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The Men's Basketball Program
The Elizabethtown College men's basketball program enters its 81st season in 2008-09 under the direction of head coach Robert Schlosser. As a member of the Commonwealth Conference since 2000 and the Middle Atlantic Conference prior to 2000, the Blue Jays appeared in the conference playoffs 14 times in the years between 1991 and 2006. The team won three consecutive Commonwealth Conference titles and earned three straight NCAA Division III tournament bids from 2002 to 2004. The Blue Jays advanced to the NCAA Division III national championship game in 2002, and the team played in the Commonwealth Conference championship game every year from 2001 to 2004.
The old Middle Atlantic Conference playoffs and championship were replaced by the Commonwealth Conference playoffs in the 2000-01 season, and Elizabethtown reached the conference championship game in 2001, finishing as the runner-up with a 20-6 record. Etown returned to win the conference title in 2002 en route to a 29-3 season which saw the team advance to the NCAA Division III Final Four and national championship game for the first time in the program's history. Elizabethtown repeated as the Commonwealth champion and as an NCAA tournament participant in 2003 in what was then an unprecedented feat in the history of the program. Etown won its third straight conference title and NCAA berth in 2004, and the Blue Jays have gone 114-49 over the last six seasons.
The Blue Jays won the old MAC title twice, in 1964 and 1979, both times gaining berths to the NCAA Division III tournament. The Jays also earned an NCAA tournament bid in 1993, entering the "Big Dance" as the third-seeded team in the Mid-Atlantic region. The Blue Jays were narrowly passed up for an at-large NCAA berth in 2001 before making their mark on the nation in 2002. Since then, the Blue Jays have been NCAA tournament contestants two more times.
Leading Elizabethtown's basketball fortunes has been a bevy of talented players. A total of 29 players have scored 1,000 points in their career, most recently Kyle Conrad '05, who reached the mark during the 2004-05 campaign. 46 Blue Jay players have earned MAC or Commonwealth postseason honors and two Elizabethtown student-athletes have earned All-America honors - Steve Swope in 1987 and Jim Hepfer in 1990.
Under Schlosser, the Blue Jays have gone 279-186 in 18 seasons for a .600 winning percentage, the best under any Etown head coach at the school for more than two seasons.
Prior to Schlosser's arrival, the team was coached by Dave Lebo in 1989-90, who guided the team to a 16-10 mark. He succeeded Donald Marsh, who led the Blue Jays to a 12-13 finish in 1988-89.
Marsh succeeded longtime Blue Jay head coach Donald Smith, who in two separate stints from 1954-64 and 1972-88 led the Blue Jays to a 331-275 record. Smith guided Etown to both of its MAC championships and its first two NCAA tournament appearances in 1978-79 and 1963-64.
In the interim between Smith's tenures, Robert Garrett led Etown to a 45-66 record from 1967 to 1972, Leroy Heckman guided the Blue Jays through a 14-8 season in 1966-67, and Etown posted a 31-13 mark under Ted Roscher in 1964-66.
Prior to Smith's arrival, the Blue Jays had three coaches in the early 1950s. D. Paul Greene coached the team to a 11-14 finish in 1953-54, and Joseph Todd led Etown to a 10-10 record in 1952-53. The team posted a 27-18 overall record in two seasons under Stanley "Whitey" Von Nieda from 1950-52.
Von Nieda took over the program from Ira R. Herr, Elizabethtown College's first athletic director who had guided the team from its inception in 1928 through 1950. Legend has it that Herr acutally launched what would become the school's perenially dominant soccer program in the late 1930s as a way to get his basketball players in shape for the coming season. Nevertheless, by the end of Herr's tenure as basketball coach, the team was getting its first taste of success on its own, going 17-7 in 1948-49.