NORTH NEWTON, KAN. -- On Feb. 21, Ted Hayes, director of the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame, unveiled the names of the 14 coaches and athletes who will be inducted on June 3--including a well-known Bethel College sports figure. From 1929-43, Otto Unruh was a one-man Bethel College athletics department, coaching football, basketball, tennis and track as well as serving as athletics director. Although retired from teaching, he returned to Bethel in 1967 for a second stint as head football coach, until 1970.
In 1936, Unruh organized the first official Buffalo Bar-B-Que for the athletes and community. This event has evolved into the annual All-Sports Banquet and Celebration.
Some of Unruh’s favorite memories of his time at Bethel included the two seasons when the football team allowed only six points a season--although both times Bethel lost games 6-0. He said that Charley Tubbs (a 1938 Bethel graduate), who later went on to a professional career with the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, was the greatest football player he ever coached.
In basketball, Unruh liked to remember wins over Wichita University (now Wichita State) and Drake University, although he was no longer coaching at Bethel when the latter occurred. It was 1948, and the Drake team was coming through Newton on its way to North Texas. Bethel won the game by a point (they beat Wichita University by two). Drake went on to claim the Missouri Valley Conference title that year.
After Unruh left Bethel, he spent more than two decades (from 1945-67) coaching basketball, football, track and wrestling at Clay Center Community High School. Unruh started the wrestling program, in 1955. During his tenure, CCCHS won three state football titles and compiled a 126-65-8 record. CCCHS also won seven straight regional and two state track titles. The high school stadium is now named for Unruh.
Unruh’s overall football coaching record at Bethel was 53-76-6. In basketball, he accrued a 103-132 coaching record. During his tenure as basketball coach, Bethel won four straight Sunflower Conference Championships, from 1934-38. Bethel College adopted the Threshing Stone as the school mascot during his stint as athletic director.
Unruh attended Bethel Academy and Bethel College, 1918-21 and 1923-24, where he participated in basketball, football, track and tennis. He also attended the University of Kansas and played basketball for one year under legendary coach Phog Allen.
Unruh and his first wife, Sophia (Buller) Unruh, a 1929 Bethel graduate, had twin sons, Arch and Duane, who coached high school football as well, in the Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo., areas respectively, where both still live. Otto Unruh died in 1992 at the age of 92.
"Coach Unruh wanted people to perform to the best of their abilities," says Wade Brubacher of North Newton, a 1970 Bethel graduate who played football under Unruh for three years. "He was open, honest and forthright, not only on the field but in life.
"The thing I remember about him is that he always tried to tie football to life--to make us realize that football was going to be fleeting, so we had to prepare for the rest of our lives."
Among the 2006 inductees, in addition to Unruh, are Xavier McDaniel, a Wichita State University basketball player who led the nation in scoring and rebounding in 1984-85, was twice named Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year and had a successful NBA career with the Seattle Supersonics; Bill Snyder, who recently resigned as coach of the Kansas State University football team after winning more games than his 12 predecessors combined; and Darren Daulton, a four-time National League All-Star catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies who led Arkansas City High School to a state football title.
Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and has been named a Top Tier college by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1998. For more information, see the Bethel web site at www.bethelks.edu.