Athletics at St. Thomas College had an early and precarious beginning. On Thanksgiving Day 1892 St. Thomas College defeated Carbondale high school in the first recorded football game. In 1893 a college Dramatic Society production was held to raise money for the library and to buy football uniforms. There appears to have been a couple games played in 1893 as well, but there was no regular schedule.
Right before WWI Bill Moore effectively became athletic director at the College. For 12 years he coached all sports and organized a few. A basketball team was organized, after a few false starts, in 1916-1917. The team went undefeated during the 1921-22 and 1922-23 seasons and had a 40 game winning streak that ended in January 1924.
A baseball team had been fielded for one game in 1907 but quickly dissolved. A few similar one game seasons followed until Moore organized a team in 1916. The team went undefeated in 1917 but was then dropped until the 1920s.
Harding was replaced as basketball coach by James “Buck” Freeman who came from St. John's University in New York. He only coached one season but returned after WWII. From 1938 until the early 1940s Edward “Red” Coleman, a St. Thomas graduate, coached the basketball team. The basketball team was playing some major schools like the University of Tennessee and the University of Nebraska.
As with most colleges, The University of Scranton saw its athletic programs curtailed by the drain of manpower into the war effort. A schedule of football games was arranged, many with teams from military training sites, during 1942. In 1943 varsity athletics were suspended. A few games were scheduled in 1944 by new football coach Pete Carlesimo but a full schedule did not return until after the war ended.
As students returned to college after WWII, athletics regained momentum. Additional sports were established including track, golf, and swimming. The football team had consistently winning seasons but began to limit itself to comparably-sized schools in the Northeast. But even though the football teams had winning seasons, attendance dropped as fans stayed home to watch national powerhouses battle on TV. Intercollegiate football was dropped as a varsity sport after the 1960 season. Football as a club sport was revived in the late 1960s and lasted until the mid 1970s but has since disappeared.
The basketball team, however, continued playing larger and more geographically diverse teams, but often with poor results. Between 1945-46 and 1965-66 the basketball team only had three winning seasons, two were in 1957-58 and 1958-59. The team joined the Middle Atlantic conference and almost won the MAC championship in 1958-59. Only when the basketball program dropped games with eastern basketball powers like Villanova and St. Bonaventure did the team begin to excel.
The University has fielded winning teams in a variety of sports such as cross country, wrestling, rifle, and baseball.
Women’s basketball has also been successful. The program was established in 1975 and the team won its first Middle Atlantic conference Championship in 1977 followed by MAC championships in 1978 and 1979. In 1980 the team was third in the nation and contended for the title. The team continued to have winning seasons and gain MAC championships with its 6th coming in 1983. Their first NCAA Division III championship came in 1985. The team has also continued to appear regularly in the NCAA playoffs.
Scranton became a coed University in 1972. The first recorded appearance by women in University sports occurred in 1972 when two Marywood College students joined the University rifle team. By 1973 a woman participated in the karate club. In 1974 women were participating in Intramural sports including softball and basketball. By 1975 there were Intramural women’s teams in volleyball, tennis, field hockey and basketball. Many of these sports would progress to varsity status during the 1970s and 1980s.