The occasion of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s Induction Weekend is an opportunity for devotees of the sport to celebrate its history. Often, far too often, significant historical achievements become shrouded in the mists of time.
The Hall took steps to address that issue this year by inducting the Wayland Baptist University women’s basketball program. Not a player, not a coach, not a single team, but entire program; specifically, the teams that took the court from 1948 in the post-World-War II era to 1982, when the NCAA expanded its oversight of women’s athletics.
In the years following the Second World War, the Wayland Baptist Flying Queens became a national power; they won 10 AAU national championships from 1954-75. During a stretch from 1953-58, they won 131 consecutive games.
But their won-loss record is only part of their legacy. Under coach Harley Redin, who directed the program from 1955-73, the Flying Queens were instrumental in transforming women’s basketball, on the court from the slow-paced, six-player game it was for many years, into the modern five-on-five, full-court game of today. They transformed the sport off the court as well; in the 1950s the school was offering athletic scholarships to women. Not coincidentally, Redin also coached the Wayland Baptist men’s team from 1948-57.
As the women’s coach, he compiled a record of 429-63 for a winning percentage of .872. He was on the bench for six of the school’s 10 national championships, in 1956, 57,’59, ’61, ’70, and ’71. On two separate occasions, his teams won five consecutive WNIT titles.
Redin also served the game of basketball at the national level as well. He coached the U.S. team at the Pan American Games twice (in 1959 and ’71) and at the 1963 World Tournament in Peru.
He also served on the U.S. Olympic Committee and the AAU Rules Committee. In the latter capacity, he was influential in the adoption of major rules changes to the women’s game, including five players to a team, unlimited dribbling, and the 30-second shot clock.
When the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women began conducting a national basketball tournament in 1972 the Flying Queens joined the party. They first competed in the tournament in 1974 and after dropping their first-round game, wound up winning the consolation bracket.
The following year they reached the quarterfinals of the 16-team main draw before again winning the consolation bracket.
In 1976 they finished third after losing 61-60 to eventual champion Delta State in the semifinals.
They missed the tournament the next year but finished third in 1978 and reached the quarterfinals the next year before losing to Texas in the national semifinals in 1982 in Philadelphia—in the last AIAW national tournament. That was also the first year the NCAA conducted a women’s tournament.
By this time, larger schools, armed with scholarship dollars, were beginning to dominate women’s basketball. Since 1983, Wayland Baptist University has been an NAIA institution. The past successes of the Flying Queens have been relegated to the pages of history. Harley Redin recently celebrated his 100th birthday.
The women of Wayland Baptist helped lay the groundwork for the Tennessees and Connecticuts, the Stanfords and Notre Dames who came after them.
That fact should never be forgotten, overlooked, or, ignored.