The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.
Intramural Sports

Before 1912 there was no central organization to promote sports for the general student body, so the students of their own accord began to rally around specific units. Teams were organized representing the different colleges and schools, and games were played between them. The Michigan Alumnus for February, 1912, stated: "Twenty games between the Laws, Engineers, Homeops, Lits, and a combined team known as the Sciences, from the Dental, Medical and Pharmacy Departments, made up the interdepartment schedule of hockey games held during January." And the Michigan Daily for October 3, 1913, reported: "The First Annual All-Comers Championship Tennis Tournament for the title of the campus will start on the Ferry Field Courts today, with thirty-two contestants entered."

In this way an embryo intramural program developed which became more and more student controlled. Finally, however, Page  1987it grew too large to be handled without a stronger and more permanent centralized authority. The Men's Athletic Association, which had permitted the use of its fields and other facilities, realized that some form of control would be necessary. Thus, in the fall of 1912 Prentiss Douglas, a member of the football coaching staff, was appointed half-time to take charge of intramural athletics, which consisted, actually, of interclass sports. An article by T. Hawley Tapping, at that time a staff member of the Michigan Daily, is herewith quoted: "In the school year of 1912-13, the department of intramural activities was first created. Prentiss Douglas, this fall the coach of the freshman football team, was made the director … and it was a success from the very first."

The University of Michigan thus became the first educational institution to appoint a coach to direct its intramural program. This move toward a unified system was helpful to the Men's Athletic Association because it permitted direct control over space and equipment. The fields and courts were assigned impartially and without confusion, the games were better supervised, and any loss or damage to equipment could easily be traced. Under Douglas' direction the intramural program was expanded and improved. Greater interest developed in interclass competition and in promoting the physical welfare of the students; enrollment increased in sports, and the value of the new branch in college athletics was recognized.

The following year (1913-14) Floyd Rowe ('08e), who was appointed Intramural Director on a full-time basis, established procedures which were to continue for many years. Records show that some two thousand students took part in thirteen sports programs. The use of the word "intramural" in this sense is credited to Allen S. Whitney of the School of Education and a member of the Board in Control of Athletics.

Owing to the pressure of World War I, the work was largely superseded by military activities in 1917-18. It was reorganized in 1919 with Elmer Dayton Mitchell ('12, Ph.D. '38) as Director. Increased enrollment and the impetus given to athletics by the war caused an immediate increase in intramural participation. Fourteen sports made up the program at that time. The fraternity sports program and the all-year point system were established, and, with the growth of intramural athletics at this and other Western Conference schools, the first meeting of the Western Conference Intramural Directors took place in 1920. This group, which has continued to the present time, has had much to do with the development of the program throughout the country.

In the fall of 1921 the department was transferred from the Athletic Association to the Division of Hygiene, Public Health, and Physical Education (P.R., 1921-22, pp. 153-54). A substantial increase in its budget also resulted. With increased facilities provided from inter-collegiate athletic funds, it was now possible for the students to take part in informal sports participation, whereas previously participation had been confined to organized athletic competition. As a result, the name of the department was changed from Intramural Athletics to the more inclusive title of Intramural Sports.

In 1921-22 the game of speedball was introduced by Professor Mitchell as a substitute for football, which was proving too hazardous for untrained players without adequate protective equipment. The game combined the outstanding features of soccer, basketball, and football. In 1941-42 the popular game of touch football was added. Softball, introduced in 1922-23, was readily accepted because Page  1988it required a small area of playing space and little equipment. Practice was held to a minimum. The game has continued on the program to the present time.

The construction of Yost Field House (the first field house in the country), which was opened in 1923, aided in the development of intramural athletics. Varsity activities were removed from Waterman Gymnasium, thus freeing its facilities to a great extent for use by intramural sports. Over the years the Field House also has been the scene of many intramural events, particularly indoor track and field.

Another administrative change took place in 1926, when intramural sports and the programs in physical education for both men and women were placed under the jurisdiction of the newly created Board in Control of Athletics (R.P., 1923-26, pp. 868-71). The greatest stimulus to the intramural program, however, came in 1927-28 with the construction of the magnificent new Sports Building. Owing largely to Fielding H. Yost's enthusiasm and his belief in and support of "athletics for all," the building was opened in October, 1928, the first university-owned structure in the nation devoted primarily to intramural sports (see Part VIII: The Athletic Plant). Open House was held on March 21, 1929. A program, built around winter sports, has continued as an annual event. Many championships and exhibitions are held, and instructional clinics are conducted by outstanding sports figures.

Faculty members were quick to take advantage of the fine facilities at the Sports Building, and in 1929-30 a number of tournaments were conducted for them. A favorite game is water polo, which was introduced in 1925 when the Michigan Union swimming pool was opened. The game is played during the noon hour, with the participants going to the Michigan Union for luncheon immediately after the game. The game of paddleball invented by Earl Riskey, a departmental staff member, was added in 1930-31. This game, which is similar to squash, is played with a wooden paddle in a handball court under handball rules. It has continued on the program to the present time.

In 1933-34 the federal government inaugurated a program of federal aid under F.E.R.A. (Federal Emergency Relief Administration, later N.Y.A.), which provided aid for students on jobs not already held by salaried workers. The program made a definite contribution to intramural athletics at Michigan because it augmented opportunities for student teachers and made possible the repair and addition of facilities. The Board in Control of Athletics was changed to the Board in Control of Physical Education in 1934-35 (R.P., 1932-36, pp. 297-98).

A new emphasis developed in 1935 on recreation as a valuable contribution to the wise use of leisure time and on sports which had a "carry-over" value. Students were urged to take part in golf, badminton, bowling, tennis, swimming, handball, squash, paddleball, skating, and the like. It was recognized at this time that impromptu play was just as important in the intramural program as organized competition, and a program of instruction was set up for those who wanted to participate.

Before 1937-38 graduate students competed with undergraduates. In this year a separate division was created which gave the graduate student an opportunity to compete in intramural sports.

The completion of the West Quadrangle resulted in competition between Residence Halls. The program was inaugurated in 1939-40, and the seven Page  1989houses in the Quadrangle participated enthusiastically. At the end of the school year an athletic banquet to which intramural participants were invited was held, thus setting the pattern for future residence halls groups. The facilities of the Sports Building were made available each Friday evening for a corecreation program, and men and women students engaged in volleyball, badminton, basketball, paddleball, squash, and swimming. This program has continued to be popular.

The year 1939-40 also saw the first attempt at a recreation program for foreign students. There was team competition in soccer and volleyball, and individual tournaments in badminton and tennis. A special open house was held at the International Center at which time various championships were played, and students gave exhibitions of the various sports and recreations of their own countries. In 1953 the game of cricket was added for the benefit of the foreign students. It is interesting to note that cricket was originally responsible for the University's first official recognition of athletics. In 1865 the Regents appropriated $50 in order to prepare "a suitable place on the grounds for the use of the University Cricket Clubs" (R.P., 1867-70, p. 95).

The East Quadrangle program got under way in 1941 with the opening of the first three of the houses. Under this new organization, Quad champions chosen in each sport met the West Quad winners for the residence halls championship.

During World War II the Department of Physical Education for Men conducted a physical conditioning noncredit course especially designed to prepare students for service in the Armed Forces. The intramural, athletic, and physical education facilities were made available, and programs were carried on for Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force. For this special instruction a physical fitness test was given, and students were placed in special groups in accordance with their scores. The year 1943-44 saw a curtailment of the intramural program owing to the emphasis placed on physical conditioning and military skills during the war.

The Board in Control of Physical Education became the Board in Control of Intercollegiate Athletics in 1942 (R.P., 1939-42, pp. 859-61). Professor Elmer Mitchell was appointed chairman of the Department of Physical Education for Men, and Earl N. Riskey, working under his direction, was placed in charge of intramural sports.

In 1945 the University acquired Willow Village, a former war workers' housing unit, and in 1946 the Department of Physical Education for Men inaugurated a temporary intramural program for students in residence there. Rodney J. Grambeau, who joined the intramural staff in 1947, was put in charge of the work.

A full-scale intramural program was resumed in 1947-48. A competitive program for faculty members, set up in 1948-49, was expanded the following year when some 150 faculty members competed with the same number of students in six sports. The faculty won, and this event has been continued every year.

When the South Quadrangle was opened in 1951, seven houses took part in the first program for that group. With this, the third Quad, the Residence Halls program attained second place in the all-intramural program with a total of twenty units. Only the social fraternity division, which had forty units, was larger.

The unprecedented growth of student enrollment places an ever-constant burden upon the intramural program to provide adequate facilities for an "athletics for all" program. This need is recognized Page  1990and is partly being met by new additions of athletic fields, such as Wines Field, which is lighted at night to take care of the increased number of teams, and by the addition of the old varsity swimming pool, which, since the new varsity pool has been completed, has been turned over completely for classes and intramural recreation. The University has taken cognizance of future needs by acquiring lands adjacent to the new North Campus for recreational use.