In June, 1974, Wesleyan graduated its first class of women since 1912. As the number of coeds increased, the variety of activities expanded according to their interests. Fourteen women's teams now represent Wesleyan on the varsity level.
This is an ambitious program in view of the size of the student body. Only a handful of colleges in the courntry attempt an undertaking of this magnitude. Fortunately, most of these are in New England, affording a level of competition commensurate with Wesleyan's objectives.
Athletics at Wesleyan are recognized as a contributing factor in the overall liberal arts education. The presentation of a diversified program is in harmony with an academic philosophy designed to offer each student a variety of options for a meaningful liberal education.
In 1971, Wesleyan, along with 10 other Northeastern liberal arts colleges, formed the New England Small College Athletic Conference. The conference, based on a long-standing agreement among Wesleyan, Amherst, Williams and Bowdoin, also included Bates, Colby, Connecticut College, Hamilton, Middlebury, Trinity and Tufts. Participation in the conference is an endorsement of long-established prohibitions against coaches recruiting off campus or granting athletic scholarships. Selection of prospective students remains the responsibility of the Admissions staff, and all financial aid awards are determined on the basis of student need. The success of the athletic programs at these member institutions testifies to the fact that athletic scholarship asistance is not essential to maintain a high-quality and broad-based program. In April 1993, the NESCAC presidents set aside the conference ban on NCAA tournament competition for teams. All NESCAC teams except football now are eligible for NCAA post-season tournament play. In 1993-94, NESCAC sent nineteen (19) teams to the NCAA playoffs, with Wesleyan University baseball finishing second in the nation. That number improved to 26 in 1994-95 with national titles claimed by Middlebury men's ice hockey and Williams women's cross country.
The addition of the Freeman Athletic Center, completed in 1990, makes Wesleyan's physical education second to none among the nation's small colleges. Included in the $22 million, 183,000 square foot complex is a 50-meter by 25-yard swimming pool; a 60,000 square foot field house which arbors a 200 meter track and a multi-purposed interior used for competitive tennis, recreational basketball or volleyball; a fitness and strenth-training center; a 5,000 square foot multi-exercise room; athletic offices; and central support facilities such as locker rooms, team rooms, equipment room and training room. The Freeman Athletic Center also encompasses the Wesleyan Arena, an outstanding college ice skating facility, which was recently renovated.
Wesleyan's physical education department is composed of 16 full-time coaches and some 20 part-time coaches, office and maintenance staffs, and is supported by other agencies of the University.