Stevens Athletics at 150
Stevens Athletics is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2022-23 — an athletic history that runs nearly parallel to the timeline of Stevens as an institution. Stevens Football — the first athletic team — took to the field in the fall of 1872, just two short years after the university opened. Although the team is believed to have played just once in its inaugural year, it paved the way for Stevens to lay the foundation for a viable athletic program.
Following the arrival of football, men’s lacrosse and baseball came shortly thereafter. While the early athletic offerings were limited in number and strictly for male undergraduates on the all-male campus, 150 years later, Stevens now offers 25 NCAA Division III sports — 13 for men and 12 for women — with more than 450 student-athletes and nearly 75 full-time staff members.
The path to 150 years of Stevens Athletics has been filled with great athletes, championship-winning programs and captivating moments. We review just a few of them here.
Football: Stevens played its first-ever intercollegiate game on November 23, 1872. The Ducks traveled to New York to face Columbia University and fell 6-0. On October 18, 1873, Stevens defeated NYU 6-1. This is the first intercollegiate victory in Stevens’ history.
Of note: Stevens holds a disputed home victory over the University of Michigan, 5-1, on November 27, 1883. Michigan does not acknowledge the Stevens win and goes so far as to note the score as a 17-5 win for the Big Blue. Both The New York Times and SportsReference.com refute that claim, however, and list the victory for the Ducks.
Men’s Lacrosse: The first game was played in 1885. The Ducks went 2-6 in that first season and are still playing lacrosse nearly 138 years later as the longest consecutively running program in the NCAA.
Of note: In 1892, the Ducks went 5-1-1 and won the Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association title, one of two won by the program.
Post-World War II and Beyond
Men’s Lacrosse: After winning a total of four Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association/U.S. Inter-University Lacrosse Leagues titles between 1892 and 1918, the Ducks captured the 1953 Roy Taylor Trophy (the first year the cup was awarded) from the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association and were named the Division III Champions.
Men’s Fencing: The Ducks began NCAA competition in 1948 and competed in the 1949 NCAA Fencing Championships at Army, sending one qualifier in each weapon (sabre, epee, foil). The program reeled off four straight Middle Atlantic Conference Championships from 1958 to 1961 and competed at three national championship tournaments, marking one of the most successful stretches by any program to that point.
The Impact of Title IX
Women’s Fencing: This first women’s sport at Stevens began in 1974 (the university became fully coeducational in 1971). When the world of women’s sports transitioned from the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women to the NCAA, some 10 years after the passing of Title IX (which banned discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs), the Ducks competed in the first NCAA Fencing Championship for women in 1982, finishing in seventh place.
Women’s Soccer: In its 10th season, women’s soccer received an at-large bid to the 2002 NCAA Division III Championship. The bid was the first for a team sport, and the Ducks’ 1-0 victory over Johns Hopkins on November 13 was the first NCAA event played in Hoboken.
The Modern Era
Women’s Sports: As successful as the foundational years of women’s sports were at Stevens, in many ways, the modern era of Stevens sports has been defined by female athletes. Laura Barito ’11 won the Ducks’ first national championship in 2011 in both swimming’s 50-meter freestyle and track’s 400-meter hurdles. Stevens’ female athletes have reigned supreme, having won 14 of the university’s 17 national championships.
Men’s Volleyball: Men’s Volleyball won the NCAA Division III Men’s Championship in 2015, marking Stevens’ first team national championship. Men’s Volleyball was the second Stevens team to challenge for a national title; Men’s Soccer reached the 2008 final before falling to penalties.
Breaking News: The Men’s Volleyball Team made history again in 2023 when they won their second national championship on April 30, 2023!
Pinstripe Pride: Ducks pitcher Charlie Ruegger ’20 was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 2018 MLB First-Year Player Draft; he was with the organization until 2022. He joins David Garcia ’73 as the only Ducks selected in the MLB Draft. Garcia was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 1973.
— Charles O'Brien