Monday, March 22, 2010

Turn Back the Clock: Basketball Gets Its Start at MIT

Today we begin a new feature called Turn Back the Clock, which highlights memorable moments in the history of the MIT men’s basketball program. Since this is our first installment, we thought it would be appropriate to put the spotlight on the origins of the program.

Following the lead of other colleges and universities, MIT (known at the time as Technology) made preparations for the formation of a basketball team after a group of students brought the idea before President Henry Smith Pritchett for consideration in the fall of 1900. The President stated that if a sufficient number of men interested in the game could be found, he would give the team his support. At the meeting held in Room I (Boston campus), 30 men were present and more students had stated their intention of trying for the team, raising the number to nearly fifty. This was considerably more than the limit set by Dr. Pritchett. With this showing, an organization was at once formed and John F. Pell ‘03, of Newark, N.J., was elected captain, with Hiram F. Peaslee ‘03, taking the reins as manager.

On Saturday, January 11, 1901, at the Boston Normal School Gymnasium (off Huntington Ave.), the Technology basketball team defeated Dean Academy in its inaugural contest, 22-1. Forward Walter Dillon led all players with eight points, while forward George “Fay’ Libbey also enjoyed a strong game. Libbey was MIT’s leading scorer throughout the season, and although his game high was nine points, he scored every point for MIT in multiple games. Rounding out the starting lineup for the Institute’s first basketball team were Frank Cox, John Pell, and Charles Hunter. Walter Fitch and Henry Kendall entered the game as subs.

The majority of MIT’s schedule for the 1901 season was filled by teams with various YMCA affiliations, although the team did see action against intercollegiate competition. MIT and Harvard split a pair of meetings, while the Engineers defeated Brown University in the season finale.