McPherson, KS - In 1891, a PE instructor and Christian chaplain at Springfield College (MA), Mr. James Naismith, invented the game of basketball. His purpose was to provide young athletes with indoor conditioning during the harsh winter months. In 1898, James Naismith brought his game to the University of Kansas, where he established an athletic program that has become one of the most prestigious in the nation.
Fast forward to the early 1940s on the heels of The Great Depression. The game of basketball had spread to many colleges and organizations throughout the country. However, at the colleges affiliated with the Free Methodist Church, intercollegiate sports were still not allowed.
In 1943, J.T. Pyle, CC’16, (who was the father of Ed, CC’46, and Glenn Pyle, CC’48) and G. Ray Phillippi, both Central College Trustees and West Kansas Conference delegates for the Free Methodist Denomination, offered a proposal to the General Conference to allow the colleges affiliated with the church to begin a basketball program. The church approved which ushered in the beginning of a new era for the Free Methodist Colleges, namely Seattle Pacific University, Greenville University, Spring Arbor University, and Roberts Wesleyan College.
During the 1943-44 season, Central hastily put together a team, practiced several times and played five games — losing all five. Lee Craven, CC’47, of Wichita, KS, is the lone surviving player from that team.
By the next year, the team had more time to become established. Howard Krober took over as head coach and went 8-3, beating several four-year colleges such as Bethany, Baker, Ottawa, Sterling, and Greenville. Future coach Marvin Sellberg, CC’46, played on this team as a guard, as well as Mr. Don Rounds, CC’48, both still living in McPherson, KS. And, as they say, the rest is history.
Central Christian College, as it is known today, played a pivotal role in starting intercollegiate athletics at the Free Methodist colleges. Without the pivotal vote in 1943, the denominational schools would not have received over 58 national championship titles and launched the athletic careers of numerous Olympians!
75 years ago, who would have known what an impact that one proposal would have sparked?
To celebrate the momentous 75 years of intercollegiate sports, Central is hosting the 2019 Hall of Fame Inductions & 75 Year Athletics Anniversary Celebration! Join us on campus February 16, 2019, as we induct Howard Krober, CC’46, Mike Saxton, CC’64, Marvin Sellberg, CC’46, Milt Fuller, CC’61, Tom Griffith, CC’58, Don Mason, CC’57, Galen Myers, CC’62, and Johnny Taylor, CC’61.
For more information and to register, go to CCCKFoundation.org