The proud tradition of Palomar College intercollegiate athletics dates back nearly to the inauguration of the institution, which first opened for classes at Vista High School in the fall of 1946. Since that time, teams representing PC have won a total of 118 conference championships, 28 southern California regional titles and 20 state crowns. In addition, Comet teams have captured mythical national championships five times.
The institution’s first-ever athletic contest is believed to have been a men’s basketball game on December 6, 1946, when a team representing Palomar Junior College defeated a club team from San Dieguito, 42-29, at the Vista High School gym. First Coach Hollis Westfall started the program in earnest in the winter of 1947, when he arranged for the same group a schedule that included the San Diego State junior varsity, San Diego Junior College (later known as San Diego City College), El Centro J.C. (now known as Imperial Valley College) and Lancaster J.C. (now Antelope Valley College). Palomar also sponsored a men’s tennis team in the spring of 1947.
The college made a strong commitment to intercollegiate athletics that May, when the board of trustees announced the hiring of Hueston Harper as head football coach and director of athletics. Harper, who had coached the football, basketball, baseball, tennis and track & field teams to 35 league championships at Hemet High School, was a former standout athlete at the University of Southern California. As a Trojan, Harper was an All-Pacific Coast tackle on the on the great Howard Jones teams of the mid 1930s and also earned three varsity letters in track and field. Under his direction, Palomar’s first football game was played against the San Diego State Frosh before an estimated 1,500 spectators at Escondido High School on Oct. 4, 1947. PC’s first win on the gridiron came two weeks later in a 7-0 decision over El Centro.
Palomar received its’ first conference invitation in March of 1948, when the South Central Junior College Conference was founded in a meeting of the small Southern California schools at Citrus College. Participating members included Palomar, Citrus, Lancaster (Antelope Valley), Blythe (Palo Verde), El Centro (Imperial Valley) and Oceanside-Carlsbad (MriaCosta). Dean Stanford Bale of Palomar was appointed to draw up the league’s first constitution and by-laws and M.A. Myers of Lancaster was named the first commissioner. Member schools were directed to abide by the eligibility rules of the California Junior College Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
By the spring of 1948, Palomar was already sponsoring programs in baseball, track and field and tennis, in addition to the established football and basketball teams. The Comets won their first three baseball games and participated in the first conference track and field championships on May 22, 1948 along with Blythe, Citrus and Lancaster. That summer, coach Harper added Ken Williams to the athletics staff as an assistant football coach and head basketball coach.
Women’s athletics were officially initiated at the institution in the mid 1970’s, but the forerunners were fabulously successful forays in the since-discontinued club sports of archery and bowling. A Palomar team won consecutive national junior college championships in archery in 1966-67 under Coach Mildred Ayers, and a co-ed bowling team, also coached by Ayers, won back-to-back state championships in 1971 and 1972. Women’s volleyball, basketball, softball and soccer soon followed. The late Vi Jeffery inaugurated the Comets’ first women’s basketball team and went on to become the institution’s first director of women’s athletics. In 1977, the Palomar softball program, under the direction of head coach Mark Eldridge, began one of the state’s greatest sports dynasties ever, winning 26 conference championships, 18 Southern California Regional titles and three state championships in 1989, 1993 and 2000. Under coach Nan Haugen, the Palomar women’s tennis team produced state team championships in 1983 and 1986 and also won the state duals tournament in 1986. Women’s tennis also produced 12 conference titles and eight state runner-up finishes. Most recently, first-year Head Coach Sheri Jennum guided the 2007-08 Comet women’s basketball team to a perfect (14-0) conference record, the Pacific Coast Conference Championship and an appearance in the State Southern Regional semifinals.
Under Head Coach Tom Craft, the Palomar football program kicked into high gear in the mid-1980s. Craft’s teams brought home 10 conference championships and four Southern California regional titles. In 1991, 1993 and 1998 the Comets not only went on to win the California Community College State Championship, but were also proclaimed national champions by the J.C. Grid-Wire, USA Today, and the National Community College Football Coaches Alliance. Comet wrestling teams under Head Coach John Woods produced five state championships between 1973 and 1986 and no less than 58 community college All-Americans. Woods went on to serve the institution as director of athletics from 1986 through 2007. In the fall of 2007, Coach Byron Campbell directed the Comet wrestlers to the California State Dual Team Championship.
The breakdown of Palomar College sport championships for all time include: National Champions – Football (3), Archery (2); State Champions – Wrestling (7), Football (3), Softball (3), Women’s Tennis (3), Co-ed Bowling (2), Men’s Archery (1), Women’s Archery (1), Men’s Cross Country (1), Men’s Track & Field (1); State Regional Champions – Softball (18), Baseball (4), Football (4), Men’s Golf (2); and Conference Champions – Softball (27), Football (12), Women’s Tennis (12), Men’s Basketball (10), Women’s Swimming (10), Baseball (9), Men’s Soccer (6), Men’s Golf (5), Men’s Water Polo (5), Women’s Basketball (5), Men’s Tennis (4), Archery (3), Women’s Soccer (3), Women’s Volleyball (3), Men’s Swimming (2), Women’s Water Polo (2), Men’s Volleyball (1).