Even without a field, proper gyms, or adequate funding, Brooklyn College students managed to form teams in a variety of sports and to compete, often successfully, against rival schools.
Men’s Division Athletics
During the days of the City College branch, the Brooklyn men dominated the Metropolitan Collegiate Conference championships in football, basketball, and track.1 Other teams in this conference included LIU, Wagner College, Cooper Union, the New York State Institute of Applied Agriculture (now Farmingdale State College, SUNY), and Seth Low Junior College (a short-lived branch of Columbia University in Brooklyn).
By 1932, the men’s division boasted nine teams including basketball, fencing, tennis, baseball, track, boxing, wrestling, handball, and football.
Before 1930, the football team suffered setbacks when students transferred to City after their sophomore year at the Brooklyn branch. The program was temporarily suspended, but returned to BC in 1931. That year, the team broke 500, and could boast a 58-0 win over Cooper Union.2
Financially, basketball was the biggest money-maker for the college. Ticket sales from one season were used to “equip every team in the college handsomely.” 3 During the 1932-1933 season, the basketball team won 11 out of 17 games, playing against local teams as well as Rhode Island State and Trenton State. The highlight of the season came with a surprise victory over the highly favored Manhattan College Jaspers. 4
The Men’s Division also had their own cheering squad. 5
Women’s Division Athletics
The Women’s Division had a very active sports program and participated in Play Day, a sports festival for women started by NYU. Brooklyn College students attended Hunter’s Play Day until they proudly held their own in May 1932 at Girl’s Commercial High School. The event consisted of folk dancing, track and field, singing, and a student-faculty basketball game. 6
Finding places to practice and hold sporting events was as much of challenge for the Women’s Division as for the Men’s. The low ceilings and pillars in the women’s makeshift gym in the Court Street building resulted in a constant search for other venues throughout the borough. For basketball, they used the gym at Girl’s Industrial High School or the Men’s Division gym on Willoughby Street. After the College rented space in the Joralemon Street building, the women had a large gym with an enclosed roof for practices. Swimming practice and meets took place at the Metropolitan Pool and Hotel Pierrepont pools, while field hockey was played in Prospect Park. 7 For tennis, they would travel steps from the future home of Brooklyn College: the Montgomery Royal Tennis Courts on Avenue I and Flatbush Avenues. 8
These logistical difficulties did not prevent the teams from having winning seasons. In 1931, the varsity field hockey team suffered only one loss at the hands of NYU. In the Fencing, there were two matches in 1932. Brooklyn beat Hunter and tied with the German-American Athletic club. 9
“The spirit in which our teams have taken both their victories and defeats is a manifestation of their belief in playing the game squarely and wholeheartedly, and playing it for its own sake rather than for personal glory.” 10