The Stadium Over Time
The stadium was at the heart of community life for nearly a century. It soon hosted track events as well as football games, and later men’s and women’s soccer and lacrosse would make use of the stadium before the construction of the North Fields in 2016. But McConagha stadium has also served the broader community over the years, as the home field for the John Glenn Muskie football team, and also as a site of many local community events.
Football began its first year of extramural play in 1895-96, when they went 4-1, defeating the Zanesville Athletic Club in three of those contests. 1897 saw their first intercollegiate matchup against Ohio University. Their first contest against archrival Marietta also came in 1897, ending in a Marietta victory. Muskingum joined the Ohio Athletic Conference in 1922 and secured their first of thirteen conference championships in 1926.
The winningest coach in Muskingum’s history was Ed Sherman, who led the fighting Muskies from 1945 through 1966, amassing 141 wins and securing six OAC Championships over the years. Bill “Cannonball” Cooper played fullback for Sherman from 1957-1960 and helped secure one of those OAC championships in his senior season. Cooper went on to play for the San Francisco 49ers from 1961-1966 and was the first OAC player to be enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Intercollegiate competitions in track and field preceded the construction of McConagha stadium. Before 1925, men and women had to hold home contests on the relatively flat ground of “the desert,” the space today known as the quad. Women began competing in the OAC conference in 1984-5, the first year the conference hosted women’s athletic competitions. Kaye Matthews led Muskingum to the OAC outdoor title in 1986 and both the indoor and outdoor championships in 1987. She was a two-time All American in the 800 meters. The original stadium track was made of cinder. In the mid-90s, the Johnson Family track was installed. That track was upgraded to a state-of-the-art Beynon BSS 300 track in 2012.
Men’s soccer debuted as an intercollegiate sport in 1969; women’s soccer held its inaugural season in 1987. Both teams played their games on natural turf before the installation of artificial turf in McConagha Stadium in 2016. The new surface provided new options for both the women’s and men’s teams. Both teams moved to the North Athletic fields turf when that was opened in 2017.
Men’s and Women’ Lacrosse debuted in 2015, with the first home game played in McConagha Stadium as snow fell. When the North Athletic Field turf opened in 2017, both teams found a new home.
Students, staff, and community members have offered enthusiastic support for Muskie sports teams since the first competitions. A Muskingum Band marched onto the field at the first football contest held in McConagha stadium in 1925, and spirit and marching bands have been part of Muskingum sporting events ever since. Cheer squads have fired up the large crowds of fans since the beginning of McConagha stadium as well.
McConagha Stadium was also an invaluable resource for the wider community over the years. It has served as the home field for the John Glenn High School Muskies, hosted track and field events for regional high schools, charitable events like Relay For Life, and summer sports camps for young athletes for decades. Muskingum has also made the track available to serve the fitness needs of the wider community.