Reed K. Swenson of Weber College (Utah) takes over as president during a period of time when the Association grew from a mere 20+ colleges to over 200 in 33 states. Swenson led the NJCAA through an intense reorganization, including the overhaul of the Association’s constitution and eligibility rules. Years later, when discussing his election of NJCAA President, Swenson joked “Had I known the mess the NJCAA was in I might not have accepted the position.”
Led by Swenson, the NJCAA established an executive committee, revised the constitution and by-laws, set forth new financial rules and reporting, and established more sound policies for conducting regional and national tournaments. In addition, the Association published its first policy manual for member colleges…aka – the “NJCAA Handbook.”
Attempts to produce an official publication for the NJCAA were launched as early as 1948, but it wasn’t until September of 1950 when the Association’s very own magazine NJCAA Bulletin was distributed to member colleges.
Despite holding national championship events in previous years for the sports of boxing, golf, gymnastics, swimming and tennis, Swenson and the NJCAA declared in the spring of 1950 that the organization would only sponsor a national championship program for track and field and basketball. However, leadership encouraged Regional competition in other sports with the idea that the organization would stand ready to adopt additional sports.
SPECIAL NOTE:The 1950 NJCAA Boxing Championships was held in Ogden, Utah and was dominated by Ed Sanders of Compton College (Calif.). "Big Ed" Sanders won the Heavyweight division and two years later won gold in the top division at the Olympics in Helsinki, Findland. By doing so he became the first African-American heavyweight gold medalist and the first American gold medalist in the division since 1904.
As early as 1941, administrators in the California State Federation of Junior Colleges had voiced their concern and displeasure at the creation of the NJCAA. Several issues were cited including finances and prior state rules regarding athletic competition. These issues came to a head in the spring of 1950 when the State Athletic Committee recommended, and the California State Federation of Junior Colleges approved, a measure that barred all colleges in the Golden State from participation in NJCAA sponsored events as of September 1, 1951. The move was a huge setback for the Association and cut its membership immediately by nearly 25 percent.
In a letter to Region 7 Vice-President Wayne Cusic, Compton College (Calif.) athletic director Earl J. Holmes hypothesized that the move by the California group would only hurt California and the NJCAA would strengthen as more and more junior colleges from around the country were beginning to see the benefits of the Association. These programs would now be filling the spots at national championships that California schools once had. His final prediction, however, would not come true….”I am sure that in a few years the California colleges will be requesting re-admittance into our Association.”
The NJCAA and its former California members separated and established their own niche in the collegiate sports landscape. Today, two-year college athletic programs in the Golden State function under the California Community College Athletic Association and are still not permitted to join the NJCAA.
Due to California colleges being forced to withdraw their membership in the NJCAA, membership in the Association falls to just over 130 members in 1952. The only bright spot the NJCAA finds is a fabulous new state-of-the art facility that opens in Hutchinson, Kan. – the home of the NJCAA Basketball Championship Tournament. After two years of construction, the Hutchinson Sports Arena opened its doors for the 1952 national tournament. The new 7,000 capacity arena, and the continued financial success of the tournament, signaled that despite the ‘California-setback’ the NJCAA was heading in a positive direction.
Photos: The Hutchinson Sports Arena opened its doors just in time for the 1952 NJCAA Basketball Tournament. Photos taken from 1952 tournament program via NJCAA Archives.
In an effort to solidify itself as the nation’s leader in two-year college athletics, President Reed Swenson leads the Association through several policy changes advised by the American Association of Junior Colleges. The two organizations jointly release a “Statement of Principles Conducting Junior College Athletics.” The strong working relationship with the AAJC helped solidify the NJCAA as a credible, “national” organization.
After being published since 1949 as NJCAA Bulletin, the official publication of the Association is renamed JUCO Review in September 1954. The publication was – and still is – one of the primary communication tools for the Association to disseminate information and athletic philosophies to member colleges. Renamed NJCAA Review in Sept. 2008, the publication is currently in its 64th year of operation.
Photos: 1950 October issue of NJCAA Bulletin (left) and the September 1954 edition of JUCO Review (right) from NJCAA Archives.
Membership increases to 184 colleges in 36 states in 1955. The NJCAA Statistics Bureau changes its name, and focus, to the NJCAA Service Bureau and begins to compile and release weekly ratings of member college basketball teams. The Service Bureau, for the first time, selects the official NJCAA Basketball All-American team. In previous years All-Tournament team selections at the national tournament were also considered to be All-American award winners. Dan Dotson of Hannibal-LaGrange College (Mo.) headlines the 1955 All-American team after being named the national tournament MVP.
Photo: 1955 Tournament MVP Dan Dotson from Hannibal-LaGrange College (Mo.). Photo courtesy of Howeard Dewell and Michael Johnson.
After years of discussion and contemplation by President Reed Swenson and other Association leaders, the NJCAA launches its first attempt at a NJCAA Championship Football Bowl Game. On December 15, 1956, Coffeyville Junior College (Kan.) defeats Grand Rapids Junior College (Mich.) 46-6 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in California with an attendance of 7,222. The event was sponsored by the Kiwanis Crippled Children Foundation of West Hollywood.
Photo: 1956 NJCAA Football Championship Game Program via NJCAA Archives.
NJCAA forms an affiliation group – “The National Alliance” - with the National Federation of State High School Athletic Association and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics to collaborate on common interests. The group’s main area of emphasis was formulating playing rules for football, soccer and baseball. The NFSHSAA is today known as the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).
Photo: NFSHSAA and NAIA logos used with permission.
From 1956 to 1958 President Reed Swenson assigns Jay Tolman of Mesa College (Colo.) to investigate the potential of starting a national baseball championship and the organization’s ability to support such an event. Tolman compiles a membership-wide survey in 1957 and concludes that the NJCAA would be fully justified in sponsoring such an event. However, by March of 1958 neither a sponsor or host community had been identified. Homma S. Thomas of Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in Miami, Okla., eventually steps in and hosts the first NJCAA Baseball Championship in May, which was tabbed as an invitational tournament. Cameron State Agricultural College (Okla.) won the tournament by defeating Thomas’ own NEO squad 9-6 in the title game.
On May 17 in Hutchinson, Kan., Arthur J. Bergstorm of the Executive Secretary’s Office of the NCAA meets with the NJCAA Executive Committee, marking the first meeting that representatives of both organizations convene in such a manner. Topics discussed included eligibility of student-athletes transferring from NJCAA to NCAA and differences in playing rules.
Photo: Jay Tolman (top) and Homa Thompson (bottom). NJCAA Photos.
Grand Junction, Colo., is awarded the right to host the 1959 NJCAA Baseball Championship. The NJCAA was impressed with the enthusiasm and support for the event shown by the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce and Mesa College. Due to fantastic local support and leadership from key individuals like Jay Tolman, D.S. Dykstra, Bus Bergman, Sam Suplizio, and many others, the NJCAA Baseball Championship, also known as the JUCO World Series, found a permanent home and has been held in Grand Junction for over 50 years.
Photo: 1959 NJCAA Baseball Championship Program from NJCAA Archives.