Many of our presidents have been athletes

By Doug Halberstadt
Sports Columnist

Now that the presidential election is behind us and the relentless campaign advertisements have ceased, you might think it’s all finally over. Not so fast … there is one final piece of political information I’d like to share with you before the last yard sign disappears.

Thanks to a website called, I was able to come across an interesting bit of information. Thirteen of the last 19 presidents of the United States participated in college athletics.

Most recently, President Barack Obama was rumored to have played basketball at Occidental College prior to transferring to Columbia University. Although unable to confirm the rumor, states that students around campus do remember his love for the game and seeing him play pick-up games. To this day, Obama has exhibited his ability to “shoot the rock.”

Both George H.W. Bush and his son George W. Bush were cheerleaders at Yale University. The elder Bush was also the captain of the Yale baseball team.

Bill Clinton won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University after attending Georgetown University. Upon arriving at Oxford, Clinton joined the rugby team.

Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford both played college football. In addition to football, Reagan was a cheerleader and he also served as captain of the Eureka College swim team. Ford played offense and defense for the Michigan Wolverines. After graduating from Michigan, Ford turned down offers to play professionally for the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers. Instead, he opted for law school at Yale.

Basketball was the sport of choice for Richard Nixon while he was attending Whittier College. John F. Kennedy was on the swimming team after transferring from Princeton to Harvard. He was also a member of Harvard Boxing Club.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was a two-way football player at West Point. On offense, he was a starting running back and on defense, he played linebacker. Eisenhower publicly lamented that the greatest disappointment of his life was not making the baseball team at West Point.

Despite having polio, Franklin D. Roosevelt was a member of the cheerleading squad while he attended Harvard University.

Herbert Hoover didn’t actually play college sports. That didn’t stop him from being involved in college athletics while attending Stanford University. He was the student manager for both the baseball and football team.

William Howard Taft earned the intramural heavyweight wrestling championship while he was at Yale University.

I found this information not only interesting, but entertaining as well. I also noticed that of the four major sports, football, basketball, baseball and hockey, not one of our presidential athletes ever laced up the skates in college. I’m not sure if that’s significant in any way, or just an observation. I’ll leave it up to you to draw your own conclusions on that little piece of trivia.

Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at

From the Nov. 14-20, 2012, issue

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