By Nick Hurley, Research Services Assistant
With March Madness in full swing, and UConn’s top-ranked, undefeated women’s basketball team set to take on Mississippi State tomorrow in Bridgeport, it seems appropriate to share this photograph of their predecessors, who enjoyed similar success during their first season in 1902.
Basketball came to UConn (then known as the Connecticut Agricultural College) in 1901, with the formation of a provisional men’s team under the direction of Athletics Professor T.D. Knowles. After winning their first game against Willimantic High School, a permanent team was organized for the following 1901-02 season. Many female students, according to the school newspaper (The Lookout, predecessor to the Daily Campus), “took enough interest in the boys in the blue and white jerseys to accompany them to Willimantic and to cheer lustily during the entire game,” though they wouldn’t remain on the sidelines for long. By March 1902 The Lookout reported that “there has appeared a new feature in our athletics, a basketball team, made up and well made up from the young ladies of Grove Cottage.”
Under the supervision of Mrs. Stimson (then-President Stimson’s wife), the girls played their first game on March 8th, 1902 against Willimantic High School in the College Hall on campus (presumably the building referred to as “Old Main”, which held administrative offices, classrooms, and the library, along with other meeting and recreation spaces.) The game kicked off at 2:30pm, with the first basket made soon after by Grace Koons—the daughter of CAC’s former president Benjamin Koons, for whom Koons Hall is named. This was followed soon after by another from Marjorie Montheith, daughter of popular professor Henry R. Monteith, the namesake for the Monteith Building. The final score? CAC: 15, WHS: 6.
The team went on to win their second game as well, also against Willimantic, making them undefeated in their first season. Like the men’s team, the experiment had been a success, and the women returned the next year alongside their male counterparts. From these humble beginnings came the powerhouse teams we know today, who have racked up countless NCAA Championship wins and other accolades.
More information on the history of basketball at UConn can be found in the holdings here at Archives & Special Collections. The University of Connecticut Photograph Collection contains numerous images of both teams throughout the years (as well as other sports), and the University of Connecticut, Women’s Basketball Perfect Season Collection includes publications, posters, and memorabilia related to the perfect seasons enjoyed by the Women’s team between 1994 and 2003. A number of basketball-specific images can also be found in our digital repository.