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Sport Scene Italian style Bergstrom named to hall of fame

Fall 2006 • Volume 12, Issue 4


Bergstrom named to Bradley Athletic Hall of Fame

by Aimée Roy


Art Bergstrom, Bradley’s athletic director from 1948 until 1956, visits with current athletic director Ken Kavanagh in Los Angeles. Bergstrom was recently honored for his contributions to Bradley’s program. He turned 100 on September 3, and died on September 5.

Arthur J. Bergstrom recently was voted into the BU Athletic Hall of Fame, and was also elected as the Alumni B Club’s 2006 Honorary Letterwinner for his distinguished contributions to Bradley athletics. Bergstrom, BU’s athletic director more than 50 years ago, celebrated his 100th birthday on September 3.

Bergstrom’s career on the Hilltop began in 1948 when he was hired as the head football coach following the death of longtime athletic director A.J. Robertson. That same year, Bergstrom was appointed the director of athletics. He also served as a professor of physical education and department chair.

Bradley athletic teams grew in number and quality during Bergstrom’s tenure. The basketball team ranked number one in the country and regularly played in NIT and NCAA tournaments. The baseball team earned three conference championships and qualified for the 1950 College World Series, and the golf, tennis, and track teams were also very competitive. Also during his tenure, Bradley participated in more intercollegiate sports than any other member of the Missouri Valley Conference, with the exception of Oklahoma State (then known as Oklahoma A&M).

Bergstrom, the University, and the athletic programs survived the basketball scandal of 1951, and the basketball program came back with a vengeance, taking second place to LaSalle in the 1954 NCAA tournament, and going into the third round in 1955. Not until March 2006, did the Braves basketball team again attain such a level of success.

NCAA career

Bergstrom’s integrity throughout the scandal so impressed NCAA director Walter Byers that in 1956 Byers sought out and hired Bergstrom as the NCAA’s assistant executive director. In addition to his duties as assistant executive director, Bergstrom also served as the NCAA’s director of enforcement on the infractions committee, and was the sole investigator of schools suspected of breaking eligibility and financial aid rules. He organized and managed the College Division Basketball Championship Tournament (now Divisions II and III), and was the NCAA’s comptroller, personnel director, headed the extra events committee, and at the time of his retirement in 1976, was in charge of the construction of the NCAA’s new office building.

Ken Kavanagh, Bradley director of athletics, visited with Bergstrom recently in California. “Art’s seven-year tenure is arguably not only the finest in Bradley annals, but when reviewed from a collective standpoint, perhaps the best in the history of all Missouri Valley Conference institutions and many more beyond,” said Kavanagh. “From the noteworthy successes of the two Final Fours and our first College World Series appearance, to the overall growth of the department of athletics and the historic construction of the Robertson Memorial Field House, his mark is still easily visible over a half century later.”

A Jacksonville native, Bergstrom graduated from Illinois College, where he played football, basketball, and baseball. He holds a master’s degree from the University of Iowa. Bergstrom and his late wife of 70 years, Eva, moved to Los Angeles in 1990, where he died on September 5. He had credited his long life to a promise he made to himself to see the Chicago Cubs win the World Series.