Rutherford ushered in Title IX; oversaw Penn?Highlands sports

LEWISTOWN – Stan Rutherford’s athletic career began as a basketball player at Bratton-McVeytown-Oliver High School – forerunner to what later existed as Rothrock.

But his career in local athletics spanned much more than one high school change – Rutherford, after just a few years as athletic director at Lewistown, was named to the same position when Mifflin County School District merged its campuses the first time.

The kids were barely out the door after the first year of the Penn Highlands era when he was tasked with guiding the local athletic programs into a new era under Title IX.

Two of the more notable members of Mifflin County’s coaching community who worked with Rutherford said he had the right temperament for both jobs.

“I really liked Stan. He was very easy to get along with – very bright,” Ron Sprecher said.

“Stan was a good all-round guy. He always had a friendly smile on his face,” Jaynee Carolus said. “He always would give you time to voice your opinions and your concerns, and then to the best of his ability he did what he could do for us.”

Rutherford died Saturday at age 76. His sports legacy includes son Craig Rutherford, long associated with Port Royal Speedway and The Sentinel’s motorsports columnist; and a stepson, Mike Milliken, who coaches in the Mifflin County Babe Ruth League and is a PIAA wrestling official.

Sprecher has coached running sports and wrestling at more than one of the county’s high schools in his career – Rothrock, Penn Highlands, Chief Logan and Indian Valley all had him on their coaching list at one time or another. He said the formation of the Penn Highlands was a difficult time for everyone involved, but especially so for coaches and administrators. Long-term planning suddenly became impossible.

“You’d get one thing going and then it was disrupted,” he said. “I think Title IX was a lot easier than the disruptions that occurred from the four county schools to the one county school, back to the four county schools,” which eventually were again winnowed down to three, then two and now one again.

“I empathized with his frustration at having to move the schedules around,” Sprecher said.

Carolus agreed with one thing: “That period was a nightmare for athletic directors.

There was a blue team and a white team varsity, a blue team and a white team junior varsity so they could have as many participants as possible,” she recalled. “So the scheduling included all those groups and the league, let alone the transportation from where they were getting picked up and dropped off because some were at one school and some were at another school.”

In the summer of 1972, Title IX forced schools that accepted federal funding to level the playing field in female athletics. Carolus said unlike some schools that resisted the change, Rutherford embraced it.

“Once the movement got on, Stan was behind it 100 percent,” she said. “He never tried to walk away from his duties or hide the fact that we needed what we needed – he tried to get it for us. He was a good man.”

It wasn’t easy.

“It was implemented gradually because there wasn’t a lot of money allotted for the girls,” she said. “But he made sure that we started getting our things equally with boys. He was very concerned about the young people.”

Sprecher rose to the ranks of administration in the world of athletics along the way, and admitted he had it easy compared to Rutherford.

“Stan had a very, very difficult period in there, the transition in there. Later I became an athletic director and I can’t imagine how Stan got through that period of time,” he said.

Carolus credits Rutherford’s vision and support with the quality of today’s sports programs in Mifflin County – he stepped down from his post just before the first of two state championships by the girls basketball team.

“He definitely helped build the foundation on which our current athletics are based,” she said.