Union's Lady Bulldogs take to the court at Oman Arena tonight to begin their quest for another NAIA championship. The Lady Bulldogs have been a dominant force in the NAIA for nearly two decades. They have been in the sweet sixteen every year since 1996 and have only missed the elite eight two of those years. As I was reviewing Union's recent success on the athletic department's website, I realized there were some missing pieces to the women's basketball history puzzle at Union. So here I present, the lost history of women's basketball at Union University.
The Roaring 20's
Union's participation in women's (or girls' as it was then called) basketball dates back to at least 1920. The 1920 Lest We Forget yearbook gives us a look at what may be the first team. Interestingly, the team was known as the Union Terriers. Perhaps terriers seemed like a more feminine breed than bulldogs (I'll be sure not to tell my neighbor's male Westie!). I don't know, but whatever the reason, the Terrier mascot persisted throughout the 1920's. Their season was not nearly as lengthy as today's, sometimes playing only 4 games. The first season we have a record for is 1921-22 when they went 4-4. Over the next few years, success varied from 1-3 in 1926 to 6-2 in 1928 and again in 1931. Their competition ranged from high school teams, to Y.W.C.A. teams, to other colleges in TN, KY, MS and AL.
The Depression hits
As the Depression settled in after 1929, the women's basketball team continued to have success with winning seasons in 1930, 1931 and 1932. In an effort to show more solidarity with the men's athletic teams, they also adopted a new nickname. Beginning in 1932, they were known as the Bulldogettes. The early '30's also brought about rules changes in the game. Perhaps it was the changing rules, the depression, or some combination of forces, but the team suffered through winless seasons in 1933 and 1934, going 0-6 and 0-8 respectively. Yet the 1934 Lest we Forget yearbook holds out hope for the following season by noting that all of the players are "eligible for next year's team." Indeed, the Cardinal and Cream reported on November 5, 1934 that the "Girls Meet to Form Basketball Team," while noting that their coach had not been determined. Whether a coach could not be found or too few players showed up, we may never know. That is the last that was heard from the Bulldogettes. The Cardinal and Cream does not report on any games being played that season and the team is absent from the yearbook. Union women would not play intercollegiate basketball games again until 1972. So as we cheer on the Lady Bulldogs of 2010-2011, let us also tip our hats to the pioneers of women's basketball at Union. Go Terriers....um GO LADY BULLDOGS!