Dr. E. Wayne Cooley (1922–2013)
The name Dr. E. Wayne Cooley has become synonymous with girls’ high school sports in Iowa. Dr. Cooley’s vision and leadership helped advance female sports in both the state and the country. In fact, during Dr. Cooley’s tenure, the IGHSAU became the nation’s trailblazer in the development of girls’ interscholastic athletic programs.
Dr. Cooley’s earned his undergraduate degree from Buena Vista University and later received honorary doctorates from Morningside College and Buena Vista. After serving in the navy, Dr. Cooley returned to Iowa, coaching football and track at Nevada High School. In 1950, he served as an instructor for one year at Grinnell College and then became the assistant to the president at Grinnell for three years.
In 1954, Dr. Cooley became the executive secretary of IGHSAU, which embraced just one interscholastic activity at the time — basketball. In the following 48 years under Dr. Cooley’s leadership, IGHSAU expanded to include track and field, cross country, softball, golf, swimming, tennis, volleyball and soccer, with many of those programs flourishing well before Title IX legislation. A 1973 Sports Illustrated cover story on the limited access girls had in athletics during the Title IX passage used Iowa and the IGHSAU as a model of equality for girls and women in sports.
Dr. Cooley’s success is the most synonymous with the Iowa Girls High School State Basketball Tournament. He turned the six-day March tournament into one of Iowa high schools’ most beloved annual events. The tournament has been televised since 1951 and was seen in as many as nine states by 1968. In addition to outstanding basketball, the tournament is also famous for its brilliant entertainment shows at halftime and between games. The tournament’s popularity was featured in two different Sports Illustrated photo essays, one in 1969 and one in 1988. The tournament has also been the subject of features stories by USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Newsday, ESPN and NPR.
In addition to his IGHSAU duties, Dr. Cooley was the executive vice president to the Iowa High School Speech Association, a long-standing member of the Drake Relays Executive Committee, a member of the Board of Directors of the Women’s College Basketball Hall of Fame and a director for three banking institutions, the Buena Vista College Board of Trustees and his family church. He has also served as a vice chairman for the Iowa Games and was chairman of the Iowa Heart Association.
He also served as national president of the United States Track and Field Federation, and was a major leader in resolving two decades of conflict over control of the nation’s amateur track and field administration by successfully merging the two parties into the Athletics Congress of the United States. Because of his dedication, Dr. Cooley was inducted into the United States Track and Field Federation’s Hall of Fame. He was also inducted in the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame for his efforts promoting Iowa girl basketball.