Exploring the rich athletics history of Beloit College as it marks 100 years in the MWC

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BELOIT, WI (WTVO/WQRF) — For such a small college, Beloit College has an unbelievably rich history in athletics. It was 100 years ago this month that the College became one of the founding members of the Midwest Conference and today the conference and Beloit College are still going strong.

Dave DeGeorge knows as much about the history of Beloit College athletiCs as anyone does. He has been the head baseball coach at the college for 30 years, an assisant football coach for 19 years, and he’s now the athletic director. He says Beloit College and the Midwest Conference are an ideal fit for each other.

“Here at Beloit we really believe that the athletic experience is a big part of the eductional experience, so the schools that have been in the Midwest Conference for years, they share in that.”

Over the past century Beloit College teams have won nearly 100 conference championships.

“When you start talking about Beloit’s athletic history you have to start with men’s basketball,” said DeGeorge.

Starting with the Doph Stanley era. Stanley was the head basketball coach and the athletic director from 1945 through 1957. Stanley’s teams won six straight conference championships. A team led by Johnny Orr finished third in the National Intercollegiate Championship Tournament. The 1950-51 team led the nation in scoring, and it was invited to the NIT Tournament in New York which at the time was bigger than the NCAA Tournament.

“That was THE tournament,” said DeGeorge. “And our basketball teams in those eras they played everywhere. They went to San Francisco. They went to Texas.”

The star of that ’50-51 team was Ron Bontemps. He went on to become the captain of the U.S. Olympic basketball team that won the gold medal in 1952.

Those Beloit College teams were perhaps too successful. In 1951 Beloit was kicked out of the conference. College administrators were told they were removed for failing to adhere to the philosophy of the conference.

“Part of it was that we were winning at a level particularly in men’s basketball that was making people uncomfortable,” explained DeGeorge, “But I also think our program was probably running like a big school. There was a brief moment where maybe we weren’t aligned with some of the other schools in the conference.

Adjustments were made the next few years and in 1958 Beloit was allowed back into the conference.

Some of the more notable athletes to attend Beloit College were baseball player Clarence “Ginger” Beaumont. He went on to become the first player ever to bat in a World Series game with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1903.

Ed Merrill, a 1902 graduate of Beloit was a multi-sport talent who shined brightest in track and field. He ran a quarter mile in 49.4 seconds and the 100 yard dash in under ten seconds. Many newspapers called him the best all-around athlete in the West.

Samuel “Sammy” Ransom, a 1908 graduate, was the first African American basketball player in college basketball.

Bill Knapton was the basketball coach who followed Doph Stanley. His teams won 557 games and 10 conference championship during his 40 year run from 1957-1997.

Ruth Peterson, a former administrator at the college was vital in promoting women’s sports. She donated her time and money. Each year the trophy that goes to the top female athlete in the conference is named after Peterson.

There have been a lot of great moments by the football program over the years. Many of those came while Dave DeGeorge’s father Ed was the head coach for 29 years spanning the ’70s, ’80s and 90s. Those teams won five Midwest Conference North Division Championships. As the athletic director at Beloit Ed DeGeorge also provided a boost to the women’s sports programs.

“When my dad was the AD here we won championships in women’s basketball, women’s volleyball, softball.”

Some of the baseball program’s best moments have come in more recent years.

“For me the best point was in 2009,” said DeGeorge. “We won our first league championship. That was a huge thing in my career.”

Oh, and another Beloit College graduate is now doing play-by-play for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. Joe Davis, class of 2010, is the guy who replaced the legendary Vin Scully at the microphone.

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