Leading the Way

John F. Miller

By: Mary Yemma Barnhart ’03, ’06, associate director

In 1924, John F. Miller was hired to lead the newly formed Department of Physical Education and Athletics. Miller led for 28 years, from 1924-1955. He was a graduate and former athlete at Warrensburg Teachers College (now known as the University of Central Missouri) where he played football, basketball and baseball. Prior to coming to NC State University, Miller served as the head coach for football, basketball and baseball at the University of Missouri from 1916-1921 and head football coach at Albion College from 1921-1923. Miller was hired to revamp athletics and to establish the school’s first physical education department.

Miller brought a commitment to teaching, a comprehensive curriculum to the physical education department and developed an intramural sports program.

The intramural sports program was the first in the state of North Carolina and helped to lead the way for other programs across the state. While physical education faculty provided supervision, intramural sports were primarily run by students. Students were trained to officiate their own contests.

Miller established three outcomes of the program:

  1. To help students develop desirable health habits
  2. To train students mentally, morally and socially 
  3. To help students learn sportsmanship, fair play and self sacrifice to the best interest of the group

The popularity of the program grew quickly and just a few years later, in 1926, sports included touch football, volleyball, handball, wrestling, basketball, swimming, table tennis, boxing, softball, track, tennis and horseshoes. The intramural sports program was organized into a fraternity league and a dormitory league, with students residing off-campus participating in the dormitory league.

In 1926, students went to Frank Thompson Gymnasium to register for intramural sports in person.

October 3, 1926 Technician Article Recruiting IM Athletes

Nine years after creating an intramural sports program, there were 32 touch football teams, 90 basketball teams, 32 volleyball teams and 42 bowling teams – totaling 731 games/matches played.

More than 90 years later, intramural sports has continued to grow and be a signature program for Wellness and Recreation. 

Intramural sports offers more than 50 leagues and special events for members to play sports, develop healthy behaviors and build relationships. A wide variety of league options provide opportunities for all skill levels to compete for championships or have fun learning a new sport with friends. Unique special events such as bubble soccer and pool battleship produce memorable NC State experiences and non-traditional offerings such as cricket and video game tournaments encourage the entire Wolfpack community to engage in intramural programming.

During the 2018-19 year, more than 7,000 people participated in 64 league sports, special events and singles/doubles series events.

Wellness and Recreation continues to honor John F. Miller by awarding the John F. Miller Award each year to a well-deserving student-employee. The John F. Miller Award is the highest honor a student can receive from Wellness and Recreation. The award recognizes an exceptional student leader employed by the department who demonstrates leadership, professionalism, teamwork, a commitment to healthy, active lifestyles and a positive representation of Wellness and Recreation. View the past year’s award winners here.

The John F. Miller award is presented at the annual student-employee celebration, the Wolfies, hosted in April of each year. Private support of the Wolfies will make an immediate impact on the recognition and celebration of the 650 Wellness and Recreation student-employees. Make your gift today to support this event and others.