Janet Woodruff, head coach, University of Oregon

One in an occasional series.

By Al Mattei


Janet Woodruff is entering the University of Oregon athletics Hall of Fame on October 25, 2003.

The unfortunate thing is, many people don't know who she is. Or, for that matter, the first thing about the sport she loved so much.

Woodruff didn't either; she got her first exposure to field hockey at Columbia University in the mid-1920s as an undergraduate and as a graduate student.

Oregon hired her in 1929 to serve as head of the Teacher Preparation Program for Women at the university, then as the head of the Service Course Program for Women.

At the same time, she coached the Ducks' field hockey team, something that she would do until 1967. It is a career path that is highly unusual these days; rarely do any collegiate coaches these days do anything on the administrative side of a university, much less be a department head.

Woodruff's can-do attitude was exemplified early in her collegiate coaching career, when she got the U.S. national team -- an East Coast fixture, the offices being located in Philadelphia -- to play a friendly against her Ducks. When a freak snowstorm made the pitch unplayable, she moved the game a few miles away to Oregon State University's armory.

Woodruff, for all of her personality and service, was able to only temporarily sow the seeds of field hockey in Oregon's public schools; the sport died out at the dawn of Title IX.

But there could be something great on the horizon. In 2003, Oregon announced it would be joining a new western conference for women's lacrosse. Given the caliber of athlete that plays both sports, a field hockey rebirth may be in the offing.

That could be her greatest legacy.