Was it harder to play men’s college basketball in the 50’s then today?

Ernie Clark’s excellent, unique, informative and timely article last week on how difficult it is for Maine high school players to play college basketball today, brought me to an interesting question.

Is it harder for Maine high school boys players to a make a college roster today or was it harder in the 50’s when I played high school and college basketball.


Today, there are more Maine colleges then there were in the 50’s.

In the 50’s there was 1 D-1 program as there is today which is, of course, is the University of Maine which also had a freshmen team.

Freshmen were not eligible for varsity competition because of NCAA rules, The next level in Maine was what is D-2 today, but back in the 50’s Bates, Bowdoin and Colby which also each had freshmen teams because the level below D-1 was also governed by the NCAA.

Maine played in the olde Yankee Conference with the other 5 New England state which was a tougher conference then the America East Conference is today as they had to play Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, UNH and Vermont. Maine also played in the Maine state series taking on Bates, Bowdoin and Colby.

In the 50’s the UMaine roster was filled with former Maine High school players, this year they had one scholarship player and one walk on player.

The third level of college basketball in the 50’s was not connected with the NCAA, so freshmen were eligible to play varsity as these teams, Husson College (Now Husson University), Aroostook State Teachers College (now UMPI), Fort Kent State Normal School (now UMFK), Washington State Teachers College (now UMM) and Ricker College of Houlton (no longer exists) made up the Northeast College Conference along with the University of New Brunswick. Independent college teams were Maine Maritime Academy. Farmington State Teachers College, (now UMF).

In the southwestern part of the state Nasson College (now Westbrook College) and Gorham State Teachers College (USM today) were members of the Southwestern Conference along with out of state colleges.

These two conferences made up the Maine Small College Division.

There were only about a dozen 4 year colleges in Maine that had varsity basketball men’s teams and in the 50’s and there were more high schools in Maine then today because consolidation had not yet occurred which shrunk the number of high schools in the state.

So today with about 20 Maine 4 year colleges with Varsity teams compared to around a dozen colleges with varsity teams and 4 with freshmen teams AND WITH QUITE A FEW LESS HIGH SCHOOL PLAYERS TODAY compared to the 50’s, just by the numbers alone it was harder to gain a spot on a Maine college roster in the 50’s then it is today.

Add the fact, that in the 50’s there were no basketball scholarships at all at any level of college basketball in Maine meant that players had to pay their own way to go to college and play basketball. This reduced the opportunities for many of the 50’s players.

The game has certainly changed a great deal. In the 50’s there was no shot clock, the clock only stopped on time outs, jump balls and fouls and there was no 3 point line, yet even with less playing time and no 3 pointers teams averaged as many or even more points per game then than they do today with all these scoring advantages.

The equipment today is much better than in the 50’s. First, there were no breakaway rims as the rims were tightly bolted directly to the backboard which gave them hardly any give when the ball hit the rim compared to today’s soft breakaway rims where when the ball hits the rim many times the ball goes in compared to the 50’s there was very little chance for that to happen. Today they get a lot of GARBAGE points when the ball hits the rim and then goes in, compared to the 50’s when the ball hit the rim it usually ended up not going in and they were called BRICKS as the ball bounced away further today on missed shots, thus there were not as many offensive rebounds chances in the 50’s then there ARE TODAY.

The basketballs today are not as slippery, more balanced, and easier to handle and shoot.

Today most of the college floors especially in D-1 are portable which makes them much easier on a players legs and bodies then the hardwood floors in the gyms of the 50’s.

You will notice that we did not compare today’s women’s college players with the players of the 50’s as there were very few college women’s teams and no MPA Maine high school girls basketball teams until the mid 70’s.

So comparing the number of Maine high school players, the number of colleges, let alone the other things I mentioned that were different today I have to come to the conclusion that when I played my College basketball in the 50’s it was a lot harder to earn a roster spot.

Also, the game was harder to play because of the rules did not favor the players as they do today, neither did the equipment and there were no basketball scholarships.

Let the debate begin.