Although Moraine Valley Community College was founded in 1967, intercollegiate Athletics didn’t officially begin until 1976.
Moraine Valley’s original gymnasium (in Building G) was the first permanent structure built on the campus, opening in 1971. Hockey (coached by John Apter), gymnastics (coached by assistant professor Marilyn Twinning) and tennis (coached by Milt Neuman) debuted in those early days.
The hockey team played in a league with no eligibility rules. They competed against several four-year colleges as well as other community college teams. According to former Athletic Director (AD) Doug Gehrke, who also briefly supervised the team, half the rinks were outside, so the team counted on cold weather to compete. When the energy crisis hit in the early 1970s, ice time became too expensive, and there was not enough money to support hockey.
At the same time, Twinning (who was an assistant coach on the 1971 U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics team) and Neuman, both physical education teachers, made an attempt at intercollegiate competition in gymnastics and tennis. However, those sports did not draw as much interest from students, despite the men’s gymnastics team placing third in a state competition in 1973. “They were just really informal meetings of some college teams with the hope something would develop,” Gehrke said.
Gehrke was employed at the college in 1972 as an economics instructor. He became the men’s basketball coach and subsequently the AD in 1976. Kay Schneegas, a physical education instructor at Moraine Valley, became the co-AD, monitoring the women’s sports (and coaching) while Gehrke handled men’s teams.
Men’s basketball was the first sport to officially compete in early October 1976. “We asked anybody interested to show up in the gym. I frantically called schools to get on their schedule. Everyone wanted to play us, as we would be easy wins for them,” Gehrke said. “We practiced for a week or two, then went to a tournament in St. Louis. We were light on talent and wound up 1-16 for the season. But hey, we had to start somewhere.”
In 1982 a contest was held to name the sports teams, and Marauders was chosen. Bill Finn was named the AD in 1983. Later that year, the first stadium field was built on the southwest side of campus for the football team, which started as a club sport before it became intercollegiate in 1990. The program was dropped in 1993. The men’s soccer team started in 1982, and eventually both soccer teams used the field.
In 1996, in its first full year as a member of the Skyway Athletic Conference (now the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference), softball, men’s soccer and men’s basketball won conference championships.
Cyclones replaced Marauders as Moraine Valley’s nickname and mascot in 1998. Almost 200 suggestions were received from college employees and students during the spring of 1997 as part of the Name Game competition. The five finalists—Coyotes, Cyclones, Falcons, Hawks, and Wildcats—were determined by a task force of staff members and students, including coaches and athletes. However, the all-campus vote to decide the winner in May 1997 ended in a tie between Cyclones and Hawks. A tie-breaker vote was held in fall 1997, and the winner was announced as part of the college’s 30th anniversary celebration in February 1998. Cyclones was suggested by Patrick Hannigan, a Moraine Valley student-athlete who played soccer for the college during the 1995 and 1996 seasons.
In 2005, the men’s soccer team was the first college from the U.S. invited to participate in the World Interuniversity Games tournament in Rotterdam, Holland. It also was the first Moraine Valley team to compete abroad. They later competed in Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany (2007) and Milan, Italy (2009). The women’s volleyball team competed in Dublin, Ireland (2006) and Milan, Italy (2009). In 2004, the men’s soccer team hosted players from the University of São Paulo, Brazil, and the women’s soccer team played host to the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany, in 2006.
The Athletics Department moved to the newly constructed Health, Fitness & Recreation Center in 2014 on the site of the old game soccer field on the west side of campus.
The Cyclone Center was one of the sites for ESPN’s High School Basketball Showcase in December 2015, bringing national attention to the facility.
Cyclone Athletics stands at 12 sports: men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s golf, women’s volleyball, softball, and baseball.