With the completion of Bluffton's baseball season this week, this entry of the series will focus on a more regional sports angle.
One of US News’ best colleges of 2008, Bluffton University offers athletics in baseball, basketball, cross-country, football, soccer, softball, tennis, track and field, and volleyball. About 45 minutes away from Fostoria, Bluffton University was founded by the General Conference Mennonite Church in 1899 as the Central Mennonite College. The college was renamed Bluffton College in 1913. Bluffton College’s attendance grew by 1930 but fell to less than 200 because of the Great Depression. The attendance numbers fell even further, down to a low of 77, during World War II but as soon as the war was over, attendance exploded once more. The college became affiliated with the Mennonite Church USA in 2002 upon a merger and Bluffton College became a university in 2004.
Bluffton University made national headlines on March 2, 2007, when a bus carrying the university’s baseball team plunged off an overpass in Atlanta, GA, when the bus driver thought he was in a carpool lane. The bus, carrying 35 people, crashed onto Interstate 75 and killed six people – four members of the baseball team as well as the bus driver and his wife. The other 29 people were injured, six of them seriously. One of those six seriously injured died a week later.
The Bluffton baseball team kicked off the 2008 season hoping to overcome the tragedy of March 2, 2007, and held a dedication ceremony on March 12, 2008, to mark the one year anniversary of the accident. The university also renamed the playing field to Bluffton University Memorial Field. They tried to repeat their success of the 2006 season but fell short.
While at one point in the season they enjoyed a 5-2 season, the losses soon came in droves. They finished the season on May 4 with a 15-23 record and a 7-15 record in their conference, losing their last four games.
Bluffton University has won championships in other sports, including a double-whammy in 2004 when the softball and women’s track field teams won the conference championships. It was the second time the softball team won the conference. The first time was in 1999. In 2000, the football team tied with Hanover College for the HCAC championship.
In the late 80s, Bluffton volleyball dominated the region, with the 1987, 1988, and 1989 teams, led by Deborah Hucke, right, winning the conference and taking a Division title in 1988.
Despite the tragedy of last year, Bluffton University will continue to mend and provide competitive athletics for its students in the future.
~ Chris, guest blogger