Hillsdale’s sports scene saw a revamp in the spring of 1967 with an increase in action activities according to the April 27, 1967 issue of The Collegian.
Skydiving, flying, judo, and karate led this trend.
Collegian reporter Parke Hayes wrote, “Skydiving appears to be catching on tremendously. Steve Verbanac, who made the wire services with his jump into the middle of a football practice session last fall, has ‘dozens’ of fellows interested.”
This quote reveals a wild turn of events that leaves so much unanswered. Was the jump into football practice announced prior to the event, or did he literally just fly out of the sky and plunge toward the field at a stupendous speed? Were any football players injured in the descent?
Unlike skydiver Verbanac, these inquiries were left up in the air, and Hayes moved on from skydiving to discuss aviation at Hillsdale.
He wrote, “Another group of guys is also serving as instructors, while continuing their interest in flying. Dean Cutshall, Ken Ward and Guy Peterson are three names that come to mind. Peterson naturally draws the most attention when he buckles up his 1941 bi-plane.”
It is unclear whether or not all three college students owned planes, or how they acquired the means to fly.
Hayes also reported that “Karate and judo are being popularized by Tom Ditzler and Ray Irvin. Regular classes have been held once or twice a week on the Japanese-born sports.”
One does love to see the birth of the one credit “sports studies” classes. Generations of GPAs are forever indebted to Ditzler and Irvin.
This, however, was not Hillsdale’s first taste of action-filled adventure.
On Nov. 12, 1964, Collegian sports reporter Steve Fairchild wrote, “Another member joined the Marshall Skydiving Club from Hillsdale last Sunday. Patti Pace was immediately accepted after tumbling out of an airplane from 3,000 feet and living.”
I like that they threw in the “living” stipulation at the end, pretending that people were genuinely on the edge of their seat to see if Patti Pace would make it through this jump. Pro tip from an amateur journalist: the audience knows if something stunning happened, it will be in the headline.
The action sports continued to be popular in the following semesters as well.
On Nov. 6, 1967, The Collegian reported, “A Karate Club, one of the newest organizations on campus, has been started by James Chang, a native of Hong Kong.”
The article continued, “Jim’s reason for starting the club was ‘because not too many foreign people know this art, and I want to introduce it to them.’”
At the time the article was published, the club had over 20 members and continued to grow in popularity the following year.
On Feb. 22, 1968 The Collegian reported that the club “gave a demonstration at the First Methodist Church in Hillsdale. In the future, it is hoped that the members might be able to compete with various other college and city karate and judo clubs.”
I won’t lie: when I think of karate demonstrations, I don’t immediately picture it taking place in a church, but any publicity is good publicity I guess.
The rise of new sports on Hillsdale’s campus was a great trend that offered new activities for students. At the very least, I think we should bring skydiving back. Catch me parachuting down onto the football field this year.