-0, and its best win-loss record since 1956. The team was led by Australian Ed Palubinskas with his 92 percent three point average and school record 39 consecutive free throw season. Palubinskas later won the gold medal in the World Master's Games.

1974 Coached by Don Schiess, the baseball team qualified for national finals after winning regionals. They opted not to play due to required Sunday competitions (a requirement no longer in force).
The women's volleyball team, coached by JoAnn Reeve, traveled to Battle Creek, Michigan, for the A.I.A. tournament and won the only national team competition ever captured by a Ricks College squad.

1975 The women's basketball team with Coach Reeve made its first appearance in the national finals.

1980 Coach Wes Christensen was named to the National Junior College Wrestling Hall of Fame.

1981 Ricks College won its first ever post-season bowl game, 28-21, against Arizona Western in the Valley of the Sun Bowl in Phoenix, Ariz. The game brought national attention, a final second place national ranking, and the frequently asked question, "Who's Rick?"

1982 The Ricks College Athletic Hall of Fame was created. Sponsored by the Division of Athletics, the Alumni Association, and the Viking Booster Club, the recognition both honors the athletes of the past and inspires present and future contestants. The first inductees were Marion G. Romney (football, basketball 1918-1919); Clyde P. Packer (1917-1939, coach football, basketball, track, tennis); Conley Watts (1930-32, football, basketball, track); Lowell G. Biddulph (1939-73, coach and administrator, football, basketball, track, tennis, wrestling); Glenn W. Dalling (1948-51, basketball, track); Preston B. Brimhall (1941-43, 1946-47, basketball) and Berkley H. "Brick" Parkinson, (1951-68, coach, football, basketball, baseball, tennis).
Ron Haun began his twenty-year coaching career with the Ricks College football team.
Men's track and field team placed second nationally with three individual champions under the guidance of Coach Jed Gibson.

Success in the Latter Years (1983-2002)

1983-84 Men's basketball team placed sixth nationally for the highest national finish in Ricks College history. Coach Gary Gardner began the season with a 16-0 winning run, ending with 28-5.
The formation of the Western States Football League was announced with Don Rydalch as president. In addition to Ricks, three teams were in Arizona and three in Utah.
A national record of 25 quarterback sacks was set by Jason Buck who was named the defensive player of the year by the J.C. Gridwire, a national junior college football newsletter. (Buck later played at BYU and professionally for the Cincinnati Bengals and the Washington Redskins.)
Fotu Katoa broke three school football records and tied a third for receptions. Fotu later married Elizabeth Tayler, a member of the cross country and track field team. They were the first husband-wife team to be honored in the Athletic Hall of Fame.

1986 The football team never lost a game (one game ended in a tie) and was only four votes shy of the national championship.

1988 The college's centennial celebration year added three distinctions. The Viking statue was placed in the Hart foyer as a gift from the student body. The wrestling squad placed second nationally coached by Bob Christensen. Ricks won the Centennial Bowl (the post-season predecessor to the Real Dairy Bowl) in the Minidome at Idaho State University.

1990 The women's volleyball team ended the season ranked second nationally with a 54-8 record.

1991 The wrestling team included Rulon Gardner, national heavyweight champion; nine years later Gardner became an Olympic gold medalist.

1992 The first woman was inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame (Barbara Green Yeck, 1979-81, basketball).
The wrestling team won the regional title for the first time in 20 years and finished third nationally with one national champion.

1993 Coach Lori Woodland's Lady Vikings took third nationally in women's basketball with a season record of 29-4.

1994 Women's cross country team won the national title--the beginning of Coach Doug Stutz's dynasty.

1996 Coached by Larry Stocking and in their first year of competition, the women's softball won the conference and regional titles but lost in first-round of national finals. The following three years, they returned to nationals and finished within the top three.

1997 Women's track and field team won the national title with five individual champions. Their coach was Ferron Sonderegger.

1998 The Vikings lined up against Butler County, Kansas, in the Real Dairy Bowl for the national junior college football title and ended with a narrow loss and a score of 22-18.
A new baseball facility was put into use on the south end of the campus.

1998 Coach JoAnn Reeve was inducted into the NJCAA Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. (Reeve's total career at Ricks surpassed 900 wins in the 2001 season.)

1999-2000 Wrestler James Huml won back-to-back national titles at heavyweight. Quarterback Marc Dunn was named the NJCAA Player of the Year.

2001 All four of the fall athletic teams earned Academic All American status. The cross country teams won national junior college champions (for the women, seven consecutive titles; the men, three).
A crowd of nearly 11,000 witnessed the last football game of the Ricks College Vikings in the final Real Dairy Bowl in Pocatello. The Vikings tromped previously undefeated Lackawanna College of Scranton, Penn., 49-21. Final NJCAA ranking, #5.

2002 Women's basketball team, coached by Lori Woodland, won regionals and went to nationals in Salina, Kansas.
In March, the Hart Gym was the scene of a tribute celebrating a century of Ricks athletics -- bringing it to a grand conclusion. The voyage is complete.SM

This brief history was gleaned by LaNae H. Poulter from over 1,400 pages of information. Photos were selected by Mike Lewis from a collection of over 10,000 images. It is hoped the material chosen will help alumni refresh their own unique memories associated with the past century of Ricks College athletics. Crowder, David L. (1997). The Spirit of Ricks. Ricks College. Moser, Steve (2001). "History of Athletics at Ricks College," unpublished. Moser, Steve (1988). 100 Years of Ricks College Athletics. Ricks College. Student Rays, Viking Flash, and Viking Scroll. Archive Collection, David O. McKay Library, Brigham Young University-Idaho. For additional information on Ricks College athletics, visit www.byui.edu/vikingclub.

Badminton, women
Baseball, men
Basketball, men
Basketball, women
Bowling, men & women
Boxing, men
Cross country, women
Cross country, men
Field hockey, women
Football, men
Golf, men
Gymnastics, women
Rodeo, men & women
Skiing, men
Softball slow-pitch, women
Softball fast pitch, women
Swimming, men & women
Tennis, men & women
Track and Field, men
Track and Field, women
Volleyball, women
Wrestling, men
1919-1942; 1946-2002
1939-1941; 1948-52; 1954-58
1965-1971; 1973-2001
1919-1940; 1947-2001
1923-1942; 1946-2002
1970-1974; 1982-2002