Beginning Years

Western University Varsity Basketball Team 1903

Western's first varsity basketball team in 1903 played in the medical school gym.

Basketball at Western has its roots in the 1903 medical school, or “Medicos” team. Part of its popularity is explained by the easy access medical students had to a gymnasium in their building, whereas other students needed to find practice space at local high schools or the YMCA. Western Faculty of Arts students also had their own basketball team. During the 1912-13 season, they received a grant of six dollars to help defray the twenty-one dollar cost of new uniforms. With these new uniforms, the team won the intermediate city league championship.

During the next season, growing popularity meant Western’s home games were moved from the YMCA to the larger London Armouries. At the same time, the Arts and Meds clubs combined to represent the university as one team under the Western University Athletic Association. Only after the First World War did the joint university team compete in city and senior intercollegiate leagues. In fact, only after the post-war economic boom was the Canadian Amateur Basketball Association created. As such, the first academic year following World War One was the first time the Mustangs entered league play in the Ontario Amateur Basketball Association. 

The growing popularity of the sport was also seen at the high school level. The University of Western Ontario was influential in developing the Western Ontario Secondary Schools Association (WOSSA) to promote high school athletics. The first basketball tournament for boys was hosted in 1921 at the London Armouries. Eventually, these evolved into the Purple and White basketball tournaments held during Christmas break by John Metras. In 1922, the Athletic Directorate approved one hundred dollars for men’s basketball uniforms and the newly outfitted team was ready to develop and grow.