CHAPTER THREE

Athletic Director (1906-1909)

During the two years Rickey spent at Allegheny College, the Ohio Wesleyan community maintained a marked interest in his accomplishments. Rickey’s professional baseball career emerged as a favorite topic for writers of The Transcript, whose articles reported on Rickey’s moves from a minor league Dallas team to the Cincinnati Reds to the St. Louis Browns. It was during this period that Rickey, a devoted Methodist, garnered considerable attention for his refusal to play baseball on Sundays. “I try to be a consistent ball player and a consistent Christian. If I fail, it isn’t the fault of the game, or the religion, is it?” he said during an interview with a Cleveland newspaper, later adding “Sunday to me has always been a day apart.”

In light of recommendations made by the OAC, Ohio Wesleyan’s board voted in February 1906 to create a faculty position to replace all temporary coaching positions and selected Rickey for the job. As the university’s first athletic director, Rickey was placed in charge of all sports in the university’s athletic program, as well as coaching the baseball, football, and basketball teams. At the end of Rickey’s first season back at Ohio Wesleyan, the 1906 football team tied Wooster for second place in the state. In light of dramatic changes made to collegiate football rules by the OAC, Rickey’s creative coaching techniques were widely praised around the university. According to one reporter for The Transcript, Rickey’s “head work in ‘concocting plays to win games,’ as he puts it, finally proved to be the goods, and all you can hear a Wesleyan rooter say is, ‘Rick, you’re the best coach we’ve ever had. You just camp right here from now on.”

Rickey’s success as a coach continued into 1907. Ohio Wesleyan’s basketball team finished second in the state, its baseball players were once again named Champions of Ohio, and the football team posted a winning record. In addition to his responsibilities as athletic director, Rickey found time to remain active in campus organizations. He attended dinners at the Delta Tau Delta chapter house and acted as toastmaster for fraternity banquets. To supplement his coaching income, he served as General Secretary of the university chapter of the YMCA, an office that required he be “familiar with student life in all its phases [and] … be a helper to college men in all their needs.” He spoke during the weekly campus meetings on topics such as Christian character, the temptations of college life, and personal responsibility. Because of his varied university life, Rickey attained immense popularity with students, gaining “the confidence of the undergraduate body, to the last man.”