by Cheri Siebken
For 51 years, Harley Knosher has been a part of Knox athletics, as either a coach, athletic director, or observer. He came to Knox in 1960 as the head basketball and baseball coach and assistant football coach. He was named athletic director in 1968, a position he held until his retirement in 2000. Given his tenure, who better to reflect on those meaningful moments in Knox athletic history than Harley Knosher. Here are a few of his favorite moments in Knox athletics.
Beating Monmouth Twice in One Night
The last basketball game of the 1967 season was against Monmouth College. The Fighting Scots had the chance to finish first in the conference, while Knox was fighting for third. "When Knox met Monmouth, then and now, it meant everything to everybody. It was enormous," said Knosher.
The gym was packed and the game was tied when Bill Fuerst '69 drew a charging foul. As the clock ticked the final seconds, he drove to the basket and made the final shot. The team and fans rushed the court, foisting Fuerst onto their shoulders. As Knosher watched the excitement, he noticed the official waving his arms adamantly back and forth -- no basket."
It took Knosher a while to fight his way through the crowd to get to the official. "I told him that I was sure that there was plenty of time on the clock when he took the shot. He agreed with me," says Knosher. The problem was that Fuerst was fouled before he even took the shot, and no one heard the whistle.
"By the time I caught up with Billy, he and the team were in the locker room. He was sitting there with his shoes off, and I had to tell him that the game wasn't over."
Fuerst was to attempt a free throw with two seconds remaining on the clock. As the team stood in the huddle, the crowd was silent, except for the ticking of the clock down from 60 to be set for those last two seconds. Knosher had no idea what to tell his team. He finally turned to Fuerst. "'Don't be short.' That was all I could think of to say."
He wasn't. Fuerst took the line, dribbled the ball, shrugged his shoulders, and swish, Knox defeated Monmouth 61-60.
"We beat Monmouth twice in one night."
Catching a Halfback in the End Zone
From 1960 to 1969, Knox won a grand total of eight football games. Coming off that dismal record in the fall of 1970, the Knox football team traveled to Lawrence University for the second game of the year and was leading the Vikings at the half. But as Lawrence crept past Knox with 35 seconds remaining in the game, Knosher feared another season like the nine previous.
He was standing in the endzone when Lawrence kicked off to Bob Bolier '73. "Fourteen seconds and 95 yards later, I caught him in my arms. Now that is a moment."
Defeating Lawrence that day, with a last second, long touchdown run, kick-started a six victory season, equaling the previous win record of the last nine years. "Bob wasn't an All-American, but he was a darn good halfback. But on that particular day, at that time, he was the one who did the thing that Knox football -- and in a way, Knox athletics, and Knox College -- needed badly."
The Model Student-Athlete
Women's soccer was just getting started at Knox in the 1990s. On a crisp fall day in 1995, Knox was playing Grinnell College, a team that dominated the sport during that era, having won 52 consecutive regular season conference games.
Kristin Garrison '96, All-American long jumper and standout on the team, wasn't on the field that day. Instead, she was in a classroom, wearing her Knox soccer uniform, taking her Graduate Record Exam.
By the time Garrison finished the test and made it to the field, the score was tied. Midway through the second half, from way out on the right side, Garrison took her shot. "It was a moment of absolute beauty for me, because I was in the perfect position to watch that ball go up, over, and in that left corner beyond the goalie's head," said Knosher. That was the final point scored in the game.
Knox defeated Grinnell for the first time in the history of the sport.
"To me, it was a fabulous moment because it spoke so clearly to the whole commitment Knox makes to the student-athlete at her best," said Knosher. "While we had a chance to beat Grinnell for the first time, no one questioned her priorities that day. She went out and did what needed to be done, both in
the classroom and on the soccer field."
The Big Comeback
Things weren't looking so good for the Prairie Fire baseball team as they took the field for the Midwest Conference finals on a Saturday morning in the spring of 2008. The day before, they had lost the opening game of the tournament to Ripon, who had won the four previous conference championships. While they defeated Monmouth in the second game of the day, they knew that no team had ever come back from the loser's bracket to win the championship.
The first team they faced that morning was St. Norbert, who they defeated after 10 innings with a final score of 6-2. After that nail-biter, they faced the team who had beaten them just the day before -- Ripon. They defeated the Red Hawks by a score of 4-2, forcing a rematch between the two teams for the 2008 Midwest Conference Championship later that afternoon. While Ripon took an early lead, Knox came back quickly with three runs in the bottom of the first inning. After that, the Prairie Fire never looked back, taking the game and tournament with a final score of 5-4.
"To have defeated St. Norbert in the morning, who early in the same spring had beaten Knox on our field with a combined score of something like 39 to 3, and to then have to win a double-header against
Ripon, is something I'll never forget," said Knosher. "What it takes to win a conference championship is so incredibly difficult, that to do it in that way, on that day, was fabulous."
Moments Knosher Wishes He Hadn't Missed
Archery National Championship
Knosher wishes he had been at Knox when the women's archery team won their third consecutive national inter-collegiate telegraphic archery tournament in the spring of 1958. No other team in the history of organized athletic competition at the College has ever won a national title -- let alone done it three years in a row.
The team was coached by Evelyn Bielefeldt, who Knosher says personified women's athletics at Knox from 1932-69. She was so popular that in 1958, 300 women tried out for her team. Knosher remembers "Mrs. B" when he first came to Knox. "She commanded tremendous respect from the women who participated in her program. And she was fun."
Knox vs. Notre Dame
On November 8, 1902, the Knox football team traveled to Rock Island. Before a sell-out crowd of 4,000 fans, they defeated Notre Dame University. Controversy erupted when it was charged that only half of the celebrated team was enrolled in the College. Nonetheless, the Purple and Gold were deemed the "Champions of the West."
"Soon after I came to Knox, I contacted Ara Parseghian, who was a coach at Notre Dame and a good a friend of mine," says Knosher. "I told him ‘I'll give you a chance. We'll play you. You'll have a chance to get even.'"
"He said that he didn't think they would be able to work Knox into their schedule."
First Inter-Collegiate Curve Ball
Wiliam Harvey was a star pitcher on the Knox baseball team in the late 1870s. He is asserted to be the first to throw a curve ball in intercollegiate competition. When the phenomenon was reported to Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy Milton Comstock, he pronounced such a feat impossible. A demonstration was arranged. With his long, full beard, spectators said that Comstock looked like an Old Testament prophet come down to umpire. Knosher wishes he could have been playing shortstop, so that he could have had a clear view of Comstock's face at that moment when he viewed the impossible.
The professor accepted proof of the curve ball and went on to explain the science of the curve ball to his classes.
Knosher says this is an example of the importance of athletics. "We don't play to make a name, to raise money, to popularize our institution. We play because it's educationally sound to put kids in those situations and see what they can learn."