A lot has happened since the University of Michigan formed their department of recreational sports in 1913, and, in the past 100 years, many innovations—VHS tapes, 8-tracks, CDs, and floppy disks, to name a few—have come and gone. However, though Michigan’s Rec Sports has changed and developed in the past century, it always remained committed to promoting an active campus through community engagement, student leadership, sports and recreation.

University of Michigan’s Barbour Gymnasium, 1910.

To celebrate the achievements of the past 100 years—every one of the 35 million games played in the recreational facilities, helping pave the way for every one of the 18,000 students now playing on the more than 2,000 intramural teams—Michigan has planned, prepared, and hosted throughout this centennial year. From social media tags and promotions—such as #100YearsofRecSports, #whatsyour100, and #HailYesRecSports—to events and conferences, the Ann Arbor campus community has seen the 2013 celebration stretch far and wide.

Starting in March, at the 2013 NIRSA Annual Conference in Las Vegas, Michigan presented a historical timeline and artifacts sharing their rich history and evolution within the recreation field. This complimented NIRSA’s Centennial of Collegiate Recreation video, which documented the beginnings, growth, advancement, and changes within campus recreation through the past one-hundred years. This was followed by the production of Michigan’s own Rec Sports Centennial video, produced by Filmic Productions.

In May of 2013, Michigan hosted the annual Big 10 Recreational Sports Conference. This event was a big hit with professional Big Ten colleagues, including the University of Maryland and Rutgers University. In all, there were 190 attendees who enjoyed quality educational sessions, networking opportunities, visits with vendors during the exposition, and social activities. The highlights of the conference included the University of Michigan Directors’ Legacy Roundtable, the Challenge Program, and a north campus Segway tour. A tour of the University of Michigan Athletic Campus ended in the Big House with a celebratory dinner and a special speech by former Wolverine football player Brock Mealer. The entire evening was made possible by the generous support of 19 corporate sponsors.

Once school resumed in the Fall, so did Michigan’s centennial celebration. In October of 2013, during Homecoming, the Department of Recreational Sports formally celebrated its centennial past, present, and its future, with over 500 former students, employees, and rec sports administrators from across the state of Michigan and the Midwest. The evening featured the University of Michigan Marching Band and the Men’s Glee Club, and it honored the national accomplishments of the school’s club sports teams.

University of Michigan’s Centennial Celebration.

The event, emceed by Michigan Radio Network Color Commentator Jim Brandstatter, reflected on the importance and prominence of recreational sports in students’ lives. “The purpose of the program is to create transformative experiences for students to learn, grow, contribute, and lead,” Brandstatter said. And that’s just what the University of Michigan has spent the last 100 years striving for.

Bill Canning, outgoing Director of Intramural Sports, affirmed this, saying in a Michigan Daily article about the event, “the IM program successfully epitomizes the “sports for all” vision of its founders, former Michigan basketball coach Elmer Mitchell and former Athletic Director Fielding Yost, providing avenues for competition even when varsity athletics are not a reality.” “It is truly an honor for the University of Michigan to be a part of the inception of recreational programs on campus,” added incoming Director Mike Widen. “Being able to celebrate this centennial is important as it gives us a chance to honor all of the accomplishments and progress that we have made in campus recreation. Through our programs, events and facilities, we have been able to contribute to the health and well-being of our participants and users. This centennial also allows us to look forward to the future of recreation and how we can continue to be an important part of people’s lives.”


Recreational sports at the University of Michigan, 1970.

NIRSA president-elect Stan Shingles attended the celebration on behalf of the Association, and he presented the University of Michigan with a Resolution recognizing “the contributions of the University of Michigan to the profession of collegiate recreation, and commends this university for their significant role in establishing collegiate recreation – the programs, facilities, and dedicated professionals to the mainstay of today’s college experience.”

Also during October, the Michigan Intramural Recreational Sports Association (MIRSA) was hosted by the University of Michigan. The Ohio Recreational Sports Association (ORSA) and MIRSA collaborated on a pre-conference golf outing, as well as some educational sessions that were “simulcast” between the 2 states. There were 122 attendees at the conference; they participated in a silent auction, which garnered $700 for scholarships. Demond Pryor (Central Michigan) was the recipient of the Dr. Tom R. Jones Outstanding Member Award; Michelle Owens (Eastern Michigan) was the recipient of the Dr. Michael Stevenson Outstanding Service Award; and Amanda Alpert (Central Michigan) was the recipient of the Robert England Outstanding Student Award. NFL official Ron Winter served as the keynote speaker.

As the University of Michigan concludes its celebration of 100 years in Campus Recreation, they proudly look towards a remarkably bright future of leading campus initiatives in health, fitness, and personal activity. What they do now will set the course for the next 100 years. As a part of the broader NIRSA community, enacting the Association’s vision of inspiring healthy people and healthy communities, Michigan knows its Department of Recreational Sports has an integral role to play in the campus community, and that its charge is to continue to lead the way for the next 100 years.

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Senior Assistant Director at University of Michigan | NIRSA Profile

Lisa Shea is currently the Senior Assistant Director, University of Michigan Recreational Sports

Lisa can be reached at lmhaake@umich.edu