Santa Rosa Junior College was officially established in 1918 with a student body of 19. The Athletic Department's alliance with the Associated Student Body began when the students voted to field a football team in the early 1920's. The "Bear Cub" was selected as the school's mascot due to an affiliation with the University of California, Berkeley. Floyd P. Bailey and Ernie Nevers were the first coaches of record at the college.
Clarence J. "Red" Tauzer, a Santa Rosa lawyer, began coaching at SRJC in the early 1920's and those who knew him said his love for the school came only second to his family. While sharing Santa Rosa High School facilities, Tauzer coached football, basketball, baseball and track and field.
In 1928 Richard E. "Dick" Blewett joined the Physical Education/Athletic Department staff and was largely responsible for the development and future direction of the SRJC intercollegiate athletic program. During his 40-year tenure Blewett coached football, basketball, baseball, track and field, and became SRJC's first Athletic Director.
In the first intersectional contest in the school's history — a 1929 Pacific Coast Conference contest — the SRJC football team defeated Weber College from Ogden, Utah.
The growth of athletics accelerated during the late 1920's through the 1930's. The acquisition of a 40 acre parcel for the campus provided for the building of field houses, playing fields and a new gymnasium. The Women's Athletic Association was established in the '30's, allowing women to participate in intramural sports such as basketball, field hockey, tennis, archery and dance.
In 1935, SRJC student Earl "Red" Singleton requested that the Board of Trustees name the new gymnasium after Tauzer and the athletic field after Bailey.
In 1936, Clarence "Cook" Sypher joined the physical education/coaching staff to begin a long and successful career. The 1938 football team, under the direction of Cook Sypher, produced the school's first championship. The only loss that year was to the Cal Berkeley junior varsity team called the "Ramblers." The school also won championships in rugby and ice hockey.
SRJC joined the highly competitive Northern California Junior College Conference in 1939 and won the football championship that fall. KSRO, a local radio station, began broadcasting that season, initiating a 50 year relationship between the College and KSRO.
Championships in baseball, ice hockey, track and field, football and rugby were commonplace in the 1940’s. Coaches Bob Mastin, Herm Meister, Carney Smith, Bill Neel, Betty Linscott, Ernestine “Ernie” Smith, Sypher and Athletic Director Blewett were in large part responsible for the remarkable accomplishments achieved during that period. The Bear Cub mascot, “Rosco,” was officially introduced in 1949.
The Bear Cubs were placed in the Big Seven Conference in the early 1950’s and by the middle of the decade joined the highly competitive Big Eight Conference with San Francisco, Sacramento, Modesto, West Contra Costa, Stockton, and San Mateo. College of Marin became SRJC’s chief rival and big game pep rallies and bonfires were part of the pageantry.
Coach Bill Archer was hired in 1952 to replace Neel as head football coach and the school continued to produce championship teams in football, basketball, baseball, track and field, tennis and golf. Mastin’s 1952 baseball team won the state championship — a first for the school.
The school left the Big Eight Conference for the Golden Valley Conference in the early 1960's and the Athletic Department doubled its intercollegiate team offerings with coaching help from Glen Albaugh, Marv Mays, Hank Cooper, Jim McAuley, Izzy Derkos, Len Read, John C. "Pat" Ryan and Nancy DeSalle.
SRJC's athletic programs won 27 conference titles in an eight year period in the '60's. The 1962, 1963 and 1964 football teams, coached by Mastin, went undefeated in Golden Valley play. Mastin became the second SRJC Athletic Director in the school's history when he took over from Blewett in the fall of 1962.
The Bear Cubs left the GVC to enter the Camino Norte Conference
in 1968. During the 1970's the new conference offered opportunity
for women to compete in intercollegiate athletics and the SRJC
program expanded to 19 sports — 11 for men and eight for
women. Along with the expansion came coaching positions for Bill
Trumbo, Caren Franci, Marjorie Bossert, Margie Schultz, Craig
Butcher, Bob Miyashiro and Charlie Tourville. In 1971, Byron
Craighead was the first certificated Athletic Trainer hired by a
community college (SRJC) in the state of California.
In 1973 Hank Cooper became the third Athletic Director in SRJC'S 56 year history. Between 1974 and 1994, Bear Cub teams achieved 73 Camino Norte Conference championships, Two new facilities were added during the early '70's and '80's — Quinn Swim Center and Haehl Pavilion.
In addition to the 1952 baseball state championship, SRJC teams have won five additional state championships: football in 1978, women's swimming in 1979, 1983, and 2004, softball in 1982 and women's basketball in 1988.
While a member of the Camino Norte Conference, SRJC won all of the 11 Commissioner's All Sports awards before the conference was disbanded in 1994.
The 1980's and 1990's saw a number of additions to the coaching staff — Diane Campagna, Dave Herrington, Tom Mitchell, Ron Myers, Ron Whitney, Jake Fitzpatrick, James Maxey and Becky Kliewer.
Gary Knecht replaced Hank Cooper as Athletic Director in 1992, becoming only the fourth leader of the intercollegiate athletic program in SRJC's 76 history.
The Bear Cubs became a member of the Bay Valley Conference in 1994 and have continued their commitment to excellence by winning 16 BVC titles. The football program is now a member of the newly formed Northern California Football Conference.
Ben Partee became the school's fifth Athletic Director in July, 1994 and in his tenure was instrumental in bringing about many changes in the upgrading of facilities for the athletic programs as well as working to establish the Bear Cub Trust and inaugurating two new department events — the annual golf tournament and the Hall of Fame banquet.
Santa Rosa Junior College continues today to provide the best academic and athletic programs for its students.
Text by Laurie Beard